ROCKETS PLAY LASALLE IN THE PLAYOFFS

ROCKETS PLAY LASALLE IN THE PLAYOFFS

The Strathroy Rockets finished in eighth place and will play the first place LaSalle Vipers (37-9-0-4) in the quarter-finals beginning on Wednesday, March 1 in LaSalle.  Game two will be held on Saturday, March 4 in Strathroy.

The Rockets finished the season with a 16-27-2-5 record, an improvement of four wins and one point over their record from last year.  It is their first eighth place finish in 13 years.

Steve Griggs won the team scoring title with 21 goals and 30 assists for 51 points.  He had a 3-point lead over runner-up Max Ewart.  Griggs and Ewart led the team in assists with 30.  Cody Schneider was the team goal scoring leader with 22.  Spencer Allen and Matthew Stevens were tied for the team lead in penalty minutes with 116.

Griggs and Schneider led the Rockets in powerplay goals with 7, while Allen led with 12 powerplay assists.  Ewart led all Rockets with 4 shorthanded goals.  Ewart and Griggs each paced the Rockets with 3 game winning goals.

On Wednesday, February 22 at the Western Fair, the Rockets were edged 4-3 by the London Nationals.  Prior to the game Rocket head coach Jason Glover commented on making adjustments on playing back-to-back games with London. “You can make adjustments, which we did.  We had a lot of battles in practice this week.  We are focusing on the playoffs and trying to move up in the standings and the other thing is with the two different sized rinks it makes a big difference playing at home and playing on the road, so you have to make adjustments when you are here in London.  They do play well at home and they have a big ice surface to play on.”  London, like Leamington, plays on an Olympic-sized ice surface (200’ x 100’) while the Rockets play on the smallest ice surface in the Conference (184’ x 85’).

Commenting on areas where the Rockets need to work on for the upcoming playoffs Glover added, “I think defensive play.  I think buckling down in your own zone and being hard to play against and being on the right side of the puck and not getting caught on the boards or getting beat out of the corner on one-on-one battles is definitely important for us to be better in our own zone.  When you score 4 or 5 goals you should be able to win in this league, but you can’t be allowing 7, that’s for sure.”

The two teams were tied 1-1 after one period.  London enjoyed a 4-2 lead after two periods.  An extra attacker goal by Rocket captain Lucas Latina (12) with 8 seconds remaining in regulation time brought the Rockets to within one goal, but they were unable to get any closer.  Mark Bastlow (12) and Stevens (8) also scored for the Rockets.  Bastlow had a 3-point night with a pair of assists to go along with his goal.  Kyle Dawson (19), Liam Fordy (5), Max Vinogradov (23) and Ethan Nother (26), scored for the Nats.

With the Rockets leading 1-0, Allen had a goal disallowed that would have put the Rockets up 2-0.  The officials ruled that the net was off of its moorings.

The Nationals were fortunate to escape with the win.  Both Steve Griggs and Latina rattled pucks off the crossbar and Stevens hit the goal post.  London won 5 of the 6 meetings between the two clubs this year.  One other game ended in a tie.  The Rockets have not won a season series against the Nationals in the past five seasons.

Watford native Cameron Rombouts was seeing action in his sixth game of the season as a call up with the Rockets.  Rombouts is second in team scoring with the Lambton Junior AAA Sting with 15 goals in 34 games.

London went 1 for 6 on the powerplay, while the Rockets were 0 for 3 along with a shorthanded marker by Stevens.  The Rockets led all Western Conference teams with 11 shorthanded goals.

The Nats outshot the Rockets 47-35.  Zack Weir (6-12) was tagged with the loss while Cameron Zanussi (15-7) earned the win.

In Wednesday’s other game LaSalle tripped up the St. Marys Lincolns 4-1 clinching first place for the Vipers.  The Nationals’ win moved them to within 2 points of the Chatham Maroons in the battle for second place.

Thursday night the St. Thomas Stars upended the Flyers 4-1 in Leamington.  The win moved the Stars into a sixth place tie with St. Marys.  Both clubs have a four-point lead on the Rockets locking the Rockets into eighth place and a playoff match up with the first place Vipers.  With a pair of wins to finish the season, the Rockets could tie the Lincolns or the Stars but would lose on the tiebreaker.

