St. Marys Lincolns’ coach Merlin Malinowski says LaSalle Vipers could be a dangerous team when the Western Conference playoffs begin late next month.
“LaSalle is really getting on their game,” Malinowski said after his Lincs lost 6-1 to the Vipers last Friday night at the Pyramid Rec. Centre. “They started out really strong this season, and then they went through some injuries. They slipped a little, but now they’re right back.”
Vipers (24-17-0) are 11-2 in their last 13 games, and moved to within two points of third-place Chatham Maroons with the win.
“They’re an explosive team,” Malinowski continued. “The way they come across the blue line and attack the net. I don’t know if there is a team that does it better than they do.
“They’ve really started to fire it up, so they’re another team to watch in the playoffs. They are one of five good hockey teams up there in the standings.”
LaSalle built period leads of 2-0 and 4-1.
Scoring for the visitors were Daniel Beaudoin, Graham Pickard, Connor Rosaasen, Brett Primeau, Brendan Harrogate and Korey Morgan.
OHL draft pick Evan Krassey scored the lone goal for St. Marys (2-35-4) midway through the second period, cutting the Vipers’ lead to 3-1.
“At times we competed with them,” Malinowski said. “We created some chances, and it would have been nice to score a couple more goals. Smitty (Nathan Smith) and (Sean) O’Brien had point-blank chances. But their goalie made some big saves.
“I guess they were too much to handle tonight. LaSalle played a strong game tonight; they really came hard.”
Overall, Vipers out-shot the Lincolns 49-20, including 34-13 over the first 40 minutes.
“Sometimes the score doesn’t indicate how the game was played,” LaSalle coach Bill Bowler said. “I thought St. Marys played a good game, like they did in our rink Wednesday.
“We capitalized on our chances tonight; we had a few breaks.”
Lincs finished 0-5-1 against the Vipers this season.
Vipers 3 – Lincolns 1
At the Vollmer Recreation Complex in LaSalle last Wednesday night, Vipers scored twice in the last four minutes of the second period to defeat the Lincolns 3-1 in front of an estimated 675 spectators.
With the loss, Lincs were officially eliminated from the conference playoffs.
LaSalle out-shot St. Marys 41-17, including 29-9 over the first two periods, in a tame affair which saw only three minor penalties called.
Vipers’ Korey Morgan opened the scoring at 6:32 of the first period.
Lincolns’ forward Greg Swan tied it 1-1 at 3:35 of the middle frame from Nathan Smith and Jared Lindsay.
It stayed that way until Graham Pickard scored what proved to be the winner at the 16:51 mark. Morgan added an insurance marker in the final minute of the period.
The final 20 minutes went scoreless.
“It was just a couple of mistakes and they capitalized,” coach Malinowski reported. “But we played well and competed for the whole 60 minutes.
“We went from start to finish. We played with LaSalle, and I’m looking forward to having another go at them Friday night.”
St. Marys played most of the game with just four defencemen (one being forward Jake Alkins). Defenceman Jack Wieringa played just one period due to illness.
Lincs’ goalie Beattie finished with 38 saves.
With the win, fourth-place LaSalle moved four points ahead of Strathroy Rockets and to within four points of Chatham.
Upcoming: Lincolns have two tough games this week. They travel to Leamington Thursday to meet the first-place Flyers at 7:10 p.m.
On Friday night, Lincs host the veteran Maroons at 7:30 p.m.