In girls hockey: NC Falcons defeat Middlebury — headed to title game

North Country's Whitney Bernier rifles a shot at Middlebury Tiger goaltender Baily Ryan during Saturday afternoon's Lake Division semi-final game at the Jay peak Ice Haus.  North Country's 3-2 win propelled the Falcons into Tuesday night's Lake Division title match against the top ranked Harwood Highlanders at UVM's  Gutterson Field House. Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country’s Whitney Bernier rifles a shot at Middlebury Tiger goaltender Baily Ryan during Saturday afternoon’s Lake Division semi-final game at the Jay peak Ice Haus. North Country’s 3-2 win propelled the Falcons into Tuesday night’s Lake Division title match against the top ranked Harwood Highlanders at UVM’s Gutterson Field House.  Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 3-11-2013

JAY —   The North Country Falcons (16-5-1) earned a berth in Tuesday night’s championship match against top ranked Harwood Union with a 3-2 win over the visiting Middlebury Tigers (13-9) on Saturday afternoon.  The second-seeded Falcons faced a tough challenge from the number six seeded Tigers at the Jay Peak Ice Haus.

“We knew that this was going to be a tough game,” Coach Claude Paul said after the game.  “They are a quick team.  They outplayed us at times but we survived.”

Much of the credit can be attributed to the stellar performance of freshman goalie Mikaella Doran, Coach Paul said.  Her skills enabled the Falcons to stay in the game despite the sometimes overwhelming offensive crush Middlebury brought to the contest.

“Mikaella had some big saves today, probably none bigger than the one with 20 seconds left in the game,” Coach Paul said.

“They scared me at the end,” Doran said after the game.  “Middlebury’s a good team.  We knew it was going to be close so we all had to work together as a team.”

North Country would be the first to light the lamp as Crystal Moss buried a cross ice pass from Whitney Bernier to give the Falcons the early 1-0 lead at 6:49 of the first period.  That early goal provided the Falcons with the boost they needed to keep the Tigers at bay.

Middlebury applied fore checking pressure the entire contest giving Doran more work but also providing North Country with some key scoring opportunities.

The North Country Falcons' earned a spot in Tuesday's championship game courtesy of timely scoring and freshman goalie Mikaella Doran's 25 save performance against the Middlebury Tigers on Saturday afternoon.  Photo by Richard Creaser

The North Country Falcons earned a spot in Tuesday’s championship game courtesy of timely scoring and freshman goalie Mikaella Doran’s 25-save performance against the Middlebury Tigers on Saturday afternoon. Photo by Richard Creaser

“Middlebury is a team that likes to gamble and some of those gambles gave us a chance to breakaway on their goal,” Coach Paul said.  “Corrina really showed her speed tonight.”

Corrina Cota capitalized on one of those breakaways at 6:24 in the second period, skating in and beating Tigers goalie Baily Ryan to give the Falcons a 2-0 lead.  With the game seemingly well in hand, Middlebury’s Timi Carone final solved Doran and launched a shot up and over Doran’s shoulder on the stick side.  With only 24 seconds remaining in the period, momentum had suddenly shifted in the Tigers’ favor.

“There’s not really much you can do to calm down during a game,” Doran said.  “You just hope that whatever you do you can stop the puck.  I depend a lot on my defense to help out and the offense to give me some breathing room.”

As the third period wore on, it was clear that Middlebury’s speed was beginning to take its toll on the Falcons.  North Country defenders often found themselves chasing the Tigers instead of keeping pace.  The Tigers would continue their puck barrage on the North Country net.

“They had a lot of chances but we did a good job of taking away quality chances,” Coach Paul said.  “Our strategy is to keep them to the wings, out of the center and our defense was able to do that.”

Savannah Alberghini-Giroux was able to buy the Falcons some insurance at 9:15 in the third period as she buried a pass from Cota to give North Country a two goal lead.  A penalty by North Country’s Emily Doty only 16 seconds later would prove costly.  Carone would notch her second goal of the night on the power play to cut North Country’s lead down to 3-2 with 4:09 remaining in the game.

The Falcons defense tightened up even as the Tigers applied more pressure trying to force a tying goal.  Doran and the Falcons would come out on top courtesy of Cota’ goal and an assist as well as Doran’s sterling 25 save performance.

The Falcons next challenge has them facing off against the number one seed Harwood Union Highlanders (18-3-1) at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Field House on Tuesday.  The top two teams in the Lake Division will compete for the state title with a 6:30 p.m. start.  Harwood holds the advantage having won both games between the two teams this season.

Contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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