By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the LaSalle Post on Dec. 9, 2016
Photo: LaSalle’s Eli Billing shuts down Lambton Shores’ Wes Dobbin on Nov. 30. Billing lead the GOJHL’s Western Conference with 15 wins. DEVAN MIGHTON / LASALLE POST
It was an up and down week for the LaSalle Vipers junior hockey club. Starting with a Nov. 30 thrashing of the Lambton Shores Predators, the Vipers then fell to the St. Marys Lincolns and edged the Strathroy Rockets over the weekend in Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League action.
Lambton Shores has not posed much of a threat this season, and LaSalle’s win on Nov. 30 truly reflected that.
With an 11-1 shellacking and sporting their brand new Los Angeles Kings-style third jerseys, the Vipers were able to extend their then-league leading winning streak to eight games.
The Predators’ Kyle Fisher opened up the scoring just minutes in, but LaSalle’s multi-prong offensive punch soon took over.
Leading 3-1 and 6-1 at the breaks, the Vipers made short work of the basement-dwelling Lambton Shores crew.
Manny Silverio was stellar in the win, popping in two goals and two assists.
However, Silverio’s usual proficient sniping may have been overshadowed by the play of Cale Allen.
Matching Silverio for points, the outstanding defenseman, who came over from Leamington last season, made essential plays on many of his team’s goals, leading to three assists, as well as hammering home a point-blast of his own in the third.
“We’ve got three lines banging, plain and short, good win,” said Allen after the game. “It’s not very often you get to score 11 goals in one game; it’s nice for the boys to get some points.”
Brett Primeau also added a pair, while captain Nathan Savage, Tyler Russell, Daniel Beaudoin, and Jasper Forgrave each put up a single.
Not lost in his teammates’ torrent of scoring was the play of veteran netminder Eli Billing, who made 31 saves in the win.
Tynan Lauziere stayed in net for all 11 of LaSalle’s lamp-lighters, turning aside 30 attempts.
“We’re a pretty decent team at home and once we get rolling and score that first goal, I think the confidence gets going,” said head coach Bill Bowler.
He later added that Lambton Shores’ lineup may have been “a little depleted”.
Two nights later, while on the road, the Vipers’ ongoing winning streak was snapped by the St. Marys Lincolns in a game where LaSalle badly outshot their opponents.
Going into the match, the Lincs were tied for last place in the Western Conference.
St. Marys’ Brandon Glover scored the only goal of the first period, putting the puck behind Vipers’ rookie Dershahn Stewart late in the opening stanza.
The Lincolns extended their lead early in the middle frame, picking up markers from Andrew Bogdon and Alessio Luciani to make the score 3-0.
Not long after Luciani’s tally, Silverio shortened the lead to two.
Things started to get chippy halfway through the second.
LaSalle’s Frank Zak engaged in some fisticuffs with Dan Cloutier and both were ejected for their troubles.
Before the period could end, Clay Kraynack brought the Vipers back within a goal.
Penalty trouble started to mount for the Lincolns early in the final act, but LaSalle failed to respond.
Just over five minutes in, Glover lit the lamp again for St. Marys, followed by Brody Smith with about nine minutes left to play.
Down 5-2, LaSalle attempted the late comeback but would fall short.
Allen and Savage tallied in the last half of the period, but the Lincolns were not to be denied the win.
“Give St. Marys a ton of credit, they played excellent,” commented Coach Bowler after the game. “I thought they played real well and, obviously, their goaltender [Tristan Lewis] was the first star of the game in my opinion.”
Lewis was stellar in net, turning aside 46 of 50 Vipers chances.
Stewart took the loss, making 22 saves.
“We didn’t play our best game but we played good,” said Bowler.
He explained that his team “peppered” the Lincs goalie and “had a lot of scoring chances.”
It just was not enough for the win.
The next night, LaSalle took on an even tougher foe and redeemed themselves with their 20th victory of the season.
The Strathroy Rockets are a frustrating team to play at any time and Saturday night was no exception.
Ten minutes into their second consecutive road game, the Vipers’ Liam MacDougall netted the only goal of the first frame.
Midway through the game, Strathroy’s Lucas Latina knotted the match with a power play marker.
Allen popped a man-up goal three minutes later to retake the lead but was answered by Latina as the period grew late.
With just over three minutes left in the act, Forgrave gave LaSalle yet another lead.
In the third, Zak expanded the Vipers’ lead to 4-2.
Not long after, Ty Glover made it interesting with a Rockets’ power play marker.
Billing stood tall in the final minutes, shutting down Strathroy as they were on the cusp of a comeback.
The Rockets grew frustrated and ultimately took needless penalties to put themselves out of contention.
The Vipers’ tender made 25 stops for the win. In the home side’s net, Zack Weir turned aside 27 of 31 in defeat.
“Strathroy plays us extremely tough and just going into that building is very difficult for our team,” explained Bowler. “We found a way to get one more goal; it could have gone either way.”
Numbers-wise, LaSalle is looking strong. As of Tuesday, 27 games into the year, MacDougall, Silverio, Savage, Beaudoin, Russell, and Primeau are all in the double-digits for goal-scoring.
Despite not having a single player in the league’s top 10 scorers, the Vipers have the most goals scored in the Western Conference and only trail the Caledonia Corvairs and Niagara Falls Canucks in the league-wide count.
In the goalie department, Billing leads all Western Conference guardians in wins (15), and only trails Leamington’s Noah Hedrick for tops in goals against average (2.37) and save percentage (.920).
LaSalle sits in first place in the west, carrying a record of 20 wins, four losses, and three overtime defeats.
The Vipers are back in action tomorrow night when they head up to London to square off with the Nationals. LaSalle’s next home game will be Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Vollmer Recreation Complex.