SPRINGFIELD >> Ironically, on a day so hot it would force the match to shut down halfway through each half for water breaks, both the La Salle and Archbishop Wood attacks were extremely cold when the two rival sides met Thursday afternoon at La Salle.
The two sides battled through nearly two scoreless halves before Spencer Patton found the net off a rebound in the 75th minute to give the Explorers a 1-0 victory and a successful opening to their Philadelphia Catholic League schedule.
Wood, which fell to the Explorers by the same score in last season’s PCL playoffs, opened strongly, controlling the play for the match’s initial 20 minutes, essentially forcing La Salle to keep pace.
“Wood was the aggressor,” agreed Explorers head coach Tom McCaffrey, as his team scrambled for water bottles. “They made things difficult for us.
“Everything they did made it tough on us.”
Wood head coach Hugh Kelly agreed, although he said his Vikings were missing one key component in the match.
“I think we were as competitive as they were,” Kelly said. “But they finished, and we didn’t, and that was the story.”
Both sides had quality chances in the opening half, with, perhaps, the best coming off the foot of La Salle’s Joseph Pluck, who was shut down in close.
And as the second half commenced, it was Explorers forward Zach Hogan who was sent in on a partial break, only to be thwarted by a Wood defender.
Over the next 10:00, however, it quickly became the RJ Liszewski Show, as the Vikings forward had no fewer than three excellent chances to put the visitors on the board, only to be thwarted by Explorers netminder Brett Werner and the Explorers defense.
Wood goaltender Joe Cimino was equally effective at the other end.
But just when it appeared the match might have to go to overtime, Patton came up on a break, triggered by a great outlet pass by Hogan.
One Explorers shot was stopped by Cimino, but the rebound came right to Patton, who didn’t miss.
“I wasn’t worried about power,” the goal scorer said. “I was worried about placement, putting the ball where the goalie wasn’t.”
“Big players in big opportunities take care of business,” McCaffrey said.
Wood battled to the end, even getting a ticketed rebound that sailed just over the Explorers crossbar in the final minutes.
It wasn’t a win, but Kelly said he was happy with the way his Vikings played.
“If a loss can be a positive, this was a positive,” the coach said.
As for the victors, McCaffrey said there’s still a lot to work on, but that he was pleased with the result.
“There’s still a ways to go in the season,” he said, “but this was a good start to league play.”