Friday night at the St. Thomas-Elgin Memorial Centre the Rockets skated away with an impressive 5-2 victory over the Stars.  The Rockets displayed the type of hockey that will be needed to upset the Vipers in the opening round.  The Lincolns, who were tied with the Stars for sixth place heading into Friday night’s action, were pounded 8-2 by Chatham.  The Stars and the Lincolns would meet Sunday night to decide which team secures sixth place.  The Maroon win clinched second place for the Chatham squad.  London will finish in third.

The Rockets led 2-1 after one period and 4-1 after two periods outshooting the Stars 45-43 in front of 601 fans.  The Rockets utilized an effective dump and chase game and established a solid forecheck and work ethic.

Ty Glover (7), Allen (10), Ewart (17) Michael Wood (2) and Dalton Good (4) tallied for the Rockets.  Kevin Hu (32) and former Flint Firebird Dane Johnstone (8) replied for the Stars.

Wood added to the Rockets Western Conference lead in shorthanded goals.  The Rockets won the season series against the Stars 4 games to 2 and have taken the season series 2 of the last 3 years from St. Thomas.

The Rockets went 1 for 5 on the powerplay.  The Stars were 0 for 8.  Weir (7-12) earned the win.  Cooper Seedott (11-12-1) took the loss.

It was Fan Appreciation Night in the Rockets’ final home game of the season.  Ricco Food Distributor was the corporate sponsor and generously provided free Lester Jumbo Hot Dogs, free draws, prizes and free programs.  The Hug-A-Coke machine was also present for free Coca-Cola products.

The Rockets had a special pregame ceremony to honour their graduating players, Steve Griggs and Dalton Good.

Rocket GM Mike Bondy was talking playoff hockey and felt that “sticking to the game plan” and “commitment” were keys to Rocket success.  “The team that makes the less mental mistakes and capitalizes on the chances they are given are usually victorious.”  Bondy added, “The team that is consistent on their effort will come out on top.  You have to bear down in certain areas especially in front of the net or in the high slot and create traffic and turnovers.  They need to get themselves prepared and elevate their game.   Our fans are going to be in for a real treat come playoff time.”

The Rockets dug themselves into a 3-goal first period hole against the visiting Sarnia Legionnaires and were unable to dig themselves out and suffered a 5-2 setback in front of 602 fans.

Trevor Bogaert (3)(4) paced the Sarnia attack with a pair of goals.  Joey Pavey (2), Jake Vince (10) and Curtis Egert (8) rounded out their scoring.  Ewart (18) and Glover (8) replied for the Rockets, who had cut the Sarnia lead to 3-2 in the second period but the Rockets could get no closer.  Sixteen-year-old Glover has played very well for the Rockets leading up to the playoffs.

The Rockets were outshot 44-20 but dominated the faceoff circle winning 51 of 86 draws (59.3%).  The Legionnaires played a strong defensive game, blocking many shots and limiting the Rockets scoring chances.  Rocket defenseman Good led all Rockets with 3 shots.

Sarnia was 0 for 4 on the powerplay along with a shorthanded goal while the Rockets went 1 for 5.  The game meant nothing in the standings for either team.  Sarnia won the season series 5-1.  The Rockets have not taken a season series from Sarnia in the past 6 years.

Carson Poulin (2-4, 11-12) registered the loss for the Rockets while Travis Moore (5-7) earned the win.  The Rockets did an effective job of keeping Sarnia’s top 10 scorers off the game sheet.

Sunday night St. Marys and St. Thomas battled to a 5-5 draw securing the sixth seed for the Lincolns.

Playoff Schedule

Game 1 Wednesday, March 1, 7pm in LaSalle

Game 2 Saturday, March 4, 7:30pm in Strathroy

Game 3 Sunday, March 5, 8pm in LaSalle

Game 4 Tuesday, March 7, 7:30pm in Strathroy

Game 5 Wednesday, March 8, 7pm in LaSalle

Game 6 Saturday, March 11, 7:30pm in Strathroy

Game 7 Sunday, March 12, TBD in LaSalle

David Honsberger

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