The Strathroy Rockets snapped a modest 2-game St. Marys Lincolns’ winning streak with a 5-2 decision at the West Middlesex Memorial Centre in Strathroy on Saturday, October 3 in Western Conference action in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. The previous night the Lincolns downed the visiting Sarnia Legionnaires 5-1.
The win moved the Rockets into a third place tie with the idle London Nationals. Both clubs remain one point below the second place St. Thomas Stars and one point above the fifth place LaSalle Vipers.
The Lincolns are tied for eighth place with the Chatham Maroons, one point below the seventh place Lambton Shores Predators.
A sparse gathering of 254 fans observed a disjointed contest where both clubs struggled with puck control.
The Rockets struck early when rookie Shane Bulitka deflected a point shot from Rocket captain Matt Laberge past Ryan Langford in the Lincoln net just 14 seconds into the contest.
It was the only goal of the opening period which was highlighted by a thunderous open ice hit by Lincoln Philip Buque on Rocket Wes Kelly.
The Rockets led in shots 15-8.
The Lincolns were outscored by the Rockets 3-1 in the middle frame with the Rockets holding a 12-10 shot advantage.
Linc Trent Dundas was sent to the showers at 1:59 of the period for a check from behind on Rocket enforcer Lucas Latina.
It only took the Rockets 9 seconds to capitalize on the powerplay when Latina made a slick between the legs pass to Rocket scoring leader Riley O’Connell at the side of the St. Marys goal.
The Lincolns would cut that lead in half after some unorthodox Rocket play in the offensive zone gave the Lincolns a 2-0 break with Rocket defender Dalton Good in pursuit. Dan Cloutier held onto the puck and beat Rocket netminder Mat Ouellet with a shot along the ice.
Max Ewart and Codey McRoberts would give the Rockets a 4-1 lead with a pair of goals less than five minutes apart late in the period capitalizing on a pair of Lincoln turnovers in their own zone.
Foreshadowing events that were to happen later in the third period Lincoln Graham Brulotte barely missed a goal when he wired a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Ouellet high to the stick side breaking the water bottle on top of the net.
Moments later T.J. Harris setup linemate Kelly on a two-on-one opportunity to put the Rockets up 5-1.
Just 90 seconds later Brulotte got his second opportunity with another chance from the same location as his broken water bottle shot, this time beating Ouellet into the top corner to cut the lead to 5-2.
The Lincolns battled valiantly to draw nearer but were unable. When Latina and Kieran Milne were both sent to the penalty box, Lincoln coach Merlin Malinowski pulled Langford for an extra attacker but to no avail.
The Rockets received some nice balanced scoring as all four lines contributed.
Bulitka, a second round pick of the Sudbury Wolves, was the best player on the ice. He assisted on Ewart’s goal to go along with his opening minute marker.
The Lincolns outshot the Rockets 9-8 in the final period. The Rockets held a 35-25 advantage over the sixty minutes.
The Rockets were 1 for 7 on the powerplay while the Lincolns were unsuccessful in 5 opportunities.
The Rockets will travel to Sarnia on Thursday and host St. Thomas on Saturday. The Lincolns will welcome Leamington on Friday and travel to Chatham on Sunday.
Rocket captain Matt Laberge was honoured as the Poag Jewelers Player of the Month for September prior to the game.
The game was the first broadcast from the WMMC to the worldwide web on FASTHockey. All GOJHL teams are required to stream their games live on FASTHockey this season. Subscribers can pay either $26.99 for a one-month membership or $22.99 per month for a one-year commitment. The membership will allow the viewer to watch all leagues registered with FASTHockey.