copyright the Chronicle 12-8-2013
STANSTEAD, Quebec — It’s been two years since the North Country Falcons last played in Stanstead, but the team picked up where they left off with a decisive 6-0 win over the visiting Greely High Rangers on Friday night. The game marked the opening of the regular season and a special four-team CanAm series featuring the Falcons, the South Burlington Rebels, the Rangers from Greely High in Cumberland, Maine, and Alexander Galt Regional High from Lennoxville, Quebec, played at the Pat Burns Arena in Stanstead.
During the two-day tournament both Vermont teams would each play the Maine and Quebec squads as regular season non-league games. While the Falcons under new head coach Ryan Jacobs would not square off against their nemesis from South Burlington, seeing their rivals in action did give the Falcons a peek at the 2013-2014 Rebels. In each of the past two seasons under head coach Andrew Roy, the Rebels ousted the Falcons from the DI playoffs.
“They do everything well,” Falcon goalie Chase LaCourse said of the Rebels after Friday night’s game. “They’ve got good speed and move the puck well. They are still going to be a tough team to beat.”
Though the Rebels appear to have maintained the same high caliber of play from last season, LaCourse gives the Falcons a fighting chance in any potential playoff re-match this season. Fully half of the 2013-2014 Falcons are either freshmen or sophomores giving the team a very young profile.
“We’re a young team but we’re communicating well and moving the puck well,” LaCourse said. “If we use our size we can make room out front and challenge the goalie. That’s what we did tonight and it paid off.”
One of the players expected to bring on the offense is senior Ryan Paul. As a member of last season’s squad, Paul’s presence on offense created many opportunities for the Falcons. On Friday night he proved that his offensive development last season was no fluke. Paul finished the game with two goals and two assists on the night.
Paul conceded that the first period was not the Falcons’ finest 15 minutes of hockey. The Greely Rangers showed the speed and talent that led the team to a Maine State B Division championship last season. If the Greely squad was lacking in any particular area it was a concession of player size and strength.
“Once they got into our zone they were fast and accurate,” Paul said of his opponents. “But our size helped keep them to the outside and kept them from getting many shots on net.”
That size differential was even more apparent when the Falcons pressured the Greely defense. The Falcons moved with relative impunity, pushing aside the smaller Ranger players and generating shooting and passing lanes.
“When we got down in their zone we just dominated,” Paul said. “Taking control of the front of the net gave us a lot of chances and we took advantage of those chances.”
One of those opportunities was a virtual textbook example of behind-the-net passing as Ross DeLaBruere fed the puck to Dawson Cote who in turn passed to Paul, lurking right outside the crease. Paul buried the shot to give North Country a 3-0 lead in the second period. Bullet passing coupled with impeccable marksmanship is a recipe for success in any league.
The Falcon defense suffered a serious blow with the graduation of standout goalie Chris Bronson and towering defenseman Logan Fortier last June. despite losing two players of their caliber, The Falcons still appeared solid on the blue line. LaCourse, a senior, spent the last two seasons as Bronson’s backup. While he may not have logged the minutes of his counterpart, working alongside Bronson was a positive learning experience for LaCourse.
“He was just such an amazing goalie,” LaCourse said of Bronson. “I think I learned a lot from just watching him play. He left some big skates to fill but I feel confident that I’m up to it.”
In addition to Paul’s four point night the other top Falcon scorers were Ross DeLaBruere with two goals and Tucker Corrow who recorded a goal and an assist in the winning effort.
The Falcons return to action on Wednesday, December 11, with a league match against the visiting Essex Hornets in the second game of a girls and boys doubleheader beginning with the girls starting at 5 p.m. and the boys at 7 p.m. at the Ice Haus in Jay.
Contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.