JAYâ€“North Country's boys hockey team came out on Wednesday night and played a hard-nosed, well disciplined game to earn a 4-2 win over Spaulding in the opening round of the Metro Division play-offs.
Said Assistant Captain Nate Stewart on the win, "This is amazing, I can't really explain it anymore than we are ecstatic."
Coach Andrew Roy shuffled his lines, and the combinations produced a well balanced attack for the Falcons.
"We made a couple of adjustments, some roster moves with the lines to try to get something going. We had fun, the guys worked hard, and we saw some good results," said Roy.
The boys in white wasted little time getting on the board as Travis Tetreault picked up a rebound and buried it low blocker side for 1-0 advantage just 1:58 into the contest.
"Adam Viens went to the net and I crashed the net and it went in," said Tetreault on the goal.
The Falcons carried the play through the opening five minutes of the game, allowing Spaulding very little time and space to get moving.
The Tide eventually got their game going and had an excellent chance to knot the game at one late when Alex French was left wide open in the slot in front of Chris Bronson, but as the puck came to him, he fanned on it.
French's whiff allowed the play to go the other way and Stewart got in alone on the Tide's Kevin Avery, but was unable to beat the senior netminder.
He would be back.
As play got underway in the second, neither team looked particularly crisp, but it was Spaulding getting the bulk of the shots, out shooting North Country 4-2.
Midway through the period, the Falcons got their feet moving, and it started with the reunited Squirrel line.
Josh Bernier, Dylan Columbia, and Stewart did an excellent job of cycling the puck down low before Bernier cashed in on a shot from in front of the net with his linemates picking up assists on the goal.
"We missed each other and tonight we really went out and worked hard," said Stewart on the reformation of the line, "We spent the entire day together getting ready for the game, so the chemistry's back and it is a great feeling."
Said the coach on the reunification, "I think that they played outstanding. All those kids were flying, and I put them back together because I thought that they would have enough fun to bring their play to the next level, and I think that they did that for each other."
The Falcons ran the table for the remainder of the second, but were unable to cash in.
With two minutes left in the period, Spaulding displayed some real classless behavior after NCU's Ryan O'Donnell was leveled by a member of the Tide, a hit that could have been called interference, roughing, or a hit to the head.
As O'Donnell lay in a crumpled heap on the ice, Eric Vasseur skated by, slapping his stick on the ice in what appeared to be a mocking manner.
Whether he was trying to get the ref's attention, as the officials completely missed the hit, I don't know, but it did seem like he was taunting O'Donnell.
The score stayed at 2-0 as the second wound to a close, but things changed in a hurry in the beginning of the third.
Just 1:02 into the final frame, Vasseur grabbed the puck from behind the net and wrapped it around the cage and under a sliding Bronson to make it 2-1.
Last time these two teams met, the Falcons got up early and were able to stave off the Tide rally, and it seemed like they were going to have to do it again.
Spaulding kept coming, and Bronson had to be sharp. Their best chance to tie the game came on a Justin Flory breakaway, but Chris had his number, and the score remained the same.
Just after the Flory chance it would be the Squirrels once again getting on the board as Bernier flung the puck towards the front of the net and it landed on Stewart's stick.
This time he made no mistake, blowing it past Avery to restore the two goal lead.
"Bernier some how found me between three players and I finally found the net," said Stewart.
Spaulding wasn't going to go quietly into the good night, and they continued to battle.
With 3:15 left on the clock, Shane Hickey beat Bronson for the second Tide goal on a nice high blocker shot, and the script screamed high drama for final three minutes of the game.
Up to this point in the game, the Falcons had taken just two penalties, with one of them being a matching penalty, so technically they had been shorthanded only once so far.
Right now was not the time to go down a man again, but that is what happened when Cody Simoneau was whistled for tripping with 2:37 left to play.
Up a man with over two minutes left is probably the best the Tide could have hoped for given the circumstances, but they would blow their chance, taking a penalty of their own less than a minute into the power-play.
It was the second nasty hit of the game by the Crimson Tide, this one worse than the first, as Columbia was driven hard into the boards from behind by Patrick McKelvey.
McKelvey was given five and a game, his season now over.
Skating four aside, Ross DeLaBruere made sure that the season was finished for the rest of the Tide when sniped in a beautiful shot from the left side of the net, going top-shelf glove side to ice the game away for the Falcons.
Things will get much more difficult for North Country this weekend, as they have earned a matinee match-up with the number two seed South Burlington on Saturday at 12:00 at the Carins Arena.
Looking ahead Roy said, "They (SBUHS) get up and out of the zone really quickly, and they are pretty good at using the high slot in the offensive zone, so we are going to focus on those two things for the next two days, and hopefully we are going to try and throw a wrinkle or two at them."
The South Burlington coach staff was in attendance at Wednesday's game, scouting the potential opposition, and rest assured they will be well prepared to face the Falcons on Saturday afternoon.
The game has the potential to be an upset, so fans may want to make the trip west to catch what should be a great contest.