A timely 2-1 win over the Strathroy Rockets by the St. Thomas Stars on Friday, January 30 at the Timkin Centre in St. Thomas has moved the young Star club into a sixth place tie with the London Nationals.

Both clubs are nipping at the Rockets’ heels. Both the Stars and the Nats now trail the Rockets by a narrow three points. The Rockets and the Stars will meet in the final game of the regular season in Strathroy later in February.

The Rockets and the Nationals still have two games remaining between them. They will tangle this Wednesday at the Western Fair before finishing off their regular season meetings in Strathroy on Valentine’s Day.

The Rockets’ drive to finish in the top four and earn home ice advantage in the first round of playoffs in diminishing quickly. They have won just one of their last five games. They trail the fourth place LaSalle Vipers by eight points but enjoy 2 games in hand on the Vipers and one game in hand on both the Stars and the Nationals.

The Vipers have been red-hot winning 9 of their last 10 games and 13 of their last 15. LaSalle has eyes on Sarnia. They trail the third place Legionnaires by just a single point. Sarnia does have two games in hand on the Vipers.

Friday at the Timkin Centre the Stars held a wide advantage in territorial play over the Rockets outshooting Strathroy 44-24. Once again only the strong goaltending of Rocket netminder Mat Ouellet kept the score close.

Ryan Valentini scored on a 2-on-1 opportunity after Rocket call-up Austin Blaze was beat on a poor pinch at the Star blueline at 12:34 of the opening period to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

Valentini has 6 goals and 10 points in 7 games after being sent down from the OHL London Knights.

The Stars held a 17-4 shot advantage in the first period. The 4 Rocket shots represent their lowest total in a single period this season.

With Rocket Kieran Milne off serving a tripping call, Rocket speedster Nick Griffin outraced three Stars down the ice and beat Star goaltender Brendan Polasek with a low shot to tie the game at 1-1 at 8:17 of the second period. It was Griffin’s sixth shorthanded goal of the season bringing him to within one of tying the Strathroy franchise rookie record of seven held by Jeff Campbell.

Griffin leads the entire GOJHL and in shorthanded markers this season.

Brett Van Dusen tallied the game winner at 17:09 of the third period when a diving Matt McJannet behind the Rocket goal centered the puck to Van Dusen. (photo)

The Rockets put in a more respectable second period outshooting the Stars 11-9. The Stars countered with a solid third period doubling up the Rockets in shots 18-9.

The loss dropped the Rockets’ record to just one game above .500.

Both clubs had four powerplay chances. Neither team scored.

The Rockets were without defenseman Matt Laberge (foot) and forwards Mark MacAulay and Danny Chapman (school). Carson Brookshaw was serving his second of a two-game suspension for the Stars.

The Stars are idle until next Friday when they host the Vipers while the Rockets will play Sarnia at the WMMC on Saturday, January 31.

The myFM Players of the Game were goaltenders Ouellet and Polasek.

The myFM Hardest Working Player was Rocket Nick Griffin.

The Entertainment Tonight Players of the Game for the Rockets were Ouellet, Griffin and Ocean Check.

David Honsberger

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