Keeping leads against the London Nationals has been a problem this season for the Strathroy Rockets.

On their first meeting of the year, the Rockets built a 3-0 first period lead only to drop a 4-3 decision to the Nats at the Western Fair on September 24.

Back at the WMMC on October 18 the Rockets saw a 2-1 first period and 3-2 third period lead evaporate as National Austin Kemo scored with 67 remaining in regulation time as London stole another win away from the Rockets.

On Wednesday, November 12 at the Western Fair Community Centre the odds were stacked against the Rockets.

London built a 2-0 first period lead on goals by defenseman Justin Murray and Tanner Ferreira.

Murray’s came on a London powerplay with Matt Laberge off for interference. Pinching in from his point position Murray waited for Rocket goaltender Mat Ouellet to commit before firing the puck over the prone netminder at 13:59.

Just 6 seconds before the period concluded the Nats shocked the Rockets with the prettiest play of the night when Ferreira finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play with linemates Trevor Dulong and captain Derek Todosichuk.

The two clubs skated through a scoreless second period setting up the Rockets’ third period heroics.

At 2:39 London defenseman Murray turned the puck over to Rocket Jack Kilgour in the neutral zone. Kilgour was hauled down to the ice by Murray on a breakaway bid resulting in a penalty shot call by referee Simon Couto.

Kilgour ruined London netminder Justin Tugwell’s shutout bid with a slick move sliding the puck between Tugwell’s pads.

Just 2:33 later Kilgour notched his second of the period when his shot deflected off the shaft Murray’s stick over Tugwell’s shoulder and under the crossbar to tie the game at 2-2.

The Rocket game winner came from Nick Boyer when he collected a loose puck in front of the London goal and popped it into the open side at 14:19. Tugwell has stopped a shot by Brett Dalton that was tipped in close by Stuart King. King was then tackled by Murray who drove King into his own goaltender giving Boyer the easy goal.

The Nats protested the goal but to no avail.

London has plenty of opportunities on the powerplay. They had 10 powerplay opportunities compared to the Rockets’ five. Three times the Nats enjoyed a two-man advantage, including a full two-minute, two-man advantage, but failed to score.

A cross checking penalty to Rocket Dan Chapman with 57 seconds remaining in regulation time allowed the Nats to pull Tugwell for an extra attacker with a 6-on-4 skater opportunity.

It was only the second time this season that the Rockets have won a game when allowing the first goal of the game. It is the first time that they have won a game when trailing after one period and only the second time that they have won when trailing after two periods.

Final shots favoured the Nats 40-30.

The win allowed the Rockets top slip past London into sole possession of fifth place.

The Entertainment Tonight Players of the Game for the Rockets were Ouellet, Kilgour and Nick Griffin. The myFM Players of the Game were Ouellet and Kilgour for the Rockets and Drew Worrad for the Nationals. Griffin was the myFM Hardest Working Player.

David Honsberger

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