JAY–Well, they came as advertised.
The North Country girls hockey team more than held there own against Division I South Burlington/MMU, but fell just a little short of their goal, losing the contest 3-1.
"I think we skated with them for two, two and a quarter periods, but we just did not finish our chances early," said coach Claude Paul.
With the merger of So. Burlington and Mount Mansfield set to last just one year, the visiting squad took to the ice in their special sky blue commemorative jerseys to face the improved Falcons.
Traditionally, when MMU and NCU have squared off in the past, some funky things have happened.
There have been upsets, overtimes, and a host of other little things that go on that leave a lasting impression.
In this game, it was how well the home team skated against one of the best teams they will face this year.
North Country had the first good scoring opportunity when Jenna Moss got two good cracks at Rebel Cougar goalie Courtney Peyko.
All throughout the period, the Falcons seemed at ease, skating well, getting pucks deep, and getting into the SB/MMU passing lanes to disrupt the oppositions attempt at creating any offense.
But, while they got shots on net, they were not high percentage shots, and Peyko handled most of them with ease.
As the period wound down, the scoring chances ramped up.
With just under four minutes to play, Corrina Cota had chance in the slot, but couldn't convert.
Going the other way, Mikaella Doran faced her first real test of the year, denying a SB/MMU breakaway with 1:50 left to play.
Back in the other end. North Country closed out the period with a flurry of chances for Adrianna Fournier and Whitney Bernier, but Peyko, one of the best goalies in the state, held her ground.
"She's not only one of the best goalies in the state, she's one of the best in New England, and she is rated very high and she does a great job," said SB/MMU coach Mickey Toof.
"I think if we would have put a couple of those in, we get a little doubt in their mind and we work off that, but each time you don't, you loose a little energy on the bench," said Paul.
The Falcons opened the second on a power-play, but the Rebel Cougars killed it off with little difficulty.
Said Paul of the power-play, "It's early in the season, and to be honest, we've only worked on the power-play maybe twice, so it is hard to get a good mix out on the ice, but it will come."
Starting to feel in a groove, NCU started to get better chances at the net.
Bernier and Morely came close to jamming one home 2:30 into the frame, but didn't finish.
Then Morely, Moss, and Fournier all had some whacks at a loose puck, but again Peyko was there.
Finally, with 6:12 left to go, Morley flung the puck in front of the net from the right-side corner, and Fournier buried it on her second attempt to give the Falcons the 1-0 lead.
"She is going to get a lot of those goals for us this year," said Paul. "She is a stay at home, stay on her wing type of person, but she definitely has a knack around the net."
All throughout the game, one could sense that Adrianna was really looking to make an impression with her play.
And why shouldn't she?
She is coming off a terrific field hockey season, and it stands to reason that she would want to continue her path to excellence on the ice.
Said Paul simply, "Adrianna is going big part of our team this year."
Things were cooking along nicely until Julia Hudson’s shot from the high slot made it through a thick screen in front of Doran and went in high-glove.
The shot appeared to be tipped and change direction, or it was just a knuckle ball of a shot, either way the game was tied.
Next came the most important play of the game.
SB/MMU came right back down the ice and got off two very good shots and Doran made the saves.
Had she not made those two saves, the direction of the game would have gone in a completely different direction, and coach Paul knew it.
Knotted at 1-1 to start the third, again it was the Falcons with the first chance on net, and again it was Fournier in the thick of it, teaming with Corrina Cota on the play.
But the Cougar Rebels showed their merit with 9:43 left in the game, as Anne-Marie Farmer forced a a turnover in the neutral zone, and went in unimpeded and buried it for the 2-1 lead.
Four minutes later another NCU turnover lead to a SB/MMU goal, as Hudson walked out of the left-side corner and went high-glove for the insurance goal.
The Falcons did have a late 5-3 power-play, but nothing came of it and the commemorative jersey girls hung on for the 3-1 win.
The Falcons definitely can draw a lot of positives from this game.
They skated with their opponents, out shot them in every period, and had just as many chances to put pucks in the net as they did, maybe more.
But it is a work in progress, and they will move on and get ready for their next challenge.
Doran stopped nine shots for the 0-1 Falcons while Peyko had twenty-one for 1-0 SB/MMU.
Next up is another D I opponent opponent, Hartford, this Tuesday on the road at the Barwood Arena at 7:00.