After dropping a pair of close games to the front-running Leamington Flyers and LaSalle Vipers, Strathroy Rockets’ head coach Mike Bondy felt that his club played well but did not bury their chances and failed to convert their chances when they presented themselves during the game.

With time dwindling and the post season looming about a month away, coach Bondy also stressed to his troops how important these last 11 games are, especially the race for fourth place among the Rockets, the LaSalle Vipers, London Nationals and St. Thomas Stars.

The top four clubs all qualify for home ice advantage in the quarterfinals.

The Rockets listened well to their coach and carried out the battle plan to perfection.

After a slow start at the Timkin Centre in St. Thomas on Friday night, the patient Rockets responded with a 4-1 victory keeping pace with the fourth place Vipers, who were 6-1 winners over the last place St. Marys Lincolns.

The Vipers remain four points ahead of the fifth place Rockets, however the Rockets have two games in hand and have a much lighter schedule in the remaining games than do the Vipers.

The two points also moved the Rockets four points ahead of London and improved their lead over the Stars to 7 points. The Rockets also have one game in hand on the Nationals.

The spirited and rejuvenated Stars put in an impressive opening twenty minutes.

A blast from a Josh Sleger’s one-timer from the point beat a well screened Mat Ouellet in the Rocket goal just 1 second after a Mark MacAulay interference penalty ended at 2:24 to give that Stars an early 1-0 lead.

The Stars enjoyed a wide territorial edge in play in the first period but were thwarted by Ouellet’s outstanding netminding.

MacAulay knotted the game at 1-1 with 56 seconds remaining in the first period when his shot from a scramble in front of Brendan Polasek found the top corner. (photo)

The goal seemed to change the complexion of the game and gave the Rockets a huge shot of confidence.

At 2:06 of the second period Rocket defenseman Andrew Martin jumped out of the penalty box, raced down the right wing pushing the Stars defense back and beat Polasek with a wrist shot from the faceoff dot.

It would turn out to be the game winner.

Before the period was over Eddie Schulz decided to shoot on a two-on-one opportunity beating Polasek on the glove side to give the Rockets a 3-1 lead.

Speedy Nick Griffin also tallied by shooting on a two-on-one shorthanded chance to put the Rockets up 4-1. It was Griffin’s fifth shorthanded goal of the season.

Star coach Ron Horvat pulled Polasek for an extra attacker with almost six minutes remaining in regulation time but the Stars could not get any closer.

Final shots favoured St. Thomas 38-37. Both teams failed to convert on the powerplay. The Rockets had 3 chances, the Stars had four.

The Rockets will host the Chatham Maroons on Saturday, January 24 while the Stars next game will be on Sunday, January 25 in Forest against the Lambton Shores Predators.

Nick Boyer and Kieran Milne both returned to the Rocket lineup after sitting out the past two games with injuries. Ocean Check saw his first action in a Rocket uniform after coming over in a deal with the St. Marys Lincolns.

Rocket rearguard Matt Laberge was sidelined with a foot injury. Austin Blais was impressive as a callup playing alongside Matt Knight-Bedour.

The Rockets have won all four games this season against the Stars.

The myFM Players of the Game were Ouellet for the Rockets and Ryan Valentini for the Stars. Rocket defenseman Dalton Good was the myFM Hardest Working Player. The myFM Hit of the Game was Rocket Sam Vokes on Adam Truax.

David Honsberger

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