The LaSalle Vipers turned in a spirited effort and continued to ride the goaltending of Matthew Sbrocca in a 3-0 win over the St. Marys Lincolns on Friday night in St. Marys.
Needing a good start to keep the Lincolns at bay in the early going, the Vipers got just what they needed when Brody Gillis scored the team’s first goal of the playoff season at 2:15 of the opening frame. They would hold that 1-0 lead into the first intermission in a fast-paced period that saw the Lincolns out-shot but certainly not out-play the Vipers.
In the second period, the game’s intensity and physicality really ratcheted up. Following Andrew Kotevski’s goal at 3:56 to put the Vipers up by two, it reached full boil when LaSalle forward Stephane Crevier was on the end of a huge open ice hit. Crevier stayed down for several minutes but was eventually able to get to his feet and he would go on to stay in the game. Each team had two power-play opportunities in the period but both team’s penalty-kills were strong and the score stayed at 2-0 through 40 minutes.
Having not scored since the first minute of Game 1 on a flukey goal, the Lincolns frustration at not being able to solve Sbrocca resulted in them trying bully tactics to get back into the game in the third period. It didn’t work and after Spencer Lecot scored on a three-on-one rush, the Lincolns and the game came unglued when Kobe Ferreira tracked down a streaking Brody Gillis and sent him crashing into the boards violently at full speed. The hit was a clear intent to injure, as Gillis was in a vulnerable position and Ferreira beelined back with several strides and did not make a play on the puck. The scary hit which left the Vipers centermen down for several minutes resulted in a wild melee that saw both Ferriera and LaSalle winger Patrick McManus ejected for fighting. With the Vipers on a power-play for much of the remainder of the game, the waters cooled down some and the visitors left the ice with a 3-0 victory and a 1-1 series heading back to LaSalle for Game 3.
Just like he was in Game 1, Sbrocca was again the First Star of Game 2. The LaSalle netminder stopped all 35 shots he faced and has only been beaten once in two games on a goal that was deflected twice before reaching him.
LaSalle’s already depleted lineup will be without another key player for Game 3, as Patrick McManus will miss the game due to an automatic one-game suspension for fighting in the final 10 minutes of the third. His counterpart in the scrap Kobe Ferreira has thus far received a two-game suspension, but the hit on Gillis will surely be reviewed by the league for potential further discipline.
The oddity of the visiting team winning continues to scratch heads, as the road team has won all eight games played between the two sides. Game 3 on Sunday afternoon will be LaSalle’s next chance to end that streak and take their first lead in the series. Puck-drop is scheduled for 2:30 PM.