In boys hockey: Essex defeats Falcons in comeback win

North Country Falcon Chris Bronson turns in a sterling glove save during the Falcons' match against the visiting Essex Hornets on Saturday night.  Flanking Bronson on the play are Hornet Joey Robertson (far left), Falcon Ben Pecue and Hornet Steve Jurkiewicz.  Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country Falcon Chris Bronson turns in a sterling glove save during the Falcons’ match against the visiting Essex Hornets on Saturday night. Flanking Bronson on the play are Hornet Joey Robertson (far left), Falcon Ben Pecue and Hornet Steve Jurkiewicz. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright 2-13-2013

JAY — The North Country Falcons (10-4-1) came out on the wrong end in a match-up of top five Metro Division teams in boys hockey action on Saturday night as they lost 3-2 against the visiting Essex Hornets (11-2-2).  The game featured solid goaltending on both sides as Chris Bronson patrolled the net for North Country and Brock Paquette manned the pipes for Essex.

Saturday’s contest at the Ice Haus in Jay displayed some of the finest hockey action fans for either side could have expected.  The game’s officials appeared content to let the teams play a physical — though far from goonish — game.  Hard hits, slick skating and dynamic playmaking kept the two sides close throughout the contest.

The Falcons have scored five or more goals in nine of their ten wins and have yet to be shut out by any opponent.  By contrast, and with only a few exceptions, Essex has proven itself a capable defensive team whose wins generally turn on low-scoring affairs including a 1-0 shutout win over top seeded South Burlington.  Saturday’s match would be a contest that would pit North Country’s high flying offense against the Hornets’ smothering defense.

Scoring opportunities would be at a premium on Saturday night.  As if realizing the enormity of the challenge, the Falcons took advantage of an early power play opportunity.  Ross DeLaBruere would record the power play goal at 7:06 of the first period to give the Falcons the early lead.  Nathan Marsh provided the assist.

The teams would remain dead even through the second period, as the two teams battled to a scoreless draw.  North Country had a few solid scoring chances on breakaways but were unable to beat Hornet net minder Paquette to increase their lead.

“We didn’t really give them a lot of quality scoring chances,” Falcons Coach Andrew Roy said after the game.  “We were able to keep them on the wings, out of the front of the net.  We played 30 minutes of good hockey and then got a little sloppy in the final period.”

North Country's Adam Viens (center right) completes a mid-ice check against Essex Hornet Tom Vanzo as Hornets Brody Almeida (left) and Luc LeBlanc look on during Saturday night's match.  Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country’s Adam Viens (center right) completes a mid-ice check against Essex Hornet Tom Vanzo as Hornets Brody Almeida (left) and Luc LeBlanc look on during Saturday night’s match. Photo by Richard Creaser

The Falcons received a boost in the third period when Adam Viens wrangled the puck past Paquette to give North Country a 2-0 lead a mere 47 seconds into the period.  It appeared that the Falcons had the game well in hand until the Hornets struck at 5:03.  Tom Fogg snuck one past Bronson to cut the Falcons’ lead in half.

Four minutes later the wheels came off the bus for North Country.  Penalties to DeLaBruere and Viens 37 seconds apart gave Essex a 5 on 3 advantage.  Those penalties had a greater effect on the outcome of the game than fatigue brought on by a short bench, Coach Roy said.

“I don’t think it was tired legs or anything else,” Coach Roy said.  “We made some key mistakes out there tonight and it cost us.  It’s a tough loss to swallow.”

Though North Country would hang in and kill off the penalties, Essex took advantage of the post-power play confusion to strike.  A mere 16 seconds after Viens came out of the box Luc LeBlanc would deflect in a shot from Nate Foice to tie up the game at 2-2.

The collapse would be complete when, with 1:22 remaining to play, Steve Jurkewiecz buried a pass from Joey Robertson and Brody Almeida to cap off the Hornets’ comeback win.

Despite the heartbreaking loss Coach Roy was not discouraged with his team’s chances heading toward the post-season.

“If we can avoid making those mistakes we can play with anyone,” Coach Roy said.  “There’s no reason we can’t be the top team in the state.”

The Falcons play two more home games against BFA-St. Albans on Wednesday, February 13,  at 6 p.m. and Rutland on February 16 at 7 p.m. before finishing out the regular season with three road games against Rice Memorial, Middlebury and Champlain Valley Union on February 20, 23 and 26 respectively.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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In girls hockey: Falcons rally to beat U-32 Raiders

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girls hockey Morley

North Country’s Taylor Morley (left) bolts down ice past U-32 defender Rachel Ebersole during Saturday night’s varsity match-up at the Ice Haus in Jay. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 2-13-2013

JAY — Though the visiting U-32 Raiders may have struggled throughout the season, they certainly brought their A-game to the Ice Haus at Jay on Saturday as they took on the home town North Country Falcons girls hockey team.  In the midst of an ugly eight-game losing streak it seemed the Raiders (2-12) would prove little difficulty for the second-ranked Falcons (13-3-1).  Earlier in the season the Falcons had shut out the Raiders 2-0.

“I don’t think this was a bad game for us,” North Country Coach Claude Paul said after the game.  “They played a very good game as opposed to us playing down.  Their goaltending was excellent tonight.”

girls hockey scrum

Throughout the contest the Falcons continued to apply tremendous pressure on U-32 goalie Cheyenne Smith (kneeling center). Here Falcons Corrina Cota (left) and Savannah Alberghini-Giroux (far right) battle with Raider Rachel Ebersole for control of the puck. Photo by Richard Creaser

Not three minutes into the game the Raiders would go ahead on a worm-burner scored by Rachel Ebersole and assisted by Stacy Woolaver.  Backing up the early lead, Cheyenne Smith provided solid goaltending for the visiting team.

