BETTER EFFORT, SAME RESULT
After a morale-draining 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the London Nationals just 24 hours earlier the seventh place Strathroy Rockets headed into Leamington to battle the front-running Flyers. Leamington has lost just a single game at home this season in regulation time.
The Rockets rebounded from their dismal effort the previous night and demonstrated the work ethic that they have become renowned for this season.
They dropped a 4-2 decision, thanks in huge part to a remarkable goaltending demonstration by Rocket tender Dane Gubbels and a grittier effort from the Rockets.
Flyer Liam Hogan, who picked up the myFM Player of the Game honours, opened the scoring when he was left wide open in front of the Rockets’ goal late in the first period.
The score remained just 1-0 for Leamington by the midway point of regulation time when the Flyers erupted for a pair of goals 100 seconds apart by Derek Elliott and Zach Guilbeault to quickly give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.
Guilbeault buried a Joe Urbanic rebound on a Flyer powerplay. Urbanic was selected as the myFM Hardest Working Player.
Mark Gangnon made it 4-0 at 7:35 of the third period when he blasted the puck past a helpless Gubbels on another Rocket defensive zone breakdown.
The Rockets surprised the 687 Flyer fans with a pair of goals by Max Ewart and Shane Bulitka to cut the lead to 4-2 but the Rockets could get no closer.
For Bulitlka, a second round pick of the Sudbury Wolves, the goal extended his point streak to 9 games. Ewart ripped a wrist shot past Michael Barrett from well out while Bulitka got in behind the Flyer defense after Ewart absorbed a huge hit to slip him the puck. Don Cherry certainly would have been pleased as Ewart took the hit to make the play.
The Flyers pretty much had a blanket over the Rockets for the entire game. The Rockets managed just 18 shots in the game, 5 in the first and second periods, and 8 in the third.
The Flyers had only 28 shots on goal (11-7-7), but many were of the very dangerous variety. Gubbels was clearly the star of the game.
Special teams once more haunted the Rockets. The Flyers connected on 1 of 2 chances while the Rockets were unsuccessful on 5 opportunities including an extended powerplay in the second period after Flyer Scott Emerson blew a gasket on Rocket underage defenseman Jeff Clarke. Clarke had crosschecked Emerson in front of the Rocket goal while the Flyers were on a powerplay. Emerson attacked Clarke. He was charged with minors for being the instigator and aggressor along with the game ejection for fighting. Clarke did not retaliate.
Emerson will be suspended for the next three games.
The Rockets failed to capitalize on the Emerson penalties. They only managed two shots on goal, a dump in on net from Steve Griggs and a blast from the point by Evan Hogg which was easily handled by Barrett. The Rockets and the Flyers each finished the night with 3 powerplay shots on goal.
It was a very quick game with few whistles. There were just 56 faceoffs in the game, the lowest in any Rocket match this season. The Flyers won 29 of them. The Rockets won 27.
Ewart led all Rockets with 6 shots on goal. Defenseman Evan Hogg had three.
The Rockets will play their fifth game in eight days when they host the Lambton Shores Predators on Saturday at the WMMC.
Next up for the Flyers is a trip to Chatham Memorial Arena on Sunday. The Flyers have lost their previous two meetings with the Maroons in Chatham.