In boys hockey: Rebels repel Falcon comeback bid

NC boys hockey slide

North Country’s Ross DeLaBruere neatly side-steps South Burlington defender Adam Weinheimer during Wednesday night’s Metro division contest at the Jay Peak Ice Haus. DeLaBruere’s three-point night was eclipsed only by South Burlington’s Matt Baechle who recorded the hat trick and an assist in South Burlington’s 4-3 win. Falcon teammate Ryan Paul contributed two goals including a short-handed tally. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 1-9-2014

by Richard Creaser

JAY — The South Burlington Rebels came out on top of a chippy match against the host North Country Falcons at the Ice Haus in Jay on Wednesday night, January 8, with a final score of 4-3.  Penalties played a key role in the South Burlington win with two of the four goals coming with the man advantage and a third on a penalty shot.

The Rebels’ lone non-special teams goal came at 3:09 of the first period when Matt Baechle buried Liam Nieber’s feed past Falcon goalie Dana Marsh to record his first goal of the night.  Baechle would go on to add two more goals including the penalty shot en route to a four-point performance for the South Burlington senior.

NC boys hockey chippy

North Country defenseman Brody Jacobs (right) crashes against South Burlington’s Matt Baechle during Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss at the Ice Haus at Jay Peak. Baechle led the Rebel charge recording three goals and an assist in the South Burlington win. Photo by Richard Creaser

The Rebels needed just under a minute on the power play to add their second goal of the game as Baechle snapped home his second goal of the game on feeds from Brendan Lahue and Ryan Leonard.  The Rebels needed only nine seconds to record their third goal, and second power play goal, as Kyle McDonald took the feed from Baechle and Peter Camardo to give the Rebels a commanding 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

“We’ve come out flat in our last few games and it’s put us into a hole,” North Country Coach Ryan Jacobs said after the game.  ‘The Metro division is a tough division.  The team that plays the full 45 minutes of hockey is always going to win against the team that plays 30 minutes or 15 minutes a game.”

Coach Jacobs did his best to fire up the Falcons during the intermission, freshman defenseman Mitchell Austin said after the game.

“He told us to go out there and play with more heart,” Austin said.  “He told us we needed to hit more, fight more for the puck.  And we did.”

The most visible change came from how the Falcon defense protected Marsh in his net.  Throughout the first 15 minutes of play the Rebels routinely camped in front of the North Country net, providing screens to the outside shooters and setting up for rebounds.  In the second period the Falcons were more aggressive on dislodging Rebels from Marsh’s immediate field of view.  Austin was personally responsible for a few key checks that broke up South Burlington attacks.

“It gives us a lot of confidence to have Dana back there,” Austin said of the Falcon goaltender.  “I wouldn’t say he had a rough first period so much as we did as a team.  He was doing what he was supposed to be doing.  We weren’t.”

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Falcon Ross DeLaBruere fires a rocket at South Burlington goalie David Streeter (foreground) during Wednesday night’s game. Though DeLaBruere would not score in the game, he contributed assists on all three North Country goals. Photo by Richard Creaser

It was in the second period that the Falcons finally appeared to develop a flow to their attack.  This led to a number of quality opportunities against Rebel goalie David Streeter.  It wasn’t until the last 70 seconds of the period though, that the Falcons were able to beat Streeter and revive a sagging Falcons offense.

Austin pushed the puck up to Ross DeLaBruere who then fed Travis Tetreault for the Falcons’ first goal of the night.  That goal produced a visible rush of energy not only to the Falcons but their fans as well.

“The team you saw in the second and third periods was the team that should have come out in the first,” Coach Jacobs said.  “I know we’re a better team than they are.  But you gotta play the whole game.  You gotta play all 45 minutes if you want to come out with the win.”

Despite a revived offense and a more aggressive defense, neither played a role in the Rebels’ fourth and final goal.  Marsh was assessed a delay of game penalty  at 1:31 of the third setting up Baechle for a penalty shot.  Baechle beat Marsh and gave the Rebels a commanding 4-1 lead with a little more than 13 minutes remaining to play.

“Going into the second and third, we were definitely working the break-out better,” Austin said.  “We were able to get on the attack and keep it going for more than a shot.”

Sustaining the attack was a key for the Falcons.  While Streeter proved impregnable when facing a single shot at a time, heavy screens and multiple attempts clearly left the South Burlington senior vulnerable.  It was a vulnerability that North Country’s Ryan Paul would later exploit.

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A tepid team effort put the home team Falcons down 3-0 to the visiting South Burlington Rebels after the first period of play. Otherwise, Falcon goalie Dana Marsh turned in a stellar performance including this leaping grab. Falcon Ryan Paul (right) helps to control the crowd in front of Marsh. The only goal Marsh allowed through the final two periods of play came on a penalty shot by Rebel Matt Baechle. Photo by Richard Creaser

Perhaps the most important goal of the game came when Paul broke up a Rebel power play and went in against Streeter with DeLaBruere.  DeLaBruere’s initial shot was blocked, but Paul was perfectly positioned to snag the rebound and bury it to give the Falcons a critical shorthanded goal at 6:09.  Suddenly the Rebels’ lead was cut to 4-2 and the Falcons were back in the game.

Coach Jacobs had tweaked some of his lines, trying new combinations to inspire his club.  Those tweaks paid off as Paul would strike again at 7:34 burying feeds from DeLaBruere and Nathan Marsh and going top shelf through a screen of Falcon jerseys.  With a little less than half a period to go, the Falcons now trailed by only a single goal.

Despite the comeback, despite increased pressure in their defensive zone and better coordination on the attack, the Falcons would walk away from the game with the loss.

“If we could take away that first period we would have won,” Austin said.  “But you can’t.  We didn’t play the first with heart and it cost us.”

“We need to work, we’ve been working, on keeping that intensity the whole game,” Coach Jacobs said.  “We’ve got to be tougher in the corners, winning those 50/50 battles.  We’ve got the talent, we just need to play with more heart.”

The Falcons return to action after an extended break on January 18 as the travel to Rutland for a 7 p.m. game.  The Falcons will play their next home game a week later on January 25 against BFA St. Albans with a 1 p.m. start.

Contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com  For more sports, please check the sports category on this site or subscribe.

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