“We did have a lot of chances but we just couldn’t put them in,” Falcon Whitney Bernier said after the game.  “We put a lot of pressure on their defense and their goalie.  We just didn’t score.”

North Country did create plentiful opportunities, particularly on a pair of early power play chances in the first period.  Though the Falcons moved the puck precisely and efficiently, the resulting shots were unable to get past Smith and her defenders.

The situation would take a turn for the worst in the second period as Raider Emily George banged home another goal past North Country’s Mikaella Doran to give U-32 a 2-0 lead.  A game that had started as a North Country win all but for the playing was suddenly in serious jeopardy.

Twenty-two seconds later, Falcon Taylor Morley responded with a sweet wrap-around goal to cut the Raiders’ lead in half and steal momentum away from U-32.

“Her goal was huge,” Bernier said.  “Taylor came back and got us a goal.  It really pumped us up.”

The euphoria was somewhat short-lived.  North Country had regained momentum and gone on the offensive when first Savannah Alberghini-Giroux and then Emily Doty took trips to the box.

“We got into a little penalty trouble in the second,” Coach Paul said.  “That was really the only bad thing I had to say about how we played out there tonight.  I talked to the girls about it in the locker room.”

“We had a big conversation about it,” Bernier said.  “We knew if we wanted to win we had to stay out of the box.  If we did that we’d get our chances.”

Those chances came soon after.  At 1:10 into the third period Bernier converted passes from Jenna Moss and Adrianna Fournier into the equalizing goal.  Time and again the Falcons would swarm the Raiders’ zone only to be turned aside.  In a conclusion worthy of the caliber of hockey both teams presented, Bernier took a pass from Corrina Cota and buried it in the net with 12 seconds left on the clock to put North Country ahead for the first time in the game.

“Getting that goal felt great,” Bernier said.  “They really made us work for the win.”

The Falcons return to action on Saturday, February 16, at 5 p.m. with a match against Brattleboro in their final home game of the regular season.  The Falcons conclude their regular season with away matches against Rice Memorial on February 20 and Harwood Union on February 23.

contact Richard creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com.

For more free sports stories, look in our sports category on this site or subscribe to our print or online editions.  Click on this link for a full winter sports schedule.

 

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NC girls hockey team fueled by youth

The Lady Falcons enter the season with several key additions to the team. Though the team is young, rostering only three seniors, the addition of veteran goaltender Mikaella Doran (center) and LI standout Emily Doty (right) will help their fellow Falcons like Savannah Alberghini (left). Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-5-2012

JAY — The 2012-2013 edition of the North Country Lady Falcons hockey team should prove an exciting one to watch this season.  Asked to describe the greatest strength of this year’s squad, Assistant Coach Tom Bernier replied with a single word — “youth.”

“We only have three seniors and a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Mr. Bernier said at Monday night’s practice.  “We’re a young team and we’re still growing.”

The team features several players from neighboring school districts, including juniors Corrina Cota and Taylor Morley from Lake Region Union High, and Emily Doty from Lyndon.  That blending of players has proven both helpful and frustrating at times.

The bigger issue for head Coach Claude Paul and his staff is reconciling the varying skill levels of the players.  While some have grown up with Border Hockey or came up through the Lyndon Area Youth Hockey Association, other players are hitting the ice for their first season of varsity hockey.

“What we don’t want to do is hold back the girls who have been on the ice eight to ten years, because they’ve already got the basics,” Mr. Bernier said.  “At the same time, we have some girls new to the sport who need to learn the fundamentals.  Some of them are even fairly new to skating.”

Entering her third year on the varsity roster, Ms. Cota has endured some difficult seasons as a Falcon.  Throughout the team’s struggles, however, she has noticed that certain spark that suggests brighter days lie ahead.

“It’s been really exciting to see the team grow and develop over the years,” Ms. Cota said.  “We keep getting better and our skills are growing stronger.”

Incorporating players from the far-flung corners of the Kingdom can be a difficult task.  Just as in professional hockey, a team laden in talented players won’t automatically result in success if the team chemistry is absent.  That hasn’t proven the case with the Falcons, Ms. Cota said.

“You have to get used to each other and the way we play,” she said.  “But after a couple of weeks working together you get a feel for what they can do and what we can do as a team.”

A solid addition to the team comes in the form of Emily Doty from Lyndon Institute.  Because Lyndon lacks the numbers to field a varsity team, Ms. Doty is playing her first season for the Falcons.

“If I wasn’t playing here I would probably be playing with the boys again this year,” Ms. Doty said, referring to last season’s play on LI’s boys’ varsity squad.  “Playing with girls and against girls is going to take some getting used to.”

The biggest adjustment for Ms. Doty comes from the rules on contact in women’s hockey.  Having played with boys, she reveled in the more physical aspects of the game.

“I’ve been trained to check, line guys up for a hit,” Ms. Doty said.  “The first thing Coach Paul did was give me a page from the rule book telling me how to hit.”

Making that adjustment might run counter to the experience she gained last season, but will hardly influence how she approaches her first season with the Falcons.  Her solid, two-way play should assist the Falcons on both sides of the ice.

Another key addition to the squad comes in the form of the team’s newest goalie — Mikaella Doran.  Though new to the Falcons uniform, Ms. Doran comes with a lifetime of experience between the pipes.

“Having Mikaella is definitely going to help us both ways,” Mr. Bernier said.  “Having that confidence in net is going to let us play a more offensive game.  Her experience is going to help keep us in the game.”

The Lady Falcons start the season in earnest with a home game on Thursday, December 6, facing Woodstock at 5 p.m. at the Ice Haus in Jay.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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