The Strathroy Rockets hung on for a 7-6 win Friday night at the Timkin Centre in St. Thomas after building an early 4-0 lead.

Playing on the heels of the news that five-year veteran and three-year captain Tyler Duarte had been dealt to the Leamington Flyers, the rejuvenated Rockets stormed out of the gates scoring twice in the opening 69 seconds on goals by Stuart King and Sam Vokes.

At the 5-minute mark Nick Boyer tallied his first of three on the night bringing a quick end to Stars’ starting goaltender Nikolas Dampier’s night.

Just 55 seconds later King notched his second of the period on backup Dan Black.

Stars coach Ron Horvat called a time out and the Stars answered quickly with a goal by Zach Grzelewski just 70 seconds later. Andrew Chambers cut the Rocket lead in half 77 seconds later.

The two teams had combined for 6 goals in the opening 7:27.

From that point on the game settled down considerably – until the third period.

The two clubs would skate through over 30 minutes of scoreless hockey until Boyer scored with 2 minutes remaining in the second period. It would be the only goal of the period and gave the Rockets a 5-2 lead heading into the final frame.

The lone second period goal by Boyer did not seem very significant at the time until the Stars outscored the Rockets 4-2 in the third period.

John Warren and Josh Slegers scored in the opening 6:50 to bring the Stars to within a goal of the Rockets.

The Rockets answered quickly when Boyer completed his hat trick and Dan Chapman scored what turned out to be the game winner less than three minutes later.

Spencer Hutchinson gave the Stars some hope at 12:57 on the powerplay and Warren with his second of the night with 67 seconds remaining in regulation time brought the Stars back to within a goal. Warren’s goal also came on the powerplay with Black on the bench for the extra attacker.

The Rockets dodged a huge bullet when a potential Stars’ tying goal was waved off as the Rocket net was bumped from its moorings.

Warren nearly tied the game seconds later but the puck hopped over his stick.

Final shots favoured the Rockets 40-37. Strathroy went 2 for 5 on the powerplay while St. Thomas was 2 for 7.

Rocket goaltender Matt Ouellete bolted from his net at the sound of the final buzzer and headed to the Rocket dressing room clearly upset with his performance.

The Boyer-Brett Dalton-King line scored 5 of the Rocket goals with Dalton earning 3 assists and extending his point streak to 7 games.

Boyer was the first player at the rink and on the ice for warm-up for the Rockets. He clearly demonstrated that he was prepared to rally and inspire his team with the departure of Duarte to Leamington.

The win improved the Rockets’ record to 5-10 and moved them into a three-way tie for sixth place with the 4-8-2 Stars and the 5-8 Lambton Shores Predators. All three clubs trail the fifth place London Nationals by 3 points. Three of the Rockets 5 wins this season have come at the expense of the Stars.

Both clubs with play the yet undefeated Sarnia Legionnaires next. The Rockets on Saturday night at the WMMC at 7:30pm while the Stars will travel to Sarnia next Thursday at 7:10pm. The Rockets will play three games in three days as they host Lambton Shores in a Sunday matinee at 2:30pm at the WMMC.

The Entertainment Tonight Stars of the Game for the Rockets were King, Boyer and defenseman Kurtis Sander.

Warren and Grzelewski were outstanding all night along with underage linemate Dane Johnstone.

In other Western Conference action Friday night the Chatham Maroons shutout the St. Marys Lincolns 4-0 at the Pyramid Rec Centre in St. Marys.

David Honsberger

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