JAYâ€“A very promising season came to unexpected halt on Thursday evening when the Rutland Red Raiders defeated the North Country girls hockey team 4-2.
"We were definitely rusty," said coach Claude Paul, "We hadn't played in two weeks, and it was one of those games where you said it was going to take us a while to get going, but it really never got going."
The Raiders, however got going early, as Erin Reilly tipped home a weak point shot just twenty-six seconds into the game.
Six minutes later Rutland struck again, this time Kathryn Kurchena found a loose puck in front of the net and put it home, making it 2-0 for the visiting team.
It was not like North Country didn't have their chances, but they just could not beat Rutland goalie Brittany Pelkey in the early going.
Emilie Paul finally broke through on a nice individual effort as she wristed home a shot from the circle tops, and the Falcons were back within one, but not for long.
Kurchena got a pass from Emme O'Rourke, and deposited her second goal of the game in the back of the North Country cage, and as the horn sounded, it was 3-1 Rutland after one.
It should be noted that the Falcons were playing short-handed, as team captain Avery Parsons-Grayson was not at the game, so all game long NCU played with just three defenders, Paul, Kerrianne Little, and Meghan Campbell.
The second period really was the Falcons undoing. They had multiple chances on the power-play throughout the period, including a 1:51 two-man advantage and they could do nothing with it.
Said Paul, "There was some bad luck in there, but when your passing is not there all game, because of the lay-off, your power-play is were it is going to show."
Rutland did not have much going either, but what they did have was a strong penalty kill, and your goaltender must be your best penalty killer, and Rutland coach Dick Steupert knows it.
"She played fantastic," said Steupert of Pelkey, "She was laid up for a week and this was her first game back. We had a long conversation with her last night, because she is our last line of defense, and the girls needed to know that she was ready.
It was still 3-1 as play got underway in the third, and would stay so until late in the contest when Kurchena completed the hat-trick with 2:06 left to play.
From behind the net she banked the puck off of Tara Langmaid and in, and that all but sealed the deal for the Red Raiders.
Taylor Morley added another one for the Falcons with four seconds left, but it was not enough as Rutland advances with the 4-2 win.
"I thought Taylor had some nice looks, I just wish she could have found the back of the net a little more," the coach said with a smile.
Despite the loss, it was a very productive year for the Falcons. They won thirteen games in the 2011-2012 campaign, and will be returning all but two of their players next season.
"I think it was real good season," Paul said, "We did better than I expected, and overall I think the girls worked hard, they were very respectable, and I think we have a real promising future.
"I told them after the game I don't want you hanging your heads, you guys had a great year, and one of these years we are going to be the team with the juniors and the seniors advancing in the play-offs."
"I guess it can only go up from here," said Emilie Paul after the game, "We are going to continue to work hard so that next time we play teams like this we will be ready for them."
"We had a really good year," sad assistant captain Corrina Cota, "We worked together as a whole team, it wasn't just one person, and even though we lost, this was a huge game for the team."
The Falcons will say good-by to two of their players, as seniors Tara Langmaid, who was honored before the game, and Avery Parsons-Grayson will graduate this spring.
Looking towards the future, I would say that it is indeed a bright one, and this team will be heard from for years to come.