JAYâ€“Despite playing with a bad back, Taylor Morley had a goal and an assist as North Country rallied to salvage a 2-2 tie with the Rice Green Knights on Wednesday evening.
"From the end of the second period on, it was our game, and I think with a little more puck-luck we would have won in overtime,â€ť said coach Claude Paul. â€śThat is how I want to see us play, the way we did in the third period. It was good to see them come back and get a positive out of a negative start."
Things did not start out well for the Falcons, as the dreaded first period blues struck the team, and the Knights took advantage.
3:55 into the period Haley Boucher picked up a loose puck behind the North Country net and managed to find a hole in between goalie Mikaella Doran's outstretched pad and the right post, putting the Falcons in an early 1-0 hole.
"I thought we did pretty well out there, said Rice coach Danie Leahy. "Every single game we improve on something else."
Rice improved on their lead a little less than three minutes later as Katy Ranaldo received a perfect pass from Haleigh Byrnes in the slot and went high blocker to make it 2-0.
"When you play girl's high school hockey, the competition is so up and down, and we are coming off of games against Woodstock and Stowe, who were not very competitive and I am always leery of that first five, ten minutes while we get up to speed," explained Paul. "It is not your bench players that have to get up to speed it is your better players, as well as your defense, who have to move the puck better."
The score would stay that way through the end of the period, and North Country needed a much better effort in the second, or this game would get out of hand quickly.
One thing the Falcons had going for them on Wednesday was the numbers game.
They rotated three lines for all of the first period, and much of the second, compared to a two-line system utilized by Rice.
But as the minutes started to tick away in period number two, coach Paul shortened the bench and started to rotate two lines, including reuniting Corrina Cota, Whitney Bernier and Morley, who played together on the power-play last year, as well as with their select team, the Shamrocks.
The move paid off late in the second as the Falcons went on a power-play with twenty-eight seconds remaining.
It took all of six seconds for North Country to strike.
After a face-off in the Rice zone, the puck went into the corner where Cota and Morley fought the Rice defenders for the it.
Morley sent the puck out in front to Bernier, who snapped the biscuit in the basket, and the Falcons had life.
Paul stuck with his two lines in the third, with the second unit featuring Crystal Moss centering freshmen Savannah Alberghini Giroux and Anyas Morin.
The two groupings, along with a tireless effort by the Falcon D, really started to grind down the Knights in the third, and midway through the period, the Falcons hit pay dirt.
While Crystal Moss and Emily Doty would get helpers on the play, the tying goal was all about Morley's fantastic individual effort.
She grabbed the puck at the center line and skated down the left side of the ice into the Rice zone.
She went past one Knight, then cut back around another and roofed the puck underneath the cross bar to knot the game at 2-2.
"It was definitely a good one to get in and I was relieved to see it hit the back of the net because it wasn't meant to do that, I was looking to set up a rebound,"Morley responded when asked about the goal.
Said her coach, "Taylor works hard every game and tonight she got rewarded with a goal She is someone you can count on. You give her that nudge and tell her to pick it up and she does."
Neither team found the back of the net the rest of the way, and after a brief intermission, it was on to overtime.
Forty-two seconds in, Byrnes was called for elbowing, and the Flacons, having already had PP success in the second, were primed for a chance at the game winner.
But the man advantage was cut short when Doty crashed into a Rice puck carrier and took a seat in the box with a tripping call.
That pretty much was the end of it as the goalies stayed strong and the game ended in a deadlock.
When asked about the possibility of sticking with these new line combos, Paul said, "It is tough to keep them together and go with three lines. When you go with two lines it's easier, so we will toy with it in our upcoming game with U-32."
Doran had fifteen saves for the 5-2-1 Falcons while Addie Stillman stopped seventeen for 1-3-1 Rice.
NCU will hit the road on Saturday for a trip to Montpelier to take on U-32 at 5:00.