The LaSalle Vipers have lived to play another day in their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Chatham Maroons. Sparked by the return to the lineup of defencemen Abdul Abouzeeni and Brad Vincent, the Vipers played 60 minutes of desperation hockey that resulted in a 5-0 victory over the Chatham Maroons on Wednesday night in LaSalle.
Playing in his first game of the series, Abouzeeni’s return was a huge shot in the arm for his team and it was amplified even more when he scored the first goal of the game at 5:31 of the first period. Taking a nice backhand pass from Jack Bowler, Abouzeeni’s shot found the back of the net for a goal that gave the Vipers a ton of energy to push back after the Maroons came out strong, forcing goaltender Matt Sbrocca to hold his ground and make some key early stops.
With a tenuous 1-0 lead and the sense that the Maroons were closing in on tying it, Evan Ferguson came through with a timely individual effort early in the second where he chased down a loose puck to put himself in the clear and then deked past Chatham netminder Kevin Linker who had decided to lunge out in an effort to poke the puck away. The goal was another big momentum shift that gave the Vipers further confidence and energy to keep pushing for more. And more came shortly after when Stephane Crevier finished off a nifty three-way passing play from Nic Pavia and Hayden Heinrich to give LaSalle a three-goal cushion heading into the third.
Unlike Game 2 in Chatham when the Vipers relinquished a three-goal lead in the third period, they were able to put things away this time with goals from Cayden Faust and Jack Bowler who scored for the third straight game. Refusing to yield, the Vipers defense and Matt Sbrocca shut the door on a 34 save night to earn the team’s first shutout of the season, while Bowler, Crevier, and Abouzeeni each had a goal and an assist in the win.
With no other choice but to keep taking things one game, one period and one shift at a time, the Vipers earned themselves another 60 minutes of hockey. The scene now shifts back to Chatham for Game 6 where two very close games have been played, and if there is to be a Game 7, the script of those two previous games will need to be flipped.