LASALLE VIPERS (1) vs. STRATHROY ROCKETS (8)

LASALLE VIPERS (1) vs. STRATHROY ROCKETS (8)

As the Strathroy Rockets and the LaSalle Vipers prepare for their Western Conference quarter-final matchup it will mark the sixth time that these two storied franchises have met in the postseason.

The Rockets began life in 1965, becoming the Blades in 1975 before returning to the famed Rocket moniker in 1994.   LaSalle’s franchise was originally the Windsor Royals.  They were launched in 1974 and moved to Tecumseh in 1995 before finding their current home in LaSalle in 2008.

The two clubs have locked horns three times in the quarter-finals and once in the semi-finals and finals.  Windsor/Tecumseh/LaSalle has won 4 of the 5 series.

Their first meeting came in the 1978-79 finals.  The ’78 Blade team is often considered the finest Junior B team that Strathroy hockey fans have ever witnessed.  They finished in second place (29-10-3) setting franchise records for fewest losses (10), most goals for (286), best goals per game average (6.81) and best winning percentage (74.36%).  In the best of three quarter-finals they topped the Sarnia Gils Bees 3-2 with one game tied and then swept the London Chester Pegg Diamonds in the semi-finals 4-0.  The first place Windsor Royals (31-7-4) returned the favour sweeping the Blades 4-0 in the league finals.

Four years later the Blades hooked up again with the Royals.  The Blades finished in second place (25-13-4) in 1982-83 but were upset in the opening round by the fifth place Royals (17-20-5) in 6 games.

The two clubs would not meet again for 25 years.  It was the 2007-08 season.  The Rockets finished in fourth place (25-22-0-2-2).  They dumped the Sarnia Blast 4 games to 2 in the quarter-finals before losing in 5 games to the first place Tecumseh Chiefs (34-12-0-2).  The Chiefs went on to win the Western Junior B crown in five games over the London Nationals and swept the Elmira Sugar Kings to win the Sutherland Cup.

The Rockets and the Vipers will be meeting for the third time in the past five years in the postseason.

In 2012-13 the sixth place Rockets (25-22-0-2-2) upset the third place Vipers (29-18-3-1) four games to two before losing in six games to the first place Chatham Maroons (34-11-3-3).

The most recent series came in the 2014-15 season when the fifth place Rockets (25-22-0-1-1) were swept by the fourth place Vipers (28-20-1-0).

What will this year’s playoffs bring?  In the five previous meetings, there has been 2 upsets.  The upsets have alternated.  If the cycle continues it would be time for another upset.  I wonder who the Rockets will meet in the semi-finals.

David Honsberger

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