On Wednesday night in LaSalle, The LaSalle Vipers passed the test of playoff hockey and earned themselves a Game 1 victory and a 1-0 series lead on the Chatham Maroons in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
The game almost immediately carried much more intensity and physical play than a regular-season game, and that physicality and pace never really let up right until the final buzzer. A young Vipers team with a number of players getting their first taste of playoff hockey passed with flying colours.
One such player playing in his first playoff game was rookie center Nic Pavia, and the LaSalle native proved to be the difference maker in the game’s outcome. After Aaron Shaw gave the Vipers a 1-0 lead with a nice shot under the bar early in the second period, Pavia went to work late in the middle frame with his all-out hustle that resulted in him outwaiting Maroons netminder Bryce Walcarius and giving his team a 2-0 lead at 18:35 of the period. The Maroons took momentum back when they scored with 32 seconds left in the period, but on the following shift Pavia’s relentless effort resulted in a turnover and another patient move on Walcarius that was almost the mirror image of his first goal. The goal was a back-breaker for the Maroons as it answered their late tally and restored the Vipers two-goal cushion with five seconds on the clock.
Chatham pushed hard in the period but the Vipers defense unit along with goaltender Sami Molu held their ground. Spencer Paradis put LaSalle up by three at 15:04 of the third, and although the Maroons answered quickly, they couldn’t get any closer and the home team skated away with a 4-2 win. Pavia was the lone multi-point scorer in the game while Sami Molu stopped 26 of 28 shots to earn his first playoff win.
Both teams now regroup for what will be another intense and fast-paced game in front of an always energetic crowd in Chatham. Game 2 tonight is slated for 7:00 PM.