Lowell Preview

#11 Lowell River Hawks 14-7-0 (9-6-0) Hockey East 5th


Massachusetts Minutemen 9-8-5 (5-6-4) Hockey East 7th

Honestly I’m not really sure what to expect in this weekend’s home and home with Lowell, but I will make one prediction;  there’s absolutely no way the Minutemen can possibly play any worse than they did when these teams met in November.  That game saw UMass get shutout 4-0, but honestly it wasn’t even that close.  Lowell dominated what looked to be a completely disinterested UMass team and held them to a meager 16 shots total, including only two in the entire first period.  Only Mike Pereira (4), Eric Filiou (2), and Branden Gracel (2) had multiple shots on net, the rest of the team was held to a single shot or none at all.  Conor Sheary did not register any shots on goal.  The River Hawks went 2 for 5 on the power play while the Minutemen didn’t capitalize on any of their 5 chances, registering only 4 shots on net.  Only Steve Mastalerz could be said to have a good game, making 30 saves despite the lackluster effort in front of him.

What added to the disappointment of that game was that UMass actually had a little momentum going.  They were unbeaten in the four games leading up to the Lowell matchup, going 3-0-1 in a stretch that started with the upset of #1 Boston College.  Then with that loss to Lowell they dropped three in a row and didn’t win again until they played Yale on the eve of the Christmas break.  As we know the team is on another good stretch again, going 5-1-2 in their last eight.  It would be sad to see the team’s recent rise flop with another dismal performance to Lowell.  That fact is not lost on the players however as when asked about the recent success last week, Conor Allen specifically mentioned how they let momentum get away the last time they had a good stretch going.

That game also started a streak for Lowell as they would win the next four after beating Massachusetts and have gone 8-3-0 overall since.  One of those losses came this past Tuesday to Providence where the Friars were able to pull off the upset by the 1-0 score.  It was a rare shutout of a potent River Hawk offense that is currently third in the league with 3.38 goals per game.  They’re being led by the current favorite for Hockey East Rookie of the Year, Scott Wilson, who has 11 goals and 20 points total on the year.  He’s first on the team in goals despite only being 9th in shots, scoring 29% of the time he puts it on net.  Helping carry the offensive load is sophomore star Derek Arnold with 10 goals, half of which have come on the power play.  Defensively UMass will have to worry about Doug Carr who is the only Hockey East starting goaltender with a sub-2.00 goals against average at 1.80.  Of course he has already shut out the Minutemen once this year.  Not like they don’t already have a tough time as it is, but UMass will have to overcome the 2nd best penalty kill in the league if they want to take advantage of power play opportunities.

My advice for the Minutemen is skate, skate, skate.  Skate because last time they played the River Hawks they did very little skating at all.  At least none that seemed that productive.  UMass has been able to score 8 goals in their last two games by skating.  Both of the last two games saw a number of odd man rushes that UMass took advantage of.  And in the Vermont game activity in front of the net helped push through another couple goals.  Another reason for UMass to keep skating all weekend is that they’re well rested.  The Minutemen played just one game this past weekend with Friday’s tilt against Vermont.  Lowell on the other hand will have to play five games in eight days as they faced Northeastern in a home and home last weekend, travelled to Providence on Tuesday, and will roll into Amherst tomorrow before heading back to the Tsongas on Saturday.  If there is one clear advantage for UMass this weekend it’s that they have fresh legs.

It’ll be important for the Minutemen to take advantage of whatever small edge they can find against this young but talented River Hawk squad since there is a lot riding on the games this weekend.  UMass is just four points behind 5th place Lowell in the standings and of course there will be that exact amount of points up for grabs.  Also on the line is the season series and the tiebreaker that goes with it.  And last but not least let’s not forget that the Alumni Cup is at stake.  Maybe this year someone will finally think to actually present the thing on the ice following Saturday’s game.

Beer The Triangle

Of course a trip to Lowell means a trip to Lowell Beer Works.  January is Belgian month there and, if memory serves, I’m especially fond of the Double Vision, a red dubbel, and Houblon Rouge, their Belgian IPA.

Dick Baker previews the weekend by focusing on Adam Phillips’ improved play as of late.

The Collegian points out that the team is winning despite taking a ton of penalties.

College Hockey News takes a look at the weekend in Hockey East.

Paul Dainton performed well in his return to the Falcons, making 37 saves and picking up the win.  One of the two goals he gave up in the 4-2 game was to former teammate Matt Irwin.  Dainton has a nice shoutout to UMass goaltending coach Mike Buckley in the recap.

Jon Quick is named to The United States of Hockey’s Mid-Season All-America Team.  Quick will be playing on Team Alfredsson with a bunch of other Senators in this weekend’s All-Star Game.

Lastly, led by Minnesota native Anthony Raiola, the UMass team has been showing their support for the injured high school hockey player Jack Jablonski by writing his name on their equipment.