JAYâ€“If ever there was a contest where the officials dictated the pace of the game, it was the North Country-South Burlington hockey struggle on Saturday night at the Ice Haus.
While the Rebels won the game 5-2, the scoring was not the story of the game, it was the men in black white who were there to â€śofficiate.â€ť
Twenty-one total penalties were called, including 12 on the Falcons alone, and many of the calls made were either inaccurate or of a phantom nature, completely eliminating the possibility of any flow or continuity in the game.
But even in defeat, the Falcons would not make any excuses, and minus a small stretch in the first, and the final minute of the game, they were right there with the Rebels all night long.
"The guys battled through three periods," said coach Andrew Roy. "We dropped a couple quick ones early, but were able to play most of the game at three to one and three to two. We really had to lean on a lot of guys to step up and fill a lot of responsibility and I was happy with the heart we showed tonight."
The cheap stuff started right away in the first, and as a result, North Country went on the man advantage.
After some good work down low, the puck got up to forward turned defenseman, turned forward Adam Viens, who sniped home an ankle high shot past South Burlington keeper Noah Beatty.
Viens has been doing a heck of a job alternating between the point and the front, filling in as the fourth defenseman when ever asked.
"Adam is a great kid and a great player and he will do whatever we ask to help win games, but the more we have him on the blue line the less he is able to do for us offensively," Roy said.
A little over a minute passed before Ross DeLaBruere almost made it 2-0 on a back-hander, but just missed.
Thirty seconds later, the Rebels tied the score on a power-play of their own when Matt Baechle tipped home a Matt Fisher shot.
A minute and a half later they went up 2-1 on a strange play.
A puck got away from Ben Pecue at the point and Eric Craig took off down the ice.
Pecue was able to get back and knock Craig to the ice, but somehow the Rebel managed to keep control of the puck, and slid it over Connor Bradley, who caught Chris Bronson out of position and buried the puck in the net.
Speaking of Bronson, that is where the cheap stuff was the most evident in the first
The Falcon netminder was mugged twice in the period, both very obvious goalie interference calls, but did the whistles come out?
How about when Logan Fortier was being hacked at like he was Washington's cherry tree, any calls there?
Very frustrating if you are a Falcon fan, and as the game went on, the fans would let the officials know exactly how they felt.
Anyway, this was the rough stretch for North Country in the first, but they were able to steady themselves for a while before they fell victim to bogus call number one of the evening.
Quinn Nelson was called for "hooking" and the Falcons were down a man with less that two minutes to play when Craig banged in a rebound to make it 3-1 to end the first.
The second period is where the refs really lost control of the game.
Instead of making one or two serious calls that would have sent a message to both benches, or even talking to the captains, they dished out eleven meaningless penalties that did nothing but infuriate everyone in attendance, including the usually unflappable athletic director Mike Kiser, who could see that there was a lot of nonsense going on on the ice.
The garbagefest peaked at the 4:11 marker when after getting steamrolled for the third time in the game, Bronson finally had enough and had some words for South Burlington's forward Craig.
That led to a pushing match, and finally everyone on the ice was pushing and shoving in front of the North Country net.
What a joke. That should have been the end of it, but nope, there would be more.
The only good things to come out of the period were the excellent penalty killing done by the Falcons and Ryan Paul's long shot that bounced in the net, moving the score to 3-2 with six point six seconds left in the period.
In the Third. the Rebels would add an empty-netter and another goal at the buzzer, how that one counted is beyond me, to make it 5-3, but not before more horrible officiating from the refs.
With 8:09 left in the period Fortier was shown the door after his fourth penalty, this one a "tripping" call that seemed to have appeared out of thin air.
The crowd was hot. How hot? R-E-D H-O-T red hot.
They showered Vermont's worst officials with a chorus of boos similar to those that greet Gary Bettman when he presents the Stanley Cup each spring.
That left two D-men on the bench for North Country, so what is coach Roy forced to do?
That's right, back go not only Viens, but now Paul is on the line as well. I might have even seen Ross back there too, but I can not be sure.
"Everyone gave one-hundred percent, we kept on pushing even though we were down men on the bench. We give it our all no matter what," said Viens.
Have you ever seen a four-forward penalty-kill?
Yeah I thought so, it is as rare as a lunar eclipse.
How about a three forward penalty-kill?
Yep, the game had those too.
In summation, two men who are paid to maintain order on the ice, did nothing to earn their paycheck, depriving the players and fans alike a chance at what should have been a fantastic rematch of one of last year's Metro Division quarter-final match-ups.
The Falcon captain shared his view on the game, saying simply,"It is tough to deal with some of those calls, but you have to deal with it and comeback."
Bronson had twenty-eight saves in the game for the now 5-1 Falcons while Beatty stopped eighteen for 4-1 South Burlington.
Wednesday will see the boys travel to Essex to take on Mountain Mansfield in a seldom-seen contest between these two teams.
Game time is 6:45.