JAY– It was a exciting way to start of the season for the North Country girls hockey team on Saturday at the Ice Haus, as they defeated Harwood 4-3 on the second goal of the game by freshman Whitney Bernier.
Bernier took a feed from Kerrianne Little and was able to glide down the left side of the ice before sending a high shot over Highlander goaltender Siena Damon.
"I was pretty nervous," said the freshman, "I was hoping it would go our way. We kind of started off weak, but as the game went on we got stronger."
For Coach Paul's crew, the rest of the game was an example of the prolific highs and potential lows that may afflict the team in 2011-2012.
The first period was a back and forth affair, whether neither team taking ownership of the game in the early going.
"I think we showed our freshman legs early," said Paul, "we were a little nervous, but the girls stuck with it."
Harwood would reach the score sheet first when Carrie Johnson picked up a Hayley Spittle rebound and threw the puck into the open net midway through the period.
The goal seemed to waken the NC girls up and their game began to tighten. They started to get the puck deeper into the Highlander zone and generate more opportunities.
Finally, with a minute and twenty-four seconds left to go in the opening period, the moment that fans had been waiting to see occurred.
The Falcon power play.
A hooking call on Harwoods' Katie Martin allowed Paul to take his high octane trio of forwards, Bernier, Corrina Cota, and Taylor Morley, along with Emilie Paul and Meghan Campbell on D, and stick them on the ice simultaneously.
The quintet took exactly 12 seconds to find the back of the net, knotting the game at a goal apiece.
A face-off win brought the puck back to Paul, who sent a low sneaky shot through a maze of players and into the far corner of the net.
The score remained tied as the two teams headed off the ice at the intermission.
The second period was the strongest of the three regulation frames for North Country.
Defensively, the team exceptional at directing play away from goaltender Tara Langmaid as well as blocking shots that were headed in her direction.
Offensively, it took the team until the 6:56 marker before they were able to take the lead in the contest.
Morley picked up the puck near her own blue line and weaved her way into the offensive zone where she took a wrist shot that beat Damon 5 hole.
Two minutes later Bernier would net her first of the game after some hard work by her linemates.
With the Moss twins Jenna and Crystal battling behind the net, Jenna was finally able to find Bernier in the slot where she sent in a high shot ,extending the Falcon advantage to two goals.
The most dangerous lead in hockey.
And it would turn out to be much more dangerous than the girls expected, as the third period was an entirely different story for the Falcons.
Harwood came out looking to take advantage of the inexperience in the NCU nets, and Spittles' goal five minutes into the period is an example of some of the things that the home team will need to eliminate as the season progresses.
A seemingly harmless dump in from the center ice ice area slid innocuously towards the Falcon net. A routine save turned into a nightmare as somehow the puck was able to handcuff Langmaid, and it slid into the back of the net to close the gap to within two.
Sensing the tide continuing to move in their favor, the Highlanders, kept up their assault and Kaylee Ferris scored another rebound goal to tie the game with 6:31 left in regulation.
And how nervous was Paul when he saw the tying goal go in?
"(I was) pretty nervous, because at that point it was a one shot game at that point, and that makes any coach a little nervous."
Bernier also noted that team had got "A little over confident" going into the third period
The Falcons shook off whatever was plaguing them in the third to finish out regulation on a strong note, with Ashley Daigle having a chance to end the game late, but it was not to be her turn on this day.
This day was for Bernier.
It took three nerve racking minutes, but the freshman came through for the club, to start the Falcons off 1-0 in 2011-2012.
"It was a whole team effort," said Paul of the win, "We really worked hard. I think it is going to be a good year, and we've got the skill to make it happen."
The Falcons will hit the road for their next contest, when they head to the Cairns Arena to take on Rice this Thursday at