Friday Recap

Lowell is one of the rougher towns in Massachusetts and it has some issues with crime in town.  Last night a robbery occurred and luckily the Minutemen ended up the beneficiaries of the mugging.  It didn’t have to be that way.  They didn’t have to steal it at the end.  Amazingly for the second Friday in a row the team let another lead dissolve in front of their eyes, this one being of the three goal variety.  Yet in the end, after playing just over 20 minutes of decent hockey and 40 minutes of disinterested hockey filled with defensive breakdowns, a lucky bounce sent the puck behind over the goal line and UMass escaped with a win.

I guess I should be happy that the team finally got a win on the road.  But this game exposes some major problems with this team and the scary thing is it was the worst team in Hockey East, maybe one of the worst teams in the history of Hockey East, that easily exposed them.  Lowell came into the game scoring barely over two goals a game.  They scored four, a total they had only reached twice before.  They came into the game averaging 25 shots a game.  They had 37 shots on net.  They scored a shorthanded goal after a horrible giveaway by Adam Phillips.  The freshman defender wasn’t the only one with mistakes on defense, pretty much everyone (save for maybe Doug Kublin and Colin Shea) had major defensive breakdowns in this one, including Paul Dainton who didn’t look comfortable in net all night.

What worried me worse than poor execution however was just the complete lack of urgency at the start of the game and then after the team went up 4-1.  There was a lot of skating around without purpose, much like we saw last Friday against Northeastern after going up 3-1.  This team needs to learn to step on an opponents throat when they go up by a couple goals.  If it means blowing someone out and “running up the score”, then fine.  I don’t like to see a team purposefully trying to embarrass a lesser team but if that’s what it takes for this team to stay in the game and play hard for an entire 60 minutes, so be it.  I’m amazed that this team only played a little over a period of good hockey and still won.  I think that says more about Lowell than it does UMass.  If the Minutemen don’t put in a full effort tonight it could end up as a home loss.  If they don’t put in a full effort next weekend in Burlington, it could prove absolutely disastrous to the overall goals of this season.  I keep hoping one of these games where they blow a lead will scare them into realizing the need to play with a full effort throughout.  Maybe last night was that game.

There were a lot of bright spots on offense at least.  Mike Lecomte has shaken off the rust and quickly become a huge part of the offense, both shooting the puck as well as setting up his teammates.  He’s also one of the best at moving without the puck and getting himself in position to score.  Branden Gracel’s presence was missed last weekend and he looked very good last night, scoring another goal and continuing his evolution as one of the better playmaker’s on the team.  T.J. Syner and Danny Hobbs were very active around the net and were rewarded with a couple points each, including the gamewinner for Hobbs which was actually a pass over to Lecomte that pinballed into the back of the net.  It’s impressive that the Minutemen ended up with 40 shots in the game after going through the first 10 minutes registering only a very few.  If they can match their defensive intensity with their offensive intensity we saw last night, tonight should not be a problem.  It’s just going to take some mental focus on things like defensive positioning and challenging the puck to do so however.  The Alumni Cup is theirs after taking the season series from Lowell, but two points tonight gives them a chance to leapfrog Providence and take another conference win before a tough February that looms in the future.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Mike Pereira
Pereira’s power play goal was key but I really liked the unselfishness he showed on the 2 on 1 that setup Lecomte’s goal.  Just an excellent pass to benefit his teammate.

I was thinking that perhaps Jeff Teglia should get the start tonight since it’s a good opportunity for him plus maybe give Dainton a rest after having a tough game last night.  However, the box score indicates Teglia didn’t even dress, so I’m not sure what that indicates.

Dick Baker calls last night’s game a thriller.  Can ugly be thrilling?  I suppose so.

Here’s the game recap from the Boston Herald.