It was a classic four-pointer.

The seventh place Strathroy Rockets and the eighth place St. Marys Lincolns entered Saturday night’s game at the WMMC in Strathroy separated by just 5 points.

A Lincoln win would shrink that gap to a narrow 3 points while a Rocket win would open up a huge 7-point difference.

The Rockets would prevail in a tight, exciting 5-4 regulation time victory giving themselves a little more breathing room – for the moment.

Strathroy will head to St. Marys for their final road game of 2015 on Friday, December 18.
The Rockets improved to 7-14-2-4 while the Lincolns dropped to 5-20-1-2 in a season that can’t get over soon enough for both honoured clubs.

Special teams were the difference in this game in a very bizarre way. St. Marys are the second most disciplined team in the entire GOJHL. If not for a blown gasket by Lincoln Colin Capstick, the Lincolns may have skated off the Rocket ice with a win. The unfortunate incident came just 43 seconds after a Brent House Lincoln powerplay goal had tied the match at 3-3. It was House’s second goal of the night.

At 9:02 of the second period Capstick became involved with Rocket winger Jeff Williams. By the time the ice chips settled Capstick was nailed with minor penalties for instigating and being the aggressor along with a major penalty for fighting. Williams was not penalized. I’m not sure that was the correct call on the play. I’m thinking perhaps a minor for roughing and an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. A fight never really broke out.  Capstick stopped his aggressiveness once he realized the Williams was not going to retaliate.  He then shoved Williams to the ice.  He could have easily been assessed a 10-minute misconduct for inciting to cool him off instead of throwing him out of the game.

Instead the Rockets emerged with their only powerplays of the game – a nine-minute one. It featured the second worst powerplay in the GOJHL against the second worst penalty kill. The inept Rocket powerplay managed just 6 shots on goal with Lucas Latina popping his second goal of the game 7 minutes and 1 second into the lengthy infraction. Latina’s goal put the Rockets up 4-3. The Lincolns returned to full strength following the goal. (In situations such as this the 5-minute major penalty is served first followed by the 2 minors. Had Latina scored 2 seconds earlier, the Rockets would have remained on the powerplay.)

The Latina powerplay goal was a real head scratcher. The Lincolns had iced the puck. Rocket goaltender Dane Gubbels, who was spectacular on the night, stopped the puck and set it up behind the net for defenseman Dalton Good. Good remained behind the Rocket goal until Latina picked it up, skated coast-to-coast, and beat Emanuel Vella in the Lincoln goal with a deadly shot from the left side. The line on the goal should have been Latina from Good and Gubbels.
Somehow referees Clint Campbell and Craig Dease awarded assists to Latina’s wingers Keiran Milne and Steve Griggs. How can on-ice officials be that asleep on the ice? And these guys get paid for that inaccuracy.

The Lincolns fared much better with the man advantage. They capitalized twice on five opportunities on goals by House and Nathan Smith. The goals came with newcomer Dawson Cook off for high sticking and Good sitting out a hooking call.

St. Marys also generated an amazing 21 of their 56 shots on the game on the powerplay. The 56 shots are the most the Rockets have allowed in a single game this season.

The Rockets sent just 29 shots towards the London Knight prospect Vella.

The Rockets only trailed for 59 seconds in the game when Latina’s first goal wiped out a Jack Wieringa marker in the first period. The two teams were tied 2-2 after one period. The Rockets carried a 4-3 lead into the third period.

The Lincolns would scratch and claw their way back into the game, tying the game on three different occasions.

Other goal scorers for the Rockets were Turner Balasin, Steve Griggs and Milne.

It was a very fast game. St. Marys coach Jason Glover, a former Strathroy Blade, and Rocket coach Brendan Riggin managed their benches well utilizing very short 30-45 second shifts to increase the tempo of the game.

The Lincoln defense was a little sluggish spending too much time holding onto the puck before making a decision.

The Lincolns likely deserved a better fate on this night, but the Rockets were able to prevail thanks in most part to goaltender Gubbels’ efforts and a fluke game winning third period goal by Milne that barely knifed its way into the Lincoln net.

The faceoffs were very even with the Rockets winning 50 of 97 draws (51.5%). Latina was tops in the faceoff circle winning 23 of 34 (67.6%). Latina was also the top shot producer for the Rockets with six. Hard working Wes Kelly was next with four shots on goal.

The Rockets will head to St. Thomas to play the second place Stars the following night while the Lincolns will host the first place Leamington Flyers on Friday.

(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.

David Honsberger

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