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JAYâ€“A pair of revamped teams met in the opening game of the matinee double-header on Saturday as Rice defeated the North Country girls 5-2 to earn a split in the season series.
"I think our effort was good in a lot of areas. We had a few mental breakdowns and that led to some easy goals for them," said Claude Paul after the game, "We need to tighten up in our end, including goaltending... we need to sure that up."
Both the North Country and Rice teams have undergone a dramatic rebirth since last season. We have discussed what has happened for North Country, and new Rice head coach Danie Leahy explained what has been the key in the Green Knights turnaround.
"It is a brand new team, it is completely different from what they had last year. We don't have many returning players, so a lot of new blood, and the team works really well together, both on and off the ice. In the last few games we've changed around our forecheck a little bit and worked on keeping the pressure on the other team and having our defense really step up on the puck."
What is key to Rice being able to step up and pressure the opposition is having the confidence in their goaltender where if they get beat, they are not afraid of the odd man rushes coming back the other way.
But in the early going it did not seem that the pressure would faze the Falcons as they picked up where they left off against Woodstock.
Whitney Bernier got the puck from Ashley Daigle at her own blue line (anybody else see a pattern developing here?), weaved through the Rice defenders, and went high glove side to give the Falcons the lead forty-one seconds into the game.
Rice would wait until the final four minutes before they got their offense going on a goal from Lucy Stillman.
The 5'6" power forward took a pass from Grace Hathaway and slid a low shot from the side of the net past Tara Langmaid, evening the game at one.
Haleigh Byrnes put the Green Knights up for good in the final minute of the frame, deking around Kerrianne Little and going in alone for the breakaway goal, making it two to one Rice after one.
The Falcons had a great chance to even up the score five minutes into the second when already up a man, Rice was called for hooking, putting North Country on a five on three.
The girls were swarming in the Rice end as the puck found it's way Emilie Paul's stick. She fired it on net creating a juicy rebound, but nobody was able to get a handle on it.
Said Paul, "I think that we can definitely be a little stronger and a little more aggressive on rebounds, and that would go a long way. Against a team like this it is hard to get those tic-tac-toe goals, but we should have definitely been a able to get a couple of rebound goals."
After successfully killing of the penalties, Rice scored two goals in ten seconds to make it a four to one score.
Stillman got a great feed from Ellen Sartorelli for the third goal, and Kathryn Ranaldo put in goal number four from a bad angle, shooting off of Langmaid's glove and into the net.
Paul called a time out and challenged his girls to win the rest of the period, and they responded.
Bernier got the Falcons to within two with 3:11 left to play while shorthanded. She chased down the puck in the Green Knight zone, cut hard around the net, and flung the puck in from just across the goal line.
It would be four to two Knights heading into the final fifteen minutes.
A minute and a half into the third North Country had another golden chance to score when Whitney Bernier's rebound went right to Daigle, but as the junior went for the puck she was hauled down from behind on a terrible no-call by the officials.
They did however make a call on Emily Tarr who had yanked down Bernier on the same play and North Country went pack on the power-play.
Nothing came of the man advantage, and Rice went on to tally their fifth goal of the game when Byrnes put her own rebound in, and ended the day for Langmaid, who was replaced by Brianna Bocelli.
"After the fourth goal I said she (Tara) had one more, and it happened in the third. It is something that we had been wanting to try for a while," said the coach on the goalie change.
The novice netminder showed some nice movement on her lone save of the game, getting down, catching the puck, and popping back up again allowing no rebound.
"I think I did alright, I had a nice save out there," said Boccelli of her outing on Saturday.
Neither team would score the rest of the way as Rice held on for the 5-2 win. North Country put twenty-nine shots on Rice's Addison Stillman, who stopped all but two.
Langmaid had seven saves while Boccelli had just the one.
The team heads to Essex to take on Mount Mansfield Wednesday evening at