Hawk Hunting

There are three sure things in life: death, taxes, and the pure unadulterated joy that Fight Mass experiences when bad things happen to the Lowell River Hawks hockey program.

So you can only imagine our elation in the fact that, 12 games into the conference slate, the ugly sister is now a hideous 2-10, three points behind the Mass Attack despite playing four more games, and, most importantly of all, appeared thoroughly mismatched for a majority of today’s 5-2 Minutemen win that easily could have been more of a blowout.

Lowell showed next to no heart in the first and third periods, inept in just about all aspects of the game of hockey, bailed out by a few near-misses and a couple nice saves by their freshman goalie Doug Carr, a former recruiting target of the UMass program. UMass completely dominated the opening frame, highlighted by T.J. Syner’s brilliant lightning-strike goal that the cameraman could barely keep up with. They finished the period up 2-0 and, frankly, should have tallied at least one more time given their momentum.

After a 26-minute, penalty-free first, the refs decided to call one type of penalty (tripping) rather than zero, as UMass found themselves with three straight trips to the box. Lowell promptly sleepwalked through two 40-second 5-on-3 advantages, but Ryan Blair’s shot from the point unfortunately found its way through past Dainton, a seemingly-crushing blow for a UMass squad just seven seconds away from that post-huge-penalty-kill momentum boost. For a while, it looked like Lowell finally had something going, competing on UMass’s level for the remainder of the period, and tying things up at the end of the period on Wetmore’s cheapie goal that handcuffed Dainton.

Shades of last year’s 2-0 collapse a year ago in Tsongas, right? Nonetheless, you had to sense that, all things equal, UMass would turn things back around in the third, given how the first period played out and given the lack of talent and composure Lowell has shown all season long. That’s exactly what happened, as Doug Kublin, who is incidentally The Official Favorite Player of Fight Mass (TM), accounted for a goal and an assist in a 3-goal third period where Lowell could get absolutely nothing going. 5-2, final. Pure joy.

So don’t look now, but the Mass Attack is now unbeaten in its last four games. Is this finally the year where they start poorly and THEN play well, instead of vice-versa? Probably not. But the fact that they’re holding up against the likes of UNH and BU, and winning games against dregs like Quinnipiac, Lowell, and Vermont, is a wonderful sign of progress on Toot’s team’s part. Next on the schedule is a date with the Black Bears, who surely want revenge from last year’s regular-season finale. Thanks for practice, River Rats…time to see where these youngin’s really stand now.

To recap: today, the Red Sox have gotten Adrian Gonzalez, the Mass Attack have made big strides in their battle to keep out of the Hockey East cellar Lowell so fittingly occupies this year…all that’s left is tonight’s rumble in the Garden (and maybe a certain announcement from the MAC, hint hint…) and tonight has a good chance at being redemption for the shortcomings of my birthday weekend of a year ago. And really, that’s the most important thing here.

-Max

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