BATTLE FOR HOME ICE IN LASALLE

The LaSalle Vipers rallied from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the visiting Strathroy Rockets at the Volmer Recreation Centre in LaSalle on Wednesday, January 14.

The win moved the Vipers into sole possession of fourth place. The Rockets and the Vipers were tied for fourth place entering the contest.

The top four seeded teams qualify for home ice advantage in the opening round of playoffs set to start in late February.

Home ice could be incredibly important as the Rockets and Vipers may meet in the quarterfinals. The Rockets have struggled greatly at the Volmer Recreation Centre winning just one regular season game in LaSalle in the past four seasons. The Vipers have struggled at West Middlesex Memorial Centre losing the season series to the Rockets in Strathroy the last seven seasons.

The Vipers held a territorial advantage over the Rockets throughout the game. They outshot the Rockets in all three periods and 42-33 overall.

After a scoreless and listless first period the Rockets opened the scoring at the 35 second mark of the second period when a Mark MacAulay pass from behind the net deflected onto the stick of an unguarded Stuart King at the side of the Viper goal.

At 2.44 the Rockets had built a 2-0 lead when Nick Griffin buried a rebound off of a shot from Eddie Schultz on an odd-man rush.

Korey Morgan cut the Rocket lead in half with a shorthanded marker on a screened shot at 9:25 with Nick Gauvin off for hooking.

Connor Rosaasen benefited from some poor defensive zone coverage by the Rockets at 13:54 to tie the game at 2-2 when he found himself left uncovered in front of Rocket goaltender Matt Ouellet.

The game winner game with 24 seconds remaining in the period when Ouellete tried to clear the puck from danger at the side of the Rocket goal. The puck bounced off Brendan Harrogate and in front of the empty Rocket goal to Dalton Langlois.

The Vipers defended their lead throughout the third period valiantly just allowing the Rockets a single scoring opportunity but King fired the puck wide of the net with goaltender Eli Billing prone on the ice.

The Rockets failed to generate any shots on goal during a lengthy two-man advantage late in the first period or with Ouellet pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute of regulation time.

The Rockets were missing a lot of firepower from their attack. Team scoring leader Brett Dalton was absent for work commitments, while MVP Nick Boyer, Kiernan Milne and Ocean Check were all sidelined with injuries. Zak Van Eyk and Austin Blais were callups for the Rockets from Alvinston and Mount Brydges.

The Vipers trail Chatham and Sarnia by two points while the Rockets lead sixth place London by four points.

The Rockets last 8 losses have all been by a single goal.

The myFM Hardest Working Players were Rockets Nick Griffin and Dylan Newman. The myFM Players of the Game were Chris Pignanelli for LaSalle and Ouellet for Strathroy. Pignanelli was a powerhouse on defense for the Vipers. He was a stellar penalty killer moving the puck up ice and keeping the Rockets at bay in the Viper defensive zone. Ouellet was forced to make many outstanding saves for the Rockets.

David Honsberger

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