WOODSTOCK–What I assumed would be an easy return to the bench turned into quite the adventure as the North Country girls hockey team managed to escape with a 9-6 win over the Wasps on Wednesday night.
"It was not the prettiest win I have ever seen, but the girls need to put this one behind them and get ready for Stowe on Friday," I said to myself after the game.
With assistant coaches Tom Bernier and Tracy Muzerall unavailable for the game, head coach Claude Paul asked me if I would like a chance to resume my old duties as an assistant coach for the evening.
I jumped at the opportunity, even though it meant a trip down I-91 and up I-89 to the home of the Woodstock Wasps.
Before the game started, we were informed that Woodstock was on its' fourth goaltender of the season, and the PA announcer jokingly said to "take it easy on us."
Well he would not have to worry, because as the game unfolded, it looked the Falcons should have been the ones to beg for mercy.
The game got off to fast start with Taylor "Crease" Morley sliding a low shot past Summer Carvalho just twenty-eight seconds into the game.
Adrianna Fournier was the next one to score, as she buried the puck four minutes later with the assist going to Meghan Campbell, her second of the night.
"I felt all right out there," said Fournier bluntly, "I didn't do as well as I could have but I tried as hard as I could."
One minute and one second ticked off the clock before Jenna Moss made it three to nothing.
There, the game plan was being executed; get the puck, shoot low, and shoot often.
Then Woodstock started to get into the game.
Led by their big defenceman Delaney Little, the Wasps shut down the potent North Country offense for the rest of the period, and then, with just six seconds remaining in the first, she put her team on the board making it 3-1 after a period of play.
The last time a period ended with the score 3-1 North Country leading Woodstock, NCU came out in the the following frame, scored seven goals, and ended any chance of a Wasp comeback.
Sounds easy enough right?
New goalie, winless team, piece of cake.
The Wasps were here to play, and they made the score 3-2 four minutes and seventeen seconds into the second and I started to get that feeling in my stomach that my return to the bench was going to be marred by the worst loss of the season for the Falcons.
Morley restored the two point lead a minute later, and Corrina Cota put the girls up by three soon after with a thigh high shot to the left of Carvalho.
Whitney Bernier jacked the advantage up to four, sniping the puck top shelf, and I was feeling a little bit better.
For about two seconds.
While I was taking a moment to speak to one of the players, Woodstock's Alex Ting put puck number three past Tara Langmaid just two seconds, and I have the score sheet to prove it, two seconds after the Bernier goal.
Little struck again for the Wasps two minutes later, and that was the night for Langmaid.
Briana Bocelli skated into the nets for North Country, and the game was hers to win or lose. I am sure that Bocelli was going to see some ice time in this contest, but I don't think this is how coach Paul had thought it would play out.
She was able to shut the door for the rest of the period, and with Emilie Paul netting a goal with 2:05 left in the second, it was 7-4 Falcons after thirty minutes of action.
"I figured, this would be an easy game for the girls, a fun game to coach in, and it would be a chance for the some of the players who do not get to see the ice a lot to get into the game," I said in between the second and the third to the only member of the media in attendance at the game.
If coach Paul was upset after the first he was fuming after the second. The defense was coughing up pucks like it was the first game of the pre-season, the goaltending was not sharp, and the offense, even though they had scored seven, was erratic.
While you never want to play poorly, Wednesday's effort was compounded by the fact that A. it was a late start at a distant location, so B. you want to get ahead early allowing your top players to get some rest because they were going to be logging a lot of minutes against C. 14-1-1 Stowe, who is heading up to the Ice Haus today and you want your players ready to face a tough opponent.
Bernier netted two more goals in the third to complete the hat-trick, but Woodstock also scored two and it was a none too happy team that headed into the locker room after the game.
The win moves the Falcons to 11-4, good for fourth place in the Lake division, and with Stowe coming up tonight, the girls are going to have to come out with a much better all-around effort if they hope to pick up win number twelve.
Said Fournier on their upcoming contest, "We are going to try and get a bunch of rest so we will be at our best for Stowe."
Bernier led the way with three goals, followed by Morley who had a goal and two assists, Campbell who had three assists, and Cota who had a goal and an assist.
Bocelli and Langmaid combined for 14 saves while Carvalho stopped 23.
While it was not they way I expected to win, I would like to thank Claude once again for the chance to get back on the bench. It was a blast, and if he needs me to fill in again, it would be my pleasure.
The puck drops at 5:00 for the girls, with the boys to follow, also against Stowe, at 7:00.