by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 1-6-2013
JAY — The visiting South Burlington High Rebels ended North Country’s five-game winning streak on Saturday night 5-2. The Falcons entered the contest sitting atop the Metro Division standings with a sterling 5-0 record.
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a real test for us,” North Country Coach Andrew Roy said after the game. “We made some mistakes early and it caught up to us.”
The Falcons roster features two goalies and only 14 position players — less than three full lines. A small roster denies the Falcons the ability to keep players rested, especially if they fall afoul of penalty trouble.
“We’ve got the talent to make a comeback, no doubt about it,” junior and goalie Chase LaCourse said after a brutal first period. “We came back against Colchester and we could do it again if we can keep out of the penalty box.”
Fatigue was definitely a factor in the game’s outcome, Coach Roy conceded. Excessive penalties contributed as much as the small roster to tired legs.
“Nobody came off the ice in the third with extra energy,” Coach Roy said. “They gave it everything they had. We just didn’t get the result we’d hoped for.”
Penalties would play a key factor throughout the game but never more so than in the first period. North Country would hit the scoreboard first as Adam Viens drilled home the puck with one second remaining in the Falcons’ first powerplay opportunity of the game 3:15 into the first period. Less than two minutes later South Burlington would return the favor as Rebel Matt Baechle buried one by Falcons’ goaltender Chris Bronson.
A minute and a half later the Rebels would strike again. This time Eric Craig flipped a puck past a sprawling Bronson to give visiting South Burlington a 2-1 lead. The final goal of the game would again come on the man advantage as Craig beat Bronson again for South Burlington’s second powerplay goal of the game and a 3-1 lead after the first period of play.
Though the penalty parade continued in the second period, North Country contained the South Burlington offense. The Falcons accomplished the feat despite drawing five more penalties, two of which gave the Rebels a five-on-three advantage. The Falcons would edge back into the game with less than seven seconds remaining in the period as Ryan Paul beat Rebel goalie Noah Beatty to bring the Falcons within one at the second intermission.
“We still got into trouble with penalties in the second but we held our own,” Coach Roy said after the game. “Our penalty killing did what they needed to do. We also got back a goal so that’s a positive.”
Penalties dogged both teams into the third period. The game featured 21 penalties in total by the end of the game. Despite giving and receiving the powerplay both teams remained tight with the Rebels carrying their 3-2 lead over from the first period.
The next goal of the game would come with only 1:10 left in the period. The Falcons pulled Bronson to add a sixth skater only to see South Burlington pad its lead as Gabe Simpatico grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and rifled it into the empty net. Down 4-2 at this point, Bronson returned between the pipes as the game wound to a close.
The final goal of the game could have been missed by the casual observer. Amidst the clamor of the fans and the final buzzer of the game Conner O’Toole slipped the puck through Bronson’s five-hole to record the Rebels fifth goal at the 15-minute mark.
“He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win,” Coach Roy said of Bronson’s 25-save effort in goal. “He did everything for us we could have expected.”
With the loss, the Falcons drop to 5-1 on the season while South Burlington improves to 4-1. Essex climbed atop the Metro Division standings with a victory against Champlain Valley Union.
The Falcons return to action on Wednesday, January 9, with an away game against Mount Mansfield at the Essex Skating Facility. The game has a 6:45 p.m. start.
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