By: Kyle Williams
Coach: Norm Bazin (6th year)
Last Season: 25-10-5 (12-6-4 in Hockey East, 4th) Lost in NCAA Tournament East Regional Final
Key Additions: G Garrett Metcalf, D Mattias Goransson, F Ryan Lohin, F Guillame Leclerc, F Kenneth Hausinger, F James Winkler, F Colin O’Neill, F Nick Marin
Key Losses: G Kevin Boyle, F A.J. White, F Michael Fallon, F Adam Chapie, F Ryan McGrath
Another year, another top four finish and NCAA tournament berth for Lowell. The River Hawks have been ridiculously consistent during Norm Bazin’s tenure, never finishing lower than fourth in the standings and making it to four straight Hockey East Championship games. Last year was more of the same, as they finished fourth and survived triple overtime against Providence to make it back to the championship game, where they fell to Northeastern (I know, I still don’t totally believe it either).
As per usual, any talk about Lowell starts in goal. Kevin Boyle was absolutely incredible last year, posting a 0.934 save percentage to go along with a 1.83 GAA. And in the aforementioned triple overtime game, he stopped 58 of 59 (!!!) shots and put that team on his back for the entire game. He gave up a goal six and a half minutes into the game and then turned into a brick wall. He’s gone now, leaving a giant pair of skates to fill. That unenviable task will likely fall to Ducks draft pick Garrett Metcalf, who was solid if unspectacular in the USHL. He is most likely a holdover until Rangers pick Tyler Wall (which, come on, that name feels a little on the nose) arrives next year. Metcalf will have some help, as Lowell returns their top six defensemen from last year, including Dylan Zink and new captain Michael Kapla. They’ll also be adding Mattias Goransson, who had 7 goals and 34 assists last year in the USHL.
Although not as prolific as the other top teams in Hockey East, the River Hawks did manage to average 3.02 goals per game, with C.J. Smith (17 goals and 22 assists) the focal point of their offense. He returns, along with Joe Gambardella and Alex Kamrass, while A.J. White and Adam Chapie are leaving. They’ll be replaced by Lighting draft pick Ryan Lohin, who averaged a point per game last year in the USHL, and whose pass-first style would fit well with someone like Smith. Guillame Leclerc, Kenneth Hausinger, and James Winkler also join Lowell from the USHL, and have the talent to contribute right away.
This is the first season in recent memory where Lowell’s offense could conceivably be better than the defense. C.J. Smith anchors the first line, and if Lohin lives up to expectations, that could be a potent 1-2 punch. With Dylan Zink (11 goals and 13 assists) and the addition of Goransson, Lowell has the ability to score from anywhere on the ice. The big question going forward is in goal: can Garrett Metcalf hold his own and give this team a chance to win games? No one is expecting him to be on the level of a Kevin Boyle, but if he can replicate, say, Ryan Ruck’s freshman season, then there’s no reason this team won’t be competing for a top four spot at the end of the season. Normally, losing a player of Boyle’s caliber would signal a regression, but at this point it would be stupid to doubt Bazin and co. The offense has a chance to be really good, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see C.J. Smith get all Hockey East consideration. In the end, Lowell will do what they always do: quietly go about their business while the Boston teams dominate the headlines, and come February they’ll lock themselves into a first round bye and make another deep run in the Hockey East tournament. It’s just what they do.