By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the LaSalle Post on Sept. 29, 2017.
Photo: LaSalle’s James Walker celebrates his first win as a Viper with teammates Brendan Soto and Max Sieberer following last week’s victory over the Chatham Maroons. DEVAN MIGHTON / LASALLE POST
LASALLE – It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was certainly a turn in the right direction.
The LaSalle Vipers hosted the Chatham Maroons last Wednesday and despite a slow start, moved to a 2-3-0 record with a 4-2 victory over their longtime Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League territorial rivals.
The opening frame went in a way that the home team could not have wanted.
After a long feeling out process, the Vipers squandered three power plays and found themselves down a goal going into the break – ceding a late Chatham tally by former Sarnia Sting forward Noah Bushnell.
LaSalle spent the entire first half of the game struggling to find their scoring touch, but shortly after the 10-minute mark of the middle stanza, Manny Silverio blasted a shot past Maroons’ goaltender Ryan Wagner to knot the game at 1-1.
Later in the period, Vipers’ captain Eric Kirby hammered another puck past Wagner to take a 2-1 lead to the locker room.
In the final act, LaSalle kept up the pressure.
Early in the third, Tyler Russell broke the plane to extend the Vipers’ lead, followed by another insurance marker by Brett Vorshuk nine minutes in.
Before the midway point of the third period, Chatham’s Jordan Frasca brought his team back within two, but his teammates could not muster a comeback as the Vipers’ defence shut down their zone for the final half-period.
“We started a little bit slow, but then in the second and third we really turned it on there and had a good push,” said Vipers’ goalie James Walker.
“Obviously, we were happy with the win, but I thought that we waited until the puck was dropped to get going instead of being prepared before the puck’s dropped,” explained LaSalle head coach John Nelson.
“It’s a part of the game that we need to focus on.”
Veteran LaSalle defenceman Brendan Soto had a darling of a night on the point assisting on three of the four Viper goals.
“Brendan’s a real heads-up hockey player,” said Nelson. “He’s got good hockey-sense, his decision making is excellent, and he does the simple things.”
“When he gets pucks on the point, he gets pucks on net and lets forwards bang home rebounds.”
Walker, a rookie and LaSalle native, picked up his first career Junior B win with a 29-save performance.
“It feels pretty good,” stated Walker. “It’s an awesome feeling, especially to get it at home in front of our home crowd.
“It’s pretty exciting to get the W for the boys.”
“After the game, the guys were really excited for James,” reflected Nelson.
“James is a first-year guy and as a goaltender, it’s the hardest position, and he’s figuring out the speed of the game … the shots are harder, the game’s faster, guys will pounce on any mistakes that you make.
“I thought he had a real solid effort. I thought he made the saves he was supposed to make and I thought he made some big saves for us at the same time too. That kinda lifted the bench up when he made those big saves for us.”
For Walker, it was a thrill to get his first win in front of friends and family.
“It’s awesome playing in front of my hometown. [The Vollmer Complex is] just a five-minute drive from my house … and the fans are great here – it’s a great organization.”