NEWPORT–A long trying season has probably come to an end for the North Country boys soccer team. With their 1-0 loss to Colchester yesterday, the team is mathematically eliminated from the play-offs, although a small ray of hope exists if one Vermont school’s budget does not pass, then said school will be forced to put all of their extra curricular activities on the shelf.
As for Thursday's action, it was an emotional, physical game at Falcon field that saw North Country have several chances to score, but fall short in their attempts.
Said Coach McKenny, "The guys came in with a little bit of pressure, knowing they needed a win to help our chances at the post season, and you know Colchester is a feisty team and we got involved."
In the first half, signs that the match was going to be a chippy were evident from the get go. 50/50 balls were met with a lot of contact, 1-on-1 encounters had a little extra shoving, but for the most part the refs let them play.
Nate Stewart had a glorious opportunity to get his team on the board fifteen minutes into the game. He broke down on the left side of Laker goalie Matt McBride, and pushed the ball past a Colchester defender. McBride would come out to challenge the ball, and Stuart moved to left of the goalie leaving a wide open net to shoot at, but the shot would be a little to wide and bounce off the side f the goal.
That would be the best chance in the first half for North Country, and for Colchester, they were kept for the most part out of the danger areas in the first, and anything they threw at Logan Fortier was stopped with relative ease.
In the second half, the games' lone goal would come just four minutes after the start of play.
With Colchester swirling in the Falcon end Jason Van Kampen took a what appeared to be a routine shot towards Fortier, but at the last second Alec Brigante made a perfect screen, blocking Fortiers view of the ball, and thus allowing the ball to go in.
After the goal the physicality in play was turned up to eleven.At the 30:00 minute marker Clint Provencha and Colchester's Caleb Mann were issued yellow cards for a minor scrum that occurred in the middle of the Falcon end.
A lot of extra contact was made after plays were made, making the contact in the first half seem pale by comparison.
Cody Halikas also drew a card in the second for coming in hard and crunching an opposing player. If he had been on the ice, it would have been a nice hit, but we are still a month away from hockey season.
The Lakers were no angels either, but their mistakes could have been way more costly had NCU been able to convert on their chances. At least two infractions took place within a yard of the 18, one in particular on Josh Brien looked like it was inside the box, but the ball was spotted about a foot outside.
Again, as it has all season, it came back to being unable to finish, although there was nothing the Falcons could do when they beat the McBride on one of the kicks, only to have a Laker defender clear the ball out before it could cross the line.
"It has been a quirky season," said McKenny in reference to his teams' low offensive output, "having those opportunities and the ball just bouncing away, or players getting in the way of other's shots. Players knew we needed to capitalize, but for some reason this year we just did not have the finishers that we've had in other seasons."
Nate Stewart had a similar moment for North Country in the late stages of the game, just after the Halikas yellow, which still kept the Falcons in the game with just over a minute to go.
In the final minute, Fortier, like he did against BFA, left his goal to be an extra attacker, but the team was unable to get anything past McBride on this day as Colchester held on for their ninth win of the season.
"It took us awhile to adjust to the size of the field," said Laker Coach Dennis McCannell, "In the second half we were able to put the ball on the ground and control things."
On a positive note, Adam Viens made it all the way back from his broken leg to make an appearance in Thursday's game, his first, and maybe only game of the year.
"It felt really good to be on the field with the guys," said Viens, "The leg is real strong, and it was awesome to be out there with the seniors in their last game and I couldn't ask for anything more."
Now it is a matter of waiting for North Country, as they will sit by and await the unnamed school’s budget to pass or fail inorder to find out their play-off fate.