by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 1-27-2013
JAY — Kody Halikas turned in a stellar performance as the North Country Falcons boys hockey team routed the visiting Stowe Raiders at the Ice Haus in Jay on Saturday. Halikas’ four-point afternoon guided the way to the Falcons 7-1 win and advance to 9-2 in the Metro Division conference.
“Stowe’s having a bit of a rough year,” North Country Coach Andrew Roy said after the game. “When we had an opening in front of the net we took advantage of it.”
The openings came early and often for the Falcons throughout the contest. It may have been a matter of size advantage for the home team or of inexperience for the visiting Raiders. Stowe’s 15-man roster consists of six freshmen, four sophomores and five juniors with not a single senior on the squad.
Halikas set the tone early lighting the lamp 1:20 into the game on a feed from Logan Fortier. The Falcons next marker would come from Halikas on an unassisted shorthanded goal to give North Country a 2-0 lead at 9:22. The Falcons’ final goal of the opening frame would come courtesy of Ryan O’Donnell with Fortier once again picking up the helper.
“Kody continues to be in the right place at the right time,” Coach Roy said of Halikas’ four-point night. “Things started off a little rough for him this season but he has done a very good job of positioning himself to take advantage of opportunities. It’s something the whole team has been quite successful at.”
The second period would yield no better results for the Stowe Raiders despite a goalie change for North Country that saw junior Chase LaCourse come in for senior Chris Bronson. Not only would LaCourse continue Bronson’s shut out, he would provide a little offense of his own contributing an assist on Ryan Paul’s shorthanded buzzer-beater. Quentin Nelson provided the other North Country goal in the period to give the Falcons a 5-0 lead.
The decision to swap out goaltenders wasn’t a health-related issue, Coach Roy said. Rather, it was to give LaCourse more ice time, the coach said.
“Chase is a very good goalie,” Coach Roy said. “He’s been working really hard and doing everything he can to be ready for us. Playing behind Chris, I think he sometimes doesn’t get the credit he deserves.”
The Raiders would finally solve the Falcons’ goaltending enigma in the third period. Luke O’Toole would break the shutout bid as his shot deflected off a Falcon defender and past LaCourse into the net.
Halikas would respond with his third goal of the night off of feeds from Ross Delabruere and Brody Jacobs. The final tally of the game would come with less than two minutes remaining on the clock as Ryan Paul knocked home his second of the day on an assist from Halikas.
What distinguished Saturday’s contest from many other games the Falcons have played this season was the surprising lack of penalties drawn on the day. If a team with a 9-2 record can be said to have an Achilles heel it would be the Falcons’ propensity for surrendering the man-advantage. North Country accumulated only five penalties during Saturday’s contest.
Asked about the team’s struggles with penalties Coach Roy responded that it has been a concern in some, but not all, games.
“It has been and it hasn’t been a problem for us,” Coach Roy said. “The boys know how to play the game. There are times when they get caught up in it and get carried away.”
Halikas finished the day with three goals and an assist to lead the team. Ryan Paul netted a pair of goals while Ross Delabruere and Logan Fortier each contributed a pair of assists. Saturday’s win marks the sixth time this season that the Falcons’ have scored six or more goals in a game. Both of North Country’s losses have come in games where they scored three or fewer goals.
The Falcons return to action on Wednesday, January 30, as they face Spaulding High (4-5-1) in Barre. The puck drops at 7:45 p.m.
Contact Richard Creaser at [email protected]