Northeastern rolls into Tsongas Arena tonight to take on the UMass Lowell River Hawks (12-6, 7 HE), hoping to get back on track after dropping consecutive contests by one goal each to #2 BU and #3 BC the weekend before. They played without two top line forwards in Braden Pimm and Cody Ferriero, who seemed to pick the perfect time to break team rules and miss a crucial weekend for a team fighting for both NCAA playoff berth and playoff home ice. But the club didn’t help itself very much either, with players making costly mistakes in their own zone and letting the game control them instead of the other way around. The Northeastern team I saw on that big win streak was one that was aware of their talent and used that knowledge to take some good risks, both calculated and impulsively.
The Huskies playing tonight in Lowell need to have this mentality. Lowell just so happens to be a team playing consistently and confidently, and unlike the Huskies, they’ve done this all year. They are ranked 14th in the country and more importantly 11th in the pairwise (Northeastern is 22nd). The teams success starts and ends with its goaltender, sophomore Doug Carr, who is enjoying one heck of a season (.928 sv pct, 1.97 GAA). Carr will square off with Chris Rawlings tonight, a match up that sees two of Hockey East’s (And the NCAA’s) top tier goaltenders with near identical save percentages. Carr is a tough customer who relies on his solid mechanics and calculated play. Lets just say if Lowell loses, it won’t be his fault. The River Hawks also boast some good scoring depth, with upperclassmen David Vallorani and Matt Ferreira leading the way with 18 points and Sophomore D Chad Ruhwedel and Freshman winger Scott Wilson providing valuable secondary scoring with 16 points. As effective as this UMass assault has been, it should find trouble again. In Northeastern’s last meeting with UML, the Huskies prevailed by taking better chances and forcing the River Hawks to take low percentage ones, and in turn Lowell was forced to take drastic measures nearing the end of the game.
Tonight NU will look to regain their moxie and play the same style that allowed them to beat the best of the best out of conference not so long ago. This team has the talent to beat top programs, and its seasons comes to a crossroads this weekend. Don’t be fooled, NU has shown their best is better than Lowell, its only a mater if the best shows up. They can jump as much as five spots in the HE standings if they can perform to their abilities and quell a River Hawks squad they’ve beaten in their last five meetings. Based on this very performance, the previous weekend can either be a sign of things to come, or a slight bump in the road during a successful season. See you at Tsongas.