What an odd season it has been for the Strathroy Rockets.

They started the season winning just one of eight games and appeared as if they would struggle to even make the playoffs. Since their former captain Tyler Duarte bolted to the Leamington Flyers, the Rockets are 13-3-1 and have moved into a third place tie with the Chatham Maroons.

The Maroons host the first place Flyers on Sunday. The Maroons also have two games in hand on the Rockets.

Saturday, December 13 at the WMMC the Rockets slipped past the London Nationals with a 2-1 victory.

The 17-13-1 Rockets and the Maroons lead the fifth place Nationals by 6 points and the sixth place LaSalle Vipers by 7 points. The Vipers ended a 6-game losing streak with a dominating 12-4 win over the Lambton Shores Predators Saturday night in Forest.

The win improved the Rockets’ home winning streak to 9 games. The Rockets are on a six-game point streak, their longest of the season.

The low scoring affair with the Nationals featured outstanding netminding from Rocket goaltender Mat Ouellet and National netminder Connor Hughes. The Rockets outshot the Nats 36-35.

London got on the scoreboard first when former Rocket Trevor Dulong was left alone in the slot at 5:16.

The difference in the hockey game could have been contrasting four-minute first period powerplays.

At 6:21 Rocket winger Nick Griffin was whistled for tripping and unsportsmanlike conduct. Rocket goaltender Ouellet and the Rocket penalty killers stood tall turning back the National attack.

Just 91 seconds after the Griffin penalties expired National Tanner Ferreira was assessed a double minor for highsticking Rocket defenseman Nick Whitworth. Whitworth missed the remainder of the opening period for repairs and returned wearing full-face protection in the second period.

The Rockets converted on their four-minute powerplay when Dan Chapman found room past Hughes from a sharp angle. Stuart King and Nick Boyer assisted on the play at 14:02 to tie the game at 1-1.

Chapman’s goal opened up the Teddy Bear floodgate. It was the 15th Annual Cuddy Social Committee Teddy Bear Toss. Strathroy-Caradoc Police and The Salvation Army were both on hand to help gather the gifts.

The hardest hit of the game came in the first period when National Kyle Robinson collided with teammate Derek Todosichuk in the neutral zone bringing a loud cheer from the 332 fans.

The game winner came late in the second period. King and Boyer hooked up behind the National goal to setup Brett Dalton in the slot at 16:53.

King extended his point streak to 13 games. It was King’s fifth game winning assist of the season and Dalton’s third game-winning goal.

The two clubs played through a scoreless final frame. The closest the Nationals came to tying the score came when Drew Worrad drilled a shot off of the post.

The Rockets were very effective shutting down the Nationals, especially with Hughes on the bench for an extra attacker in the final 1:38.

The win marked just the fourth time in 11 occasions this season that the Rockets won a game when allowing the first goal of the contest.

Lauryn Soares, daughter of the voice of the Rockets, Chris Soares of 105.7 myFM, gave a stunning rendition of our National
Anthem to begin the game.

The Nationals were unsuccessful in six powerplay opportunities while the Rockets went 1 for 3.

The Rockets’ final two games prior to the Christmas break will be this coming Saturday when they host the Chatham Maroons at 7:30pm and a Sunday matinee the following afternoon at 2:30pm when the St. Marys Lincolns visit the WMMC.

London has three games remaining prior to the Christmas break. Wednesday they will host the first place Flyers at the Western Fair at 7:30pm. On Friday they will travel to the Timkin Centre to play the St. Thomas Stars at 7:30pm before finishing off the 2014 portion of their schedule the following afternoon at 2:30pm when they welcome the LaSalle Vipers.

The Entertainment Tonight Players of the Game for the Rockets were Ouellet, Chapman and Dalton.

Photo: London Free Press

David Honsberger

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