The Strathroy Rockets continue to give back to the community of Strathroy-Caradoc at the most important and needy time of the year with a pair of heart-warming events.  On Saturday, December 16 the Rockets held their 18th Annual Cuddy’s Social Committee Teddy Bear Toss.  Three hundred and seventeen community loving fans displayed their love by showering the West Middlesex ice with hundreds of stuffed toys assisting the Strathroy-Caradoc Police in their Cops for Tots program and the local Salvation Army with their worthy Christmas Hamper program.  The Rockets’ Teddy Bear Toss was originally created by the loving efforts of the late Joe Brooks.  Brooks, the former equipment manager and vice president of the Rockets, was a Cuddy’s employee.  Brooks partnered with the Cuddy Social Committee to create an annual Teddy Bear Toss.  The inaugural Teddy Bear Toss goal in 2000 was scored by 15-year-old rookie Kyle Wilson.  After earning a NCAA Division I scholarship with Colgate, Wilson’s outstanding intercollegiate career earned him a 9th round selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.  After playing for 3 years in the NHL, Wilson is now enjoying a professional career in Europe. Now in its eighteenth year, Brooks’ endeavours have delivered thousands of stuffed toys into area family homes.  It was Brooks’ proudest moment as a Rocket and has become his lasting legacy.

The following afternoon the Rockets held their annual Christmas Skate with the Rockets.  The event allowed fans to skate, meet and mingle with the Rocket players and staff.  It is always a highlight of the Rocket season generously sponsored this year by Collins Barrow, Quinlan, Hemeryck, Barnett Lawyers, Mainstreet Credit Union, Ricco Food Distributor and Strathroy Domino’s Pizza.  Fans had an opportunity to have their photo taken with Santa.  The first 150 fans received a complimentary complete set of Rocket hockey cards.  Free hot chocolate, coffee and popcorn were provided.  Donations were accepted to benefit the Woman’s Rural Resource Centre.

Despite the community coming together the evening wasn’t an entirely pleasant one for the Rockets and their many faithful supporters as they saw themselves end up on the wrong end of an 8-1 loss to the St. Thomas Stars.  The win was an important one for the Stars as it moved them to within one point of the second place Leamington Flyers.

The Stars led by period scores of 2-0 and 6-0.  Newcomer Denis Novikov broke Stars’ netminder Jesse Hodgson’s shutout big with 2:45 remaining in the game.  It was Hodgson’s (1-1) first win for the Stars since recently joining the club.  Josh Diamond (0-8) took the loss for the Rockets.

GOJHL scoring leader Kevin Hu and Adam Keyes paced the Stars with a pair of goals and an assist.  Other goal scorers for the Stars were Ryan Bangs, Thomas McLatchie, Matt Couto and Jake Robinson.  The Stars swept their 3 meetings with the Rockets in Strathroy this season.  They lead the season series 4-1 with one game to be played January 5 in St. Thomas.  It will be the first game after the Christmas break for both clubs.

Despite being the least penalized team in the GOJHL, the Stars handed the Rockets 7 powerplay opportunities including a full 2-minute, 2-man advantage.  The Rockets failed to convert on any of their chances despite 10 powerplay shots on goal.  The Stars clicked on 1 of 3 opportunities on 6 shots and added a shorthanded marker.

Hu lead all Stars with 4 shots.  Curtis Ferreira, Craig McKague and Robinson each had 3.  Liam Whittaker, Spencer Allen, Sam Stanton and TJ Harris led the Rockets with 3 shots.  The Rockets outshot the Stars 32-30.  The Stars held a slight edge in faceoffs 41-34 (54.7%).

(photo credit – Colleen Wiendels Photography)

David Honsberger

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