RACE TO THE FINISH TIGHTENS

With just nine days remaining until the conclusion of the 2014-15 GOJHL Western Conference regular season, six positions are still up for grabs.

The Leamington Flyers have clinched first place and will play the eighth place Lambton Shores Predators in the opening round of playoffs while the last place St. Marys Lincolns, winners of just a pair of games all season, will miss the post season.

Positions from second place to seventh have yet to be solidified.

The Strathroy Rockets are involved in a scramble with the St. Thomas Stars and the London Nationals for fifth, sixth and seventh place.

On Friday the 13th at the Pyramid Recreation Centre in St. Marys the Rockets eked out a 5-3 decision over the Lincolns. The win kept the Rockets in fifth place for the moment. An 8-5 win by the Stars over the visiting Flyers in St. Thomas allowed the Stars to leapfrog the idle London Nationals.

The Rockets sit in fifth place, two points up on the Stars and three ahead of the Nats.

The Rockets and the Nats will meet for the final time this season at the WMMC on Valentine’s Day while the Rockets and the Stars will meet for the final game of the regular season one-week later. The Stars and the Nats will have a head-to-head confrontation next Wednesday in London.

The Rockets, Stars and Nationals will meet Chatham, Sarnia or LaSalle in the quarterfinals. The Maroons, Legionnaires and Vipers are battling it out for the second, third and fourth seeds.

The Rockets never trailed in their contest against the Lincolns, twice leading by two goals but needed an empty net marker by Joe Seney to secure the win after Greg Swan tallied with 57 seconds remaining in regulation time to cut the Rockets lead to 4-3.

Lucas Latina, Nick Boyer, defenseman Kurtis Sander and former Lincoln Ocean Check also scored for the Rockets while Nathan Smith had a pair for the Lincolns.

Both Check and Smith scored a shorthanded marker for their respective teams. It was the first shorthanded goal scored by a Lincoln this season.
The Rockets, who swept the six-game season series, have not lost a season series to the Lincolns in the past 12 years.

The loss extended the Lincolns’ franchise record losing streak to 26 games easily eclipsing their previous worst losing streak of 12 games.

The Rockets win moved their record back to .500.

Both clubs scored once on the powerplay. The Rockets were 1 for 3 while the Lincolns converted one of seven chances.

Final shots favoured Strathroy 37-23.

Kieran Milne continued to fill in for the injured Matt Laberge on defense for the Rockets. Laberge has missed the last 8 games with a foot injury. The Rockets are 3-5 during that 8-game span with just a pair of wins over the last place Lincolns and a win over the St. Thomas Stars.

Brett Dalton, who led the Rockets in scoring for most of the season, continues his scoring slump. He has tallied just once in the last 15 games. The Rockets have won just 6 games during that span, all against the bottom four clubs.

The myFM Hardest Working Players were Kurtis Sander and Tyler Beattie.

The myFM Hits of the game were delivered by Matt Knight-Bedour and Nick Griffin, both against Jared Lindsay.

The myFM Play of the Game was a gorgeous tic-tac-toe goal by Nick Boyer with linemates Stuart King and Brett Dalton.

The myFM Players of the Game were Dane Gubbels and Nathan Smith.

The Entertainment Tonight Players of the Game for the Rockets were Sander, Gubbels and Check. Sander had a goal and an assist in the game and was on the ice for all five Rocket goals.

David Honsberger

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