by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 1-27-2013
JAY — Despite losing two players to a lingering hip injury and pneumonia respectively, the North Country Falcons girls hockey team topped the visiting Rutland Red Raiders 3-0 on Saturday morning. The win places North Country (9-3-1) in second spot in the Lake Division trailing only Harwood Union (10-2-1).
North Country’s Mikaella Doran was stellar between the pipes, turning aside all ten shots the Red Raiders managed on the day. The North Country offense appeared sluggish in the opening period. Though the Falcons looked strong from blue line to blue line, the momentum appeared to sputter and stall once in the offensive zone.
“We didn’t have a great first period,” Coach Claude Paul acknowledged after the game. “But we were also trying to work with completely new lines out there. I only had two of my centers with Corrina [Cota] out with pneumonia.”
Watching from the sidelines certainly wasn’t what Cota wanted to be doing. Though still coping with her pneumonia she prowled the sidelines, shouting encouragement at her teammates. Her frustration at being unable to join her teammates was most evident both when the team flourished and when it fell short.
Asked by Falcons boys hockey assistant coach Tim Bronson why she was even at the game if she was benched with pneumonia she offered a most telling reply: “I have to be here. My team is playing.”
By the second period, North Country had apparently discovered a new chemistry despite the changes to the skating lines. The Falcons defense kept the Red Raiders skirting the edges of the arena and preventing easy access to the net. That screening, coupled with Doran’s steadfast presence in nets, provided North Country with all the defense it would need.
“I liked our defensive game,” Coach Paul said. “We didn’t give them a lot of chances to score. We had a couple of breakdowns on defense but we managed to recover.”
Whitney Bernier continued her solid sophomore season knocking in the Falcons’ first goal of the game at 1:36 in the second period on a feed from Anyas Morin. North Country would strike again with less than a minute remaining in the second. Savannah Alberghini-Giroux would bury a pass from Taylor Morley and Crystal Moss to give the Falcons a comfortable 2-0 lead heading into the final intermission.
Bernier would complete the scoring on the day as she slipped in a pass from Ashlee Daigle at 11:48 in the third to give the home side a commanding 3-0 lead.
Saturday’s win followed a philosophy that Coach Paul has set for the team. Given how infrequently teams meet in the division, it becomes virtually impossible to develop a strategy specific to each opponent. Rather, the coach must focus on what his players are doing on the ice.
“We set the tone of the game,” Coach Paul said. “We decide the tone and they have to adapt to us, not the other way around. If we can control the puck, control the zones, they have to play our game.”
The Falcons return to action hosting the visiting Stowe Raiders at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30.
Contact Richard Creaser at [email protected]