JAYâThe North Country boy's hockey team made their home debut on Wednesday evening, defeating the Spaulding Crimson Tide 5-3 to push their record to 2-0 on the young season.
The team was led by Ross DeLaBruere, who netted two goals and added two assists in a very productive four point night.
Already playing with a short bench, injuries to defensemen Brody Jacobs and Nate Marsh made it that much more of a challenge for coach Andrew Roy to find bodies to fill the holes vacated by these two.
"We got some really good guys that are in good shape, but we have a long ways to go. Having guys like Brody and March out makes it really difficult out there, especially on defense," said Roy. "But, having guys like Viens and Ryan Paul step up helps, but is an extra challenge."
Both Paul and Adam Viens saw significant time on the blue line for the North Country, and excelled in the role they were forced to play.
The Falcons looked sharp early, getting the puck deep into the Tide's zone and creating chances.
Just 1:15 into the game, Logan Fortier pinched in from the blue line, streaked into the slot and snapped a high shot towards the Spaulding net, but freshman netminder Justin Laperle made the save.
Four minutes later, Travis Tetreault came close to opening the scoring on a scramble in front of Laperle, but the frosh was there again with the save.
A little over a minute later Laperle would not be so lucky.
The play started with a Fortier hit and dump in.
Ryan picked up the loose puck and fed DeLaBruere who buried the low shot to give North Country the 1-0 lead.
Spaulding came back at the Falcons with a monster shift, cycling low and getting three shots on Chris Bronson.
Just under five minutes were on the clock when Bronson made a huge save on a tip in front, but Spaulding was relentless in the latter stages of the first, and their tenacity paid off when Mitchell Yacavoni slid home a low shot past Bronson while falling to the ground.
Forty-two seconds later the Tide went up 2-1 on a fluke goal.
Jeff Roy was behind the net, or just to the side of it, it was hard to tell from where I was sitting, and he flung a puck to the front of the goal, and it bounced off of a skate and ended up in the North Country net.
It's times like these that I wish the Ice Haus had instant replay, but what can you do.
The Falcons snapped back to attention and quickly drew a penalty to go on the power-play.
With Spaulding down a man, Adam Viens walked out of the corner and ripped one past Laperle to knot things at 2-2.
Spaulding wasn't going to go without a fight, and if not for a huge save by Bronson on Matt Goldsworthy, it would have been 3-2 Spaulding after one, but the steady NC keeper was true to form, making the clutch saves when his team most needed him.
The period came to a close with some pushing and shoving, and both teams were issued penalties.
When the second period got under way, the Falcons were on a 5-3, and Viens struck again fifty-one seconds into the frame, giving North Country the lead once again.
"We've got some guys who can finish, and we work hard and I believe we are the best fore-checking team in D I this year," said Fortier. "We can always get to the puck in the corners, and that creates chances."
Spaulding had their own 5-3 a minute later, but were unable to capitalize.
After the successful penalty kill, the Falcons went up 4-2 on a great play started by Paul.
Ryan slid in front of a Tide shot and the puck went to Fortier.
Fortier hit a streaking DeLaBruere who went in all alone on Laperle.
The goalie raced out to meet Ross, and made the initial save, but Fortier was following his winger up the ice and buried the rebound with 10:41 left in the second.
Now it was Spaulding's turn to snap to, and they controlled the bulk of the remaining time, forcing North Country into turnover after turnover inside their own end.
In the early going the Falcons' passing had been crisp and their breakouts clean, but the Tide's pressure erased all of that late in the second period.
Once again it was Bronson to the rescue, and senior netminder proved why he is one of the best in the game, keeping the two goal advantage in tact until the buzzer rang.
Said Roy, "He gives us a chance to win every night and he gave us a chance to win tonight, and just like a lot of the guys, and I say this about Chris a lot, he is talented player and was very helpful for us tonight."
In the third, Spaulding kept up the pressure, and thought they had scored three minutes in, but the officials were there to make the correct call, ruling that a Tide player had committed goalie interference.
Shane Hickey cut the lead to one with 5:26 remaining, going five hole while Spaulding was on the power-play.
DeLaBruere dashed any comeback hopes that Spaulding may have had when he put home an empty-netter with twenty seconds left to salt the game away.
"We have got to be happy putting up five against these guys. BFA only put four up on them, so production wise I'm pretty happy," said Roy.
Bronson made twenty-six saves for the Falcons, while Laperle turned away twenty-two for the 0-2 Crimson Tide.
Now the Falcons will get ready for Division two Burlington on Saturday.
The game will be the back-end of a double header with the girl's team, and is scheduled to get underway at 7:00.