What a difference 43 hours makes.

When the Strathroy Rockets arrived at the Timkin Centre in St. Thomas on Friday night for a 7:30 match against the Stars they were informed that their captain of three years Tyler Duarte had been dealt to the Leamington Flyers. Duarte, a five-year veteran and poised this season to set an all-time franchise record for career games played in a Strathroy sweater, had requested the move.

Languishing in eighth place with a 4-10 record, the Rockets were heading no where fast. Just seven days earlier a loss to the St. Marys Lincolns would have slipped the Rockets into a tie with the last place Lincolns.

How were the Rockets going to respond to the sudden departure of their captain, leader, the face of the Rockets in the community as well as a huge fan favourite?

They answered by scoring two goals in the opening 69 seconds and built a 4-0 lead before the six-minute mark. The Stars did rally a comeback but the Rockets held on for an emotional 7-6 win.

Moving from the firing pan to the fire, the Rockets had to return the following night to the WMMC to face their biggest rivals, the 13-0 first place Sarnia Legionnaires who clearly had the Rockets in their crosshairs.

The Rockets emerged with an electrifying and hard-fought 3-2 win courtesy of a Nick Griffin third period solo rush ending the Legionnaires perfect record.

Playing their third game in 43 hours the Rockets hosted the Lambton Shores Predators the following afternoon in a 2:30pm matinee. The wide-open affair game saw leads change hands on multiple occasions with the Rockets forced to tie the game twice and the Predators four times.

A third period goal by Predator Ryan Fraser forced overtime. The overtime hero for the Rockets was Stuart King who connected on a one-timer from inside the Pred’s blueline on a skillful curl and feed from defenseman Kurtis Sander. King’s heroics followed a Rocket overtime penalty kill of a Brett Dalton high stick. King had recently returned to action in the game after a knee-on-knee collision kept him sidelined for a portion of the contest.

Lambton Shores outshot Strathroy 56-53. The Preds were 3 for 9 with the man advantage while the Rockets were 1 for 8.

Lambton goal scorers were Ty Jackson, Drew Marlatt, Brett Corrigan, Brenden Trottier, Sean Ross and Fraser.

Scoring for Strathroy were King and Dan Chapman with a pair and singles to Dalton, Sander and Kieran Milne.

The two clubs were tied 2-2 after one period. Lambton Shores had a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. The win marked the first time this season that the Rockets had won a game when trailing after two periods.

The loss extended Lambton Shores losing streak to five games.

Mat Ouellet went the distance for the Rockets in goal. Ouellet played in all three weekend games for the Rockets.

Andrew Harriman-Duke was the starter for the Preds in goal. He was pulled for Anthony Hurtubise after the sixth Rocket goal at 12:21 of the third period.

The 7-10 Rockets’ third win in three days moved them from eighth place into sole possession of fifth place. The Rockets lead the sixth place 6-8-1 London Nationals by one point and the seventh place 5-9-1 Predators by three points. The Rockets trail fourth place 9-5 LaSalle by four points.

The Entertainment Tonight Players of the Game for the Rockets were Chapman, King and Sander.

In other Western Conference action on Sunday the 9-5-1 Chatham Maroons hammered the 13-2 Sarnia Legionnaires 8-2 handing the first place Legionnaires their second loss in subsequent nights.

The Rockets will travel to LaSalle to play the Vipers on Wednesday before hosting their former captain Duarte and his 12-4 Leamington Flyers on Saturday at the WMMC.

David Honsberger

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