By Gary Rennie
Hard to pick the stars in this one. Too many of them.
A. J. Ryan’s goal three minutes into overtime gave the LaSalle Vipers a 3-2 come from behind win and evened up the second round playoff series with the London Nationals Friday at the Vollmer Centre.
Defence man Abdul Abouzeeni made the key play to keep the puck in at the blue line and make the pass to Kory Silverio who set up Ryan for the game winner.
Abouzeeni also scored the goal that tied the game early in the third period with a diving lunge at the puck, with assists on the play from Matt Carvalho and Zane Dalpe.
Add to the star list, Stephane Crevier, whose first period goal about three minutes in, with assists from Cody Schneider and Stefan Dobrich, got the Vipers off to a great start.
And the goals wouldn’t have been enough without the sensational goal tending of Will Tragge, who stopped 28 of 30 shots.
Playing against a team that’s led the Western Division of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League most of the season, “we have to want it more,” said Vipers’ head coach John Nelson.
“It’s been an evolving process for the team to decide what it’s going to take to win,” said Nelson. “It takes intensity and sacrifice and out-willing teams.”
It was a thriller of a game from start to finish for more than 600 fans. Short shifts and rolling four lines kept the Vipers’ intensity level high. And like two heavyweights slugging it out, blow for blow, the Nationals were working just as hard.
The Nationals’ John Castle tied the game about midway through the first period and Max Vinogradov put London ahead about eight minutes into the second period.
London was 0-5 on power play chances and the Vipers were 0-3.
The Vipers return to London for game three Saturday (March 16) and game four is back at the Vollmer Centre, Tuesday, 7 p.m.