ROCKETS’ OFFENSE DISAPPEARS

After a pair of shutout losses on the road to the Chatham Maroons and the LaSalle Vipers, the Strathroy Rockets’ offensive struggles continued at the Pyramid Recreation Centre in St. Marys as the Rockets dropped a 4-1 decision to the Lincolns on Friday, October 21 and at home the following night at the WMMC as the Rockets ran out of time in a 3-1 loss to the Sarnia Legionnaires.

The losses dropped the Rockets into 7th place, 2 points behind 6th place Chatham and 3 points up on 8th place St. Marys.

The Rockets have scored just 37 goals in 16 games averaging 2.31 goals per game, the lowest number in franchise history.  The Rockets’ sputtering offense has been hindered by great difficulty with special teams. They have tallied just 5 powerplay goals all season on 71 chances for a 7.04 powerplay percentage, the lowest in the entire GOJHL.  Their penalty killing has allowed 20 goals on 85 chances for a 74.5% success rate, also the lowest in the GOJHL.  During the mini 4-game losing skid, in which they were outscored 23-2, the Rockets have been 0 for 16 with the man advantage and have allowed 8 powerplay goals on 17 chances (47.1%) as well as a pair of shorthanded goals.

The final results on the scoreboard were not a reflection of the Rockets’ work ethic or tenacity.  The effort is certainly there.  Patience is required as good results will follow.

The Lincoln win improved their record to 3-9-1-1 and moved them into sole possession of eighth place breaking a tie with the Komoka Kings.  The Rockets, who have only won a single game on the road this season, saw their road record fall to 1-7-0-1.

The Rockets had plenty of opportunities to jump start their offense.  They outshot the Lincolns 39-30 including an 11-4 advantage in the third period when they asserted their best efforts of the match.  Special teams again plagued the local club as they were unsuccessful in 6 powerplay opportunities while the Lincolns converted 1 of 2 chances.  To make matters worse for the Rockets, the Lincolns opened the scoring with a shorthanded marker.

St. Marys led by period scores of 2-0 and 3-1.  It marked just the second time this season that the Lincolns tallied the first goal of the game and led on the scoreboard after one and two periods.  Tristan Lewis (3-7) earned the win while Zack Weir (5-7) absorbed the loss.

Kenny Chisholm opened the scoring at 14:50 when his left lane shot squeezed past Weir and made its way into the Rocket net with the Lincolns killing a penalty.  Tanner Hertel banged in his first of two goals on the night from in close after some diligent work from linemate Matthew Zilke at 19:05.

Rocket underager Emmet Pierce cut the Lincoln lead in half just 8 seconds into the middle frame with an unassisted goal capitalizing on a Lincoln turnover.  The quick goal tied a franchise record for fastest goal to begin the second period tying a record set by Max Naus against the Lambton Shores Predators on September 21, 2013.

Dalton Bancroft restored the Lincolns’ two-goal bulge with a deadly shot on a rush down the right wing on a Lincoln powerplay at 8:13.

Hertel added the important insurance goal to secure the win at 17:14 of the third period benefiting from excellent forechecking from Zilke.

The Lincolns edged out the Rockets in the faceoff circle winning 39 of 70 draws (55.7%).  Hard-working Nick Grandy and Cameron Rombouts both had stellar games for the Rockets.  They both displayed great work ethic in both ends of the rink.

The following night at the WMMC the Rockets and the Legionnaires battled through a tough 60 minutes before Sarnia left with the 3-1 decision in front of 368 fans.  The win was Sarnia’s first on the road this season (1-3-1).  The win propelled the Legionnaires into sole possession of 3rd place, 2 points up on LaSalle and St. Thomas and 4 points back of 2nd place London.

Sarnia led 1-0 after one period and 3-0 after two periods.  Legionnaire goaltender Will Barber (3-4-1) picked up the key win while Zack Weir (5-8) was tagged for the loss.  Barber was the busier of the two goaltenders as the Rockets outshot the Legionnaires 39-34 including a 14-8 advantage in the third period.

The difference in the game was special teams. Sarnia converted 2 of 4 powerplay chances while the Rockets were unsuccessful on 6 opportunities including a pair of lengthy two-man advantages.

Joey Zappa opening the scoring at 6:27 of the first period completing a beautiful tic-tac-toe play with linemates Greg Hay and Brock Perry.  Zappa notched his second of the night at 13:31 of the sandwich session tipping a point shot from Tyler Beneteau on a powerplay.  Sarnia made it 3-0 with 50 seconds left in the period on another powerplay with an accurate shot from a sharp angle by Sam McCormack.

Spencer Allen got the Rockets on the board early in the third period at 1:31 with his 8th goal of the season after some aggressive forechecking by Liam Whittaker and TJ Harris.  Despite pressuring the Legionnaires for the remainder of the period Barber and his teammates defended valiantly to preserve the win.

Rocket Ty Glover has been reassigned to the London AAA Jr. Knights Major Midget.

The Rockets will travel to St. Thomas on Friday, October 27 before a home-and-home series with the Komoka Kings.  The Rockets will host Komoka on Sunday, October 29 and pay a visit to Komoka on Halloween night.

(photo credit – Colleen Wiedels Photography – facebook)

David Honsberger

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