Administrator’s Notes: I didn’t attend the Sarnia/Leamington match on Sunday as I was in Chatham with the Rockets, but are some observations of the great Saturday game at the WMMC.
The Sarnia/Strathroy match was certainly the most physical of the year that I have witnessed. I loved it and so did all of the Rocket and Legionnaire fans in attendance. The Rockets extended their overtime streak to seven games and their point streak to eight games.
The game marked the return of Codey McRoberts who had missed the nine previous games recovering from a broken jaw from a match in London on December 2, 2015. McRoberts looked very comfortable between Matthew Stevens and Dillon Saunders on the Rockets’ fourth line. It added an element to the Rockets’ attack that had been lacking. Coach Brendan Riggin was able to roll all four lines. Besides punishing the Legionnaires, the fourth line also chipped in with a pair of goals, one by Stevens and Stevens and McRoberts did all the leg work on defenseman Noah Tooke’s goal.
It was a see-saw battle. No team lead by more than a goal. The lead exchanged hands four times. It had all the elements that makes hockey so great and perhaps was the most exciting and entertaining game of the year.
The teams were tied 2-2 after one period and 3-3 after two periods. Sarnia outshot Strathroy 50-42 including a 23-14 advantage in the first period.
The Rockets’ inability to score on a full 2-minutes five-on-three advantage cost them dearly. The Sarnia penalty killers were outstanding. Sarnia went 0 for 5 with the man advantage while the Rockets were 1 for 5. Sarnia had 12 powerplay shots on goal. The Rockets had 11.
Rocket captain Matt Laberge led all Rockets with 8 shots on goal. Max Ewart led all forwards with 7 shots.
The Rockets dominated the Legionnaires in the faceoff circle winning 58 of 100 draws. Lucas Latina led all Rocket centres going 20-10 in the faceoff circle. Rookie Shane Bulitka, who has struggled on faceoffs, had a stellar night winning 23 of 34 draws. Bulitka also extended his point streak to 6 games, a season high for all Rockets.
(photo credit – Colleen Wiendels Photography – Strathroy Rockets facebook – The double overtime game winner – Do you think Rocket goaltender Dane Gubbels was screened or what?)
Legionnaires split weekend road games
By Dan McCaffery, Special to The Observer
The Sarnia Legionnaires split a pair of road games over the weekend.
Coach Mark Davis’s Jr. ‘B’ hockey club won a goal-fest in Strathroy Saturday, edging the Rockets 6-5 in double overtime before falling 3-1 Sunday in Leamington.
They now have a 17-15-2-3 record, leaving them in sixth place in the nine-team Western Ontario Hockey Conference.
Defenceman Brad Yowart scored the OT winner at Strathroy, snapping home a drive from the faceoff circle.
“There was an errant pass or an errant shot, I’m not sure which,” Yowart said. “The puck came to me and I put it on net. I can’t say it was a beauty, but it went in.”
The game itself was a rough-and-tumble affair, with bodies flying like bowling pins. “It was hit or be hit,” Yowart recalled.
It was also an explosive offensive contest.
Davis said, “It was like a basketball game – the last hoop was going to win.”
The bench boss added the turning point may have come in the second period when Sarnia killed off a two-man disadvantage for a full two minutes.
He lavished praise on Yowart and fellow defenceman Eric Marsh. “We had some guys who stepped up,” he said.
In fact, Marsh tied the game 5-5 in the third period when he charged the net like a runaway freight train, flipping the rubber into the cage a split second before it came off its moorings.
Other Legionnaires to blink the red light included Captain Hunter Tyczynski, Ethan Dupont, Zack Vanderwal and Brandon Layman. Layman, who also had three assists, scored a nifty, unassisted goal on a breakaway.
Playing their fourth game in five nights, the Legionnaires stayed with the first place Leamington Flyers much of the way. In fact, the contest was deadlocked 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Yowart scored Sarnia’s goal (his ninth of the campaign) on a first-period power-play. Assists went to Ryan Vendramin and Brock Perry.
With two helpers on the weekend, Vendramin crashed through the 50 point barrier, giving the big forward 51 in just 27 games played.
Another star for the Legion crew was goaltender Shayne Battler, who made 39 saves. The Sarnians had 19 shots on the Leamington cage.
Cale Phibbs had two goals for the Flyers, with Derek Elliott getting the third.
The Legionnaires return to action Thursday when they host the Chatham Maroons. Game time at the Brock Street barn is set for 7:10 p.m.