JAY–After a magnificent game the last time these two teams met back in March (albeit the post game stuff was not so great), the anticipation level was high when the Essex Hornets came in to square off against the North Country boys hockey team Friday night at Jay Peak.
Instead, despite a revamping of the lines in hopes of generating more offense, the Falcons fell 5-2 to the boys in gold and blue.
However, in the loss, coach Andrew Roy was quick to talk about the positives from the game.
"I thought that I saw some really good things out of all the units. I continue to be really happy with the way Tetreault is mixing it in with Halikas and Viens."
In the first period the Falcons came out aggressively, getting pucks deep into the Hornet zone while not allowing Essex to get much further than mid-ice. They utilized the dump and chase, but were not able to really get any shots on Essex keeper Pat Campbell.
The Hornets bided their time, weathering the onslaught before finding their rhythm later in the period.
And when they found that rhythm, it was tough to get them to drop the beat.
North Country's momentum was slowed down when Logan Fortier was whistled for an interference call four minutes into the first.
The Hornets seized their opportunity, and Lucas Martin let a shot go from the slot that found a hole, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, JT Begnoche grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone, juked past a NCU defenseman, went in alone on Chris Bronson, and fired in a high shot to put the lead at two.
Essex put the cap on this scoring flurry when Martin notched his second of the contest, making the most of a partial screen on a high slot shot.
North Country looked stunned. They had been skating well early, and all of a sudden in two short minutes they were down 3-0.
They managed to finish off the period on a positive note, getting scoring chances from Dylan Colombia and Ryan Paul, as well as drawing an Essex penalty, but the scored stayed 3-0 heading into intermission.
Judging by how long it took for the team to come out for the second, the boys must have had quite a little chat in the locker-room as they prepared to take to the fresh ice.
Well, those in the stands might have thought that extra prep time may have gone to waste as Steve Jurkiewicz, moments after the power-play ended, took a puck from his own blue line, went around a NC defenseman and across the crease, and slid the puck underneath a sprawling Bronson.
Said Roy of what his goalie may have been thinking about all the odd-man chances he was forced to contend with, "I think that they got past our defense a little easier than he was expecting."
With score now 4-0 and the game precariously close to getting out of hand, the Falcons responded.
It started with a strong shift form the newly created line of Nate Stewart, Ross DeLaBruere, and Paul. The team built on that, and with Falcons buzzing in the Hornets’ end, a seemingly harmless shot from Fortier brought the score to 4-1. The big junior shrugged his shoulders after the puck went in as if to say, "I am not sure how it went in either."
The coach had dabbled with Fortier at forward, but says he will stay back on the blue line where he is more comfortable.
Now, just down by three, North Country kept up the pressure. With the Hornets looking a bit rattled, Colombia raced dow the right side of the ice hoping to find Josh Bernier in front of the net. The puck got on net, and Nathan Corrow picked up the rebound and he....
Scored? Didn't Score? Hold on, the ref needs to talk to the goal judge.
After a brief consultation, it was decided that the goal light did come on just before the whistle blew, and it was now a two goal game as the teams skated off the ice for the second intermission.
As stated before, the two goal lead is the most dangerous in hockey, and Essex wasted no time restoring their lead to that of the much safer three goal margin when Martin completed the hat-trick just eleven seconds into the third.
North Country battled the rest of the way, killing off a 5-3, hitting the post, and getting good puck movement on their power-play, but the Hornets held on to pick up the 'W'.
"I thought we played well," said Essex coach Bill O'Neil on the win, "I thought that North Country had a great second period, but I think the fifth goal was hard (for them), and it was a big one for us."
It should be noted, that while he has yet to really make a presence on the score sheet, Cody Halikas continues to bring it game in and game out, and it is only a matter of time before he starts to really get rolling for the Falcons.
The team will have a week to get get comfortable with their new line combos before welcoming Harwood to the Ice Haus Arena on Saturday.
Puck Drops at 6:00