The perfect start to the Sarnia Legionnaires’ season came to an abrupt halt at the WMMC in Strathroy on Saturday night as the Rockets edged the visiting Legionnaires 3-2 in front of 352 fans.

Bev Shipley, the MP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, gave an emotional speech prior to the start of the game reflecting on the tragic events that transpired in Ottawa earlier in the week.

Sarnia’s dynamic start of the 2014-15 season ended after 13 straight wins. Despite the fast start the first place Legionnaires find the second place Leamington Flyers hot on their heels. The Flyers trail the Legionnaires by two points after a 6-0 shutout win over the Predators in Lambton Shores Saturday night. Former Rocket captain Tyler Duarte was dressed for his first game as a Flyer earning a pair of assists. The two clubs meet on Tuesday, October 28 at the Sarnia Arena. In their only other meeting this season Sarnia skated away with a 6-4 win on the opening day of the season.

The Legionnaires were their own worst enemy against the Rockets. The Rockets had 13 powerplay opportunities in the game capitalizing on two of them. The Rockets also enjoyed four lengthy 5-on-3 opportunities.

By contrast Sarnia went 1 for 5 with the man advantage.

The Rockets used their speed and their body to punish the Legionnaires in the small confines of WMMC. Sarnia retaliated by taking numerous penalties.

The Rockets would outshoot the Legionnaires by a 52-33 margin – the most shots on goal registered by the Rockets in a single game this season.

The Rocket win combined with their 7-6 victory the previous night in St. Thomas moved Strathroy into sole possession of sixth place, one point below the idle London Nationals.

The Rockets will have an opportunity to move past the Nationals when they host the Lambton Shores Predators in a 2:30pm matinee Sunday afternoon at the WMMC. It will be the Rockets third game in three days.

Brett Dalton scored his first of two on the night at 14:30 of the opening period when he blasted a one-timer from the faceoff dot past Cornel Felder on a 5-on-3 powerplay to give the Rockets a 1-0 lead. The goal extended Dalton’s point streak to 8 games (4 goals, 8 assists). Mark MacAulay and Kurtis Sander assisted on the play.

The Legionnaires would tie the game at 1-1 on a nearly identical play when Sam McCormack fired a one-timer past Rocket starter Mat Ouellete with Cameron Clarke and Ryan Vendramin assisting at 4:42 of the second period. It was goaltender Ouellete’s eighth straight start in goal for the Rockets.

The Rockets would head into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead when Dalton tallied his second of the night. Dalton was the benefactor of a deft pass from Nick Boyer between the legs of Kyler Keating into the slot at 11:40. Stuart King also assisted on the play.

Speedy Nick Griffin put the Rockets up 3-1 at 5:31 of the third period with a great individual effort. Cameron Clarke missed Jay Clarke’s pass into the slot in front of the Rocket net. Griffin gobbled up the puck and sped down the ice outracing Jake O’Donnell and fired a wrist shot that beat Felder.

The Legionnaires cut the Rocket lead to 3-2 at 10:08 of the third when Riley Babkirk stripped the puck from Nick Whitworth behind the Rocket net and set up Cody Trowell.

Despite pressing in the final minutes looking for the equalizer the Legionnaires took 3 minor penalties in the final minute to seal their fate.

The win evened the Rockets’ home record at 4-4.

The Entertainment Tonight Players of the Game for the Rockets were Nick Boyer, Nick Griffin and the defensive pairing of Matt Laberge and Matt Knight-Bebour.

David Honsberger

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