MAROONS SMOTHER ROCKETS

A note to the Western Conference: Take notice. The Chatham Maroons are serious – dead serious.

A dominating performance by the visiting Chatham Maroons at the West Middlesex Memorial Centre in Strathroy on Saturday, January 24 left the bewildered Rockets dazed and the 466 spectators in awe of the Maroons incredible power.

The Maroons shutout the Rockets 3-0. The score was relatively close; the level of territorial play was not. If not for the heroics of Rocket goaltender Mat Ouellet the evening would have been an even more embarrassing one for the Rockets.

The Rockets were outshot 65-27, easily eclipsing the most shots registered in a single game against the Rockets this year. The Lambton Shores Predators fired 56 shots on the Rocket goal in a 7-6 overtime Strathroy win earlier in the season.

Although he saw considerably less rubber than his counterpart, Maroon netminder Bo Bessette was full measure for the shutout turning aside 27 shots, many of them of the dangerous variety. It was Bessette’s 4th shutout of the season.

The Maroon win combined with their 9-2 destruction of the London Nationals the following night in Chatham and Sarnia’s 5-2 loss in Leamington on Sunday afternoon moved the Maroons into sole possession of second place, one point ahead of the Legionnaires.

The Rockets remain in fifth place, four points beneath fourth place LaSalle and four points above sixth place London. After six consecutive top 4 finishes, including two regular season titles, the Rockets have finished in sixth place the past three seasons. The Rockets still remain in good contention for fourth place as they have a much lighter schedule than the Vipers for the remainder of the schedule.

The Maroons are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games. The Maroons and the Leamington Flyers met in last year’s Western Conference finals. A rematch could very well be in the cards. The Flyers just need to win four of their final 8 games to clinch first place.

In Strathroy on Saturday the Maroons and the Rockets battled through a scoreless opening period with Chatham outshooting Strathroy 20-13.

Defensive specialist Ian Faubert scored the game winner at 2:36 of the second period when he redirected a Brayden Hopkins shot with Rocket Andrew Martin off for a head-checking penalty.

Ouellet dazzled the crowd when stopped both Alexander Morgan and Luc Knight on a 2-on-0 Maroon breakaway.

Bessette was called into service turning aside Rocket Eddie Schulz on a clear-cut breakaway after Schulz blocked a Steven Szekesy point shot.

The Maroons held a 25-6 shot advantage in the second period.

Former Leamington Flyer Jared Dennis gave the Maroons a little insurance when he tipped a Connor Annett point shot past a screened Ouellet at 4:10 of the third period.

Both clubs had a goal disallowed and Ouellet stopped a Dennis breakaway before Hopkins put the game out of reach at 14:51 of the third period. Hopkins buried the puck after a wild scramble in front of Ouellet on a Maroon powerplay with Brett Dalton off for tripping.

Third period shots favoured Chatham 20-8.

The Maroons converted 2 of 8 powerplay chances while the Rockets were 0 for 3.

The Rockets were without Nick Boyer and Matt Laberge. London Jr. Knight defenseman Derrik Johnson saw his first action as a Rocket in a callup role. He was paired with Matt Knight-Bedour.

The Entertainment Tonight Players of the Game for the Rockets were Ouellet and defensemen Kurtis Sander and Andrew Martin.

Chatham leads the season series 3-2 with one game yet to be played in Chatham in February.

The Rockets will travel to St. Thomas on Friday before hosting Sarnia on Saturday.

David Honsberger

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