NATS CLOSE GAP ON ROCKETS

A 3-2 London National win over the visiting Strathroy Rockets at the Western Fair Community Centre on Wednesday, February 4 moved the sixth place Nationals to within a point of the fifth place Rockets.

The Nationals entered the game tied with the idle St. Thomas Stars.

Slow starts continue to plague the Rockets.

A pair of goals by Austin Kemp, his 20th and 21st of the season paced the Nationals to an early 2-0 lead.

Kemp’s first marker came just 22 seconds into the contest when he redirected a Callum Ruddock slap-pass from the point past a helpless Mat Ouellet in the Rocket goal.

At 2:59 Rocket defenseman Andrew Martin was sent to the showers for a check from behind on Matt Bean. With Rocket rearguard Matt Laberge still nursing a foot injury and only five defensemen dressed for the match the Rockets were forced to play the rest of the game with just four defensemen.

Benefiting from a beautiful pass from behind the Rocket goal by Scott Goodman, Kemp added his second of the night at 7:45.

National goaltender Connor Hughes made his two best stops of the game when he denied Rocket penalty killer Nick Griffin on a pair of shorthanded breakaways. (photo)

Griffin leads the GOJHL in shorthanded goals with six.

Stuart King cut the National lead to 2-1 with 64 seconds left in the opening period when he fired a wrist shot over Hughes’ blocker and under the crossbar. The goal was King’s first shorthanded goal of the season. The goal came with 1 second remaining in a Dalton Good interference penalty.

London heavily dominated the first period outshooting the Rockets 23-10.

In a fairly evenly played second period, defenseman Justin Murray potted a loose puck into a wide open Rocket goal after a rush by former Rocket Trevor Dulong at 1:50 to put the Nationals up 3-1.

Moments after the Murray goal Ouellet made a fabulous save when he turned aside Tanner Ferreira on a breakaway.

London outshot Strathroy 11-10 in the middle frame.

Dan Chapman slammed a Mark MacAulay rebound past Hughes at 11:45 of the third period to bring the Rockets to within a goal at 3-2.

The third period was clearly the Rockets’ best of the game outshooting the Nats 17-10 but they were unable to find the equalizer.

London outshot the Rockets 44-37 over regulation time.

Both clubs failed to score on the powerplay. The Rockets had only 2 chances while the Nationals had seven.

London has the fourth best penalty killing at home in the GOJHL and the best in the West while the Rockets have the fourth best penalty killing on the road in the GOJHL.

The loss was the Rockets’ fourth in a row. They are 1-6 in their last seven games.

Sam Vokes had the myFM Hardest Hit of the night when he ran over Mitchell Kreis in the first period.

The myFM Hardest Working Player was Rocket goaltender Mat Ouellet.

The myFM Players of the Game were Austin Kemp for the Nationals and Rocket defenseman Dalton Good.

The Entertainment Tonight Players of the Game were King, Good and Ouellet.

The Nationals will travel to Sarnia the following night to play the Legionnaires.

The Rockets will host the St. Marys Lincolns on Saturday, February 7 at the WMMC in the annual Wall of Fame night.

Being inducted into the Wall are 30-year volunteer Trudy Mackey, 20-year builder David Honsberger and Cory, Chris and Curtis Brekelmans in the players’ category.

David Honsberger

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