By Ben Kaufmann
ST. ALBANS – North Country knew just what to do once it took a second-half lead, playing a frustrating possession game and pouncing on a late opportunity to hold on for a 3-2 win over BFA-St. Albans on Wednesday.
The Comets (1-2) had rebounded quickly from an early Falcon (2-1) goal and went into halftime knotted at 1-1. The response to a somewhat fluky North Country goal midway through the second half was slower and a Falcon score with seven minutes left made Meghan Connor’s penalty kick with 17 seconds left a mere footnote.
“It just wasn’t our day today,” said BFA Coach Ben Marlow. “They did a good job of just continuously bringing everyone back. They’d lose the ball and then they did a really good job of recovering.”
Just over nine minutes into the first half Wednesday, North Country’s Riann Fortin hit a flawless header from the six-yard line on a Falcon corner kick, offering Comet goalie Maren McGinn no realistic chance at a stop and putting the visitors up 1-0.
Six minutes later, BFA’s Chelsea Raymond rolled a pass from one corner of the Falcon box to Lily Laughlin at the other. Laughlin wound up and hit a perfectly placed shot to the lower-left corner with enough pace to beat Falcon goalie Addison Cook and make it a 1-1 game.
Marlow praised the equalizing shot from Laughlin, and said more play like the setup to that goal is all his team is missing.
“The consistent piece is what we’re talking about there,” he said. “Just moving the ball to feet and playing the ball to a touch and finishing. That’s what we need to see more of, just that consistent play instead of settling for some of the further shots we took.”
The final 24 minutes of the first half was fairly even, with BFA getting a handful of chances from Meghan Connor, May Gratton and the rest of its attacking core and North Country forcing a pair of spectacular saves from McGinn (14 total saves) in the final minutes before halftime.
“I thought we had some good effort today, I thought our forwards played very well, they really pressured their backs,” said Marlow, who also acknowledged a strong game from McGinn.
“Maren made a lot of great saves, she made the saves she needed to make.”
The comment about McGinn making the saves she needed to make hinted at some unfortunate luck in BFA’s defensive end. Just before the midway mark of the second half, North Country’s McKenna Marsh lofted a ball from nearly 40 yards away toward the Comet goal. A combination of fortunate placement and the sun glare McGinn faced with BFA aimed west allowed the Falcons to take a 2-1 lead when the ball snuck under the crossbar.
“Those are the types of shots that go in the net sometimes and sometimes they go off the crossbar,” said Marlow, whose team would go down another goal when North Country’s Alexis Lefaivre knocked in a loose ball from a few feet in front of the BFA net with 7:33 left.
Now down 3-1, BFA pushed valiantly but ran out of time. The Comets’ earned a penalty kick with 17 seconds left and Connor’s strike froze Cook to make it 3-2, but North Country blasted the ensuing kickoff far enough down the field to allow the clock to run out.
Marlow was able to pick a few tweaks he’d like to see his team make, but is overall pleased with where his team is at this early point in the season.
“I thought at times we got exposed on the wings a little bit, it’s just something we need to work on,” he said. “The effort is there, our effort is there all around. I think we just need to play more consistently. It’s in spurts; we play really well then we let off the gas.”
“It’s got to be more consistent and I think that starts from the basic technical stuff. Some of our first touches are getting out of the way on us.”
Cook stopped four shots for North Country on Wednesday.
BFA’s next chance to put 80 minutes together comes on Tuesday when the Comets host Burlington in a night game at Collins Perley.