By Gary Rennie
LONDON – The LaSalle Vipers’ season ended with a 7-2 loss Wednesday on the road against the London Nationals.
Vipers’ winger Evan Ferguson scored an unassisted, shorthanded goal in the second period and a second goal on a breakaway in the third.
Vipers’ captain Brett Vorshuk ended his Jr. B career leading the team in playoff scoring in a first-round sweep of the Sarnia Legionnaires and the 4-1 series loss to the Nationals.
The youthful enthusiasm of a rookie-laden team wasn’t enough to overcome the experience of a veteran London squad who will now wait for the outcome of the Leamington-Komoka series to start the Western Division final round.
“The character in this room is unbelievable,” said head coach John Nelson in his post-game effort in the locker room to ease the “awful feeling” of ending a playoff run before the final goal is reached.
But with a team of talented players with years of Jr. B hockey to play, Nelson wanted them to look ahead and not behind. “We’re built for the next two years….Let’s see where this ship can go.”
With two power plays in the first period, the Vipers had chances to take an early lead. Probably the best was a shot from the left face-off circle by Ferguson that trickled through the pads of Nationals’ goalie Zach Springer, who reached around and stopped the puck from crossing the line.
The Nationals’ had a 12-10 edge in shots over the first period.
London took the early lead almost three minutes into the game on a goal by Colin Wilson and added to the lead in the second with successive goals by Isaiah Payne, James Turner and Kyle Dawson.
Ferguson’s unassisted goal came off a rush down the left wing and a high wrist shot from the face-off circle and cut the deficit to 4-1.
The Vipers’ pulled goalie Will Tragge for a six-on-four power play about midway through the third period but gave up a shorthanded goal by the Nationals’ Dawson, his second. Vorshuk was in alone on Springer in the third but was denied.
Payne’s second goal and another by National’s George Diaco widened the gap.
The Nationals’ had a 15-10 shot edge in the second and 11-8 in the third. LaSalle was 0-6 on power play chances and London was 0-3.
Tragge stopped 31 of 36 shots, and Springer stopped 26 of 28.