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JAYâ€“Whitney Bernier poked home a loose puck on the left side of the net with 7:49 remaining to complete North Country's 3-2 come from behind win over Middlebury in girl's hockey action on Saturday evening.
The Falcons were not at full strength for the contest as multiple players were absent, most notably defenseman Emily Doty, who was attending a school-related function.
Doty's absence forced coach Claude Paul to move some players around, but the coach was able to mix and match with success and the team moved their record to 1-1.
"I saw a team that wasn't quite ready to play in the first period," said Paul. "I don't know if it was the delay with Middlebury getting here late or what, but it was definitely a distraction before the game.
"We were better in the second, a little panicky in the third, and of course we were missing a a key cog in Doty"
Things got off to a rocky start for North Country, as they just could not seem to find any rhythm to their game.
The passing was off, the shots were non-existent and the d-zone coverage was shaky at best.
Middlebury on the other hand was clicking right away, and they got on the board less than three minutes into the game when Timothea Carone's weak shot handcuffed goalie Mikaella Doran, and slipped in between her pads and into the back of the net.
Angela Carone had the assist.
The Tigers stayed on the prowl for much of the first period, but Doran more than atoned for her early mistake, making save after save to keep Middlebury at bay.
Said Paul, "In the first period the game could have got away from us quite easily, but she had two point blank saves, and I'll definitely take that."
Midway through the first, fiery freshman Savannah Alberghini Giroux rung one off the post, but other than that, the Falcons offense had been MIA.
NCU team needed a spark, and Jenna Moss provided it.
The rugged junior barreled her way into the offensive zone, and helped move the puck around, creating some space.
This allowed Taylor Morley to get free in front of the net, where she jammed home the tying goal with 1:24 left in the first.
Moss, appropriately enough, got the helper.
In the second period, Moss and Morley would trade rolls when Jenna scored on a Morley rebound five and half minutes into the frame, giving the Flacons their first lead of the contest.
"Jenna brought her energy and that's what we need and that is her role, and she did it to perfection," said Paul.
The lead lasted exactly six minutes, as the Tiger's Sara Boe went around just about everyone on the ice, swooped in from the left side, and went five hole to knot the game at 2-2, where it stayed throughout the remainder of the second.
North Country's play had steadily improved as the game evolved, but they were going to have to ramp it up even more if they wanted to close out Middlebury in the third.
They did, and midway through the third, Whitney Bernier continued the trend of jamming pucks home, as she scored the eventual game winner, refusing to stop whacking at the piece of Vulcanized rubber until it was in the net.
"Coach is always telling me 'if there is no one to pass too, skate with it,' and I was looking for Taylor in front, but she had two people on her, so I just wrapped," Bernier said of how the play developed.
"Whitney definitely worked hard, and I think the goals will start coming," said her coach.
Now it was up the defense and Doran to make the lead stand up, and they answered the call, turning away the Tigers attempts with a combination of fantastic saves and timely shot blocking.
Doran had 21 saves for North Country, while Middlebury's Baily Ryan had 10 for the now 0-1 Tigers.
The Falcons now travel to Cairns Arena for a rematch from last Saturdayâ€™s game with DI So. Burlington/MMU on Wednesday at 5:30.