ROCKETS SUFFER THIRD STRAIGHT OT LOSS

Extra time has not been good for the Strathroy Rockets recently.

The Rockets suffered their third straight overtime loss on Thursday, October 15 at the Sarnia Arena to the Sarnia Legionnaires by a score of 3-2 in front of 1172 fans. The Rockets had lost the previous Thursday in Sarnia in overtime 4-3. Sandwiched in between the two Sarnia losses was a 5-4 overtime loss at home to the surging St. Thomas Stars last Saturday.

The Sarnia win moved them into a fifth place tie with the Rockets in the Western Conference standings of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Despite the season high three-game losing streak, it did extend the Rockets’ point streak to five games, also a season high.

In other action in the Western Conference Thursday night the Stars doubled up the visiting Chatham Maroons 6-3 while the LaSalle Vipers edged the first place Leamington Flyers 3-2 in a penalty filled contest at the Highbury Canco Arena in Leamington.

The St. Thomas win kept them in second place, three points below front-running Leamington and a single point ahead of the Vipers.

The Vipers’ win over the Flyers moved them into sole possession of third place, two points up on the London Nationals and three up on Strathroy and Sarnia.

In direct contrast to the penalty-filled Viper-Flyer affair, the Legionnaires and the Rockets skated through 62:32 of penalty free hockey. It was a rare event.

As for penalty-free games, there has only been two ever in GOJHL history and just four in Western Conference history.

GOJHL Penalty Free Games:
Chatham Maroons vs Leamington Flyers Feb. 18, 2010
Strathroy Rockets vs Sarnia Legionnaires Oct. 15, 2015

West Conference Penalty Free Games:
London Nationals vs Leamington Flyers Feb. 3, 1994                                                                    Sarnia Blast vs St. Thomas Stars Nov. 30, 2003                                                                               Chatham Maroons vs Leamington Flyers Feb. 18, 2010
Strathroy Rockets vs Sarnia Legionnaires Oct. 15, 2015

In Sarnia the Rockets were without their leading scorer Riley O’Connell who was sidelined with a lower body injury. O’Connell had tallied a pair of goals a week earlier in Sarnia.

The two teams skated through an exciting, but scoreless opening period in which the Rockets outshot the Legionnaires 11-8. The ice would be heavily slanted in the opposite direction for the remainder of the game as the Legionnaires held a 29-17 advantage outshooting the Rockets 37-28 over the course of the game.

Shot production has been a big problem for the Rockets this season. They have outshot their opponents on only 3 occasions, winning all three of the contests. The Rockets have won just one of 8 games this season where they have been outshot.

Both Rocket goaltenders, Mat Ouellet and Dane Gubbels have performed valiantly this season for the Rockets. Ouellet was clearly the first star of this game extending the Legionnaires into overtime once again to pick up the extra point. Ouellet has received very little help from his teammates this season. They have generated just 2.80 goals per game in support of their goaltender leaving very little room for error.

It was the Rockets who got on the scoresheet first. Nick Griffin, who has been snake bitten all season, converted a lovely back pass from underage rookie Shane Bulitka and swept the puck along the ice past Shane Battler in the Sarnia goal at 2:17. It was Griffin’s first goal of the season. Many had considered Griffin to lead the Rockets in scoring this season. The goal was an encouraging sign as they will need his explosive scoring punch down the stretch.

The Legionnaires tied the game at 7:03 when team scoring leader Brendon Layman banged home a loose puck after a scramble in front of the Rocket goal.

Later in the period Sarnia captain Hunter Tyczynski found a loose puck in front of Ouellet to give the Legionnaires a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.

Despite getting just 5 shots on goal in the third period, a point shot from Rocket rookie defenseman Dante Copps was redirected in the high slot by Kieran Milne and past Battler just 61 seconds into the third period to tie the game at 2-2 and force the game into overtime.

Defenseman Brad Yowart was the overtime hero for Sarnia on a weird play in front of the Rocket goal. After Yowart drove to the front of the Rocket net, Rocket defenseman Noah Tooke’s clearing attempt struck teammate Griffin and deflected up and over Ouellet’s shoulder into the Rocket goal.  (Photo)

The Rockets have won just two season series in Sarnia in the past 17 years.

The Legionnaires will travel to Chatham on Sunday to play the struggling Maroons, while the Rockets will host the London Nationals at the WMMC on Saturday. Sarnia was 5-4 overtime winners over the Maroons last month in Chatham. It will be the first meeting of the season between the Rockets and the Nationals.

David Honsberger

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