MAROONS ESCAPE WITH WIN OVER PESKY ROCKETS
For the second consecutive game the Strathroy Rockets were undone by special teams.
Just two nights earlier at the Timken Centre in St. Thomas, the Stars tallied three times on the powerplay enroute to a 3-1 victory.
Saturday night at the West Middlesex Memorial Centre the Chatham Maroons used an extra attacker powerplay goal, a shorthanded marker and an empty net goal for a 3-1 win.
It was a high-spirited affair. The game simmered like a powder keg ready to explode at any time.
Rocket Matt Stevens, who had been a thorn in the side of the Maroons all evening, sparked the keg at 14:57 of the third period. After taking a Maroon player heavily into the boards a fiery inferno ignited. By the time the ice chips had settled Maroon Dede Cato received penalties for instigating and fighting along with a game misconduct. League penalty minute leader Lucas Latina of the Rockets was tabbed for a minor penalty for roughing. Stevens had the rule book thrown at him with minors for boarding and roughing, a major for fighting and three misconducts.
Cato and Williams were involved in another altercation earlier in the period. Cato received a 2-game suspension while Stevens will sit out the next game for the Rockets.
Prior to that the game was a classic rugged battle with both teams delivering punishing hits.
The busiest players on the ice were Rocket goalender Mat Ouellet and Maroon netminder Parker Butler. The Maroons outshot the Rockets 51-48 in the entertaining, wide-open, exciting affair.
Both goaltenders were unyielding in a crazy second period that saw 42 shots on goal, 27 of them by the Maroons, a season high for shots against on the Rockets in a single period.
Ouellet was easily the player of game. Although the shots were close, Ouellet faced many more dangerous shots than his counterpart in the opposite end of the ice.
Rookie Austin Thompson opened the scoring at 7:31 of the first period. Thompson, who leads the Maroons in goal scoring with 17, batted in a rebound in mid air above Ouellet after the Rocket netmider made a save from a drive from Cato. The goal came with Latina off for high sticking and an extra attacker on the ice for a delayed penalty to Rocket Shane Bulitka for tripping.
After a gratuitous bounce off a blocked Rocket shot on a powerplay with Michael Levesque off for tripping, a speedy Connor Koviak outraced a pair of Rocket defensemen and knifed the puck under Ouellet for an electrifying shorthanded goal at 13:58 to give the Maroons a 2-0 lead. It would be the final puck that the Maroons would get past Ouellet. The goal would turn out to be the game winner.
Shots were even in the opening period 13-13.
The scoreless second period was a Maroon blitzkrieg. Chatham poured 27 shots at Ouellet while Butler faced just 15. Ouellet was nabbed with a delay of game call after he was caught repeatedly knocking the net off of its moorings to relieve the Maroon pressure.
Butler faced a lot more pressure in the third period as the Rockets outshot the Maroons 20-11. With 8 minutes remaining in regulation time, Rocket Steve Griggs excited the 365 fans when he rattled a puck off the iron behind Butler.
The only goal came when Frantarcangelli beat Latina to a loose puck in the Maroon zone and raced up the right wing for the unassisted insurance empty net marker. Pointstreak added a pair of Maroon assists on the goal, but I was closer to drawing an assist than any Maroon on the ice. The Rockets completed a half dozen passes before Frantarcangelli wrestled the puck from Latina. The goal demonstrated once again some very lazy work by the on-ice officials and why video review for scoring should be implemented in the GOJHL.
The faceoffs were very close with the Rockets holding a 40-39 advantage. The Rockets had lost the first 7 faceoffs of the game before winning 12 of the next 16 draws in the opening period. Latina was tops for the Rockets winning 7 and losing just 3.
Rookie defender Noah Tooke led all Rockets with 6 shots on goal. Tooke possesses a low, hard, accurate shot that rarely misses the net. He is a splendid skater and is not adverse to leading the rush up the ice.
Riley O’Connell and Turner Balasin led all Rocket forwards with 5 shots on goal each.
The Maroons finished the night going 1 for 6 on the powerplay, along with the shorthanded goal and the empty netter. The Rockets were unsuccessful on 7 powerplay chances. Both clubs had 11 powerplay shots on goal.
The win moved the Maroons (13-7-1-1) into a 3-way tie for third place with LaSalle (12-8-3-1) and London (12-7-3-1).
The Rockets (5-13-2-4) remain in seventh place but have a new team breathing down their necks. The St. Marys Lincolns (5-16-1-2) moved into sole possession of eighth place and the last playoff spot with a 7-4 win over the sliding Lambton Shores Predators (5-17-0-2) who dropped to last place. The Rockets lead the Lincolns by three points.
The Maroons will have little time to lick their wounds as they host the first place Leamington Flyers (18-3-1-0) on Sunday at Memorial Arena.
The Rockets will be idle until they welcome LaSalle next Saturday at the WMMC.
(photo credit – Colleen Wiendels Photography)
David Honsberger is a former journalist and columnist for the Strathroy Age Dispatch. A winner of the Stuart Bolton Memorial Award for the Strathroy Rockets Volunteer of the Year in 1996, David served for seven years as the club’s president. He was honoured in 2015 when he was inducted into the Strathroy Rockets/Blades Wall of Fame in the builder category. David is currently in his 20th year of volunteering with the Rockets and provides the colour commentary for the Strathroy Rockets radio broadcasts on 105.7 my FM. He resides in Strathroy with his mother and his two cherished Savannah cats, Scout and Hey, Boo.