On December 21 the Rockets travelled to Chatham for a rare Thursday night match against the Maroons.  It was a bizarre game on a bizarre night.  Ghosts of Christmas Past quickly came back to haunt the Rockets when the Maroons exploded out of the gate by quickly building a 3-0 lead just 2:35 into the match on goals by Dane Johnstone, Dylan Schives and call-up Tate Bowden. There were no visions of sugarplums dancing through the Rockets’ heads only visions of the Rockets’ 14-0 loss in Chatham on October 15.  On the next play the Rockets’ energetic Sam Stanton drove Maroon Noah Bushnell through the glass in front of the gate to the visitor’s penalty box.  At 5’ 6” and 160lb the diminutive Rocket spark plug gives up 5” and 56lb to the giant Maroon captain.  The explosive result of shattered glass necessitated a 45-minute delay.  The two teams returned to their dressing rooms as the Chatham Memorial Arena staff provided clean-up and repair.  A sheet of plywood eventually replaced the missing glass and the game finally resumed.

The long delay was a blessing for the Rockets.  They returned to the ice regrouped and refocused for the task at hand.  When TJ Harris fired a low shot from the top of the faceoff circle past Maroon netminder Lucas Patton at 4:27 the Rockets were on the scoreboard.  Harris followed up his goal with an almost identical marker at 10:54 and the Rockets had cut the Maroon early lead to 3-2.  When Maroon Josh Supruka redirected a Grant Spence shot past Zack Weir in the Rocket goal at 15:39 the Maroons headed to the first intermission with a 4-2 lead.  The Maroons outshot the Rockets 16-12 in the lengthy opening period.

Undeterred by the unsettling first frame the Rockets’ once again cut into the Maroon lead at 4:18 of the second period when defenseman Braeden Bowers’ shot through traffic from a tight angle on a Rocket powerplay found its way past Patton.  It was Bowers’ first goal of the season and just the Rockets’ 6th powerplay goal scored on the road this season.  Harris silenced the 511 Maroon fans when he buried an Allen rebound to complete his hat trick and tie the score at 4-4 with 3:48 remaining in the period.  After completing the near-impossible comeback the Rockets’ hopes of heading into the second period intermission tied were squashed when Steven Fowler capitalized on a nice set up from Johnstone with 52 seconds left in the period.  The goal would end up being the game winner.  Maroons led in shots 18-11.

Fowler gave the Maroons a little insurance when he potted his second goal of the game at 8:44 on a Chatham powerplay.  He one-timed a blast from the high slot finishing off a lovely passing play with Johnstone and Dakota Bohn.  With the Rockets taking 3 minor penalties in the final five minutes of regulation time Bushnell upped the score to 7-4 with another powerplay marker.  The Maroons again led in shots 16-10.

Despite the loss the Rockets displayed great resilience coming back to tie the game after allowing the 3 early goals.  Patton picked up his first win in goal for the Maroons after being reassigned by the OHL Windsor Spitfires.  The Maroon keeper looked shaky on all 4 Rocket goals but received enough goal support from his teammates for the win.  Weir, who was selected as the game’s hardest working player, was the busier of the two netminders.  The Rockets were outshot 50-33.  Chatham went 2 for 5 on the powerplay while the Rockets were 1 for 3.  Special teams continue to challenge the Rockets.  Converting just 6 of 69 powerplay chances on the road for an 8.7% proficiency the Rockets have the lowest road powerplay percentage in the league.  The Maroons lead the season series 5-0.  Josh Moorehouse and Colin Van Rooyen were impressive as call-ups for the Rockets.  Van Rooyen is the son of Strathroy-Caradoc Police constable and former London Chester-Pegg Diamond Kevin Van Rooyen.

The loss extended the Rockets’ losing streak to 10 games eclipsing the 8-game skid by the 2015-16 Rockets.  It is the longest losing streak by the Rockets in the past 23 years.  The Strathroy franchise record for longest losing streak was 37 games set by the Blades during the 1992-93 season when they managed just 4 wins in the 52-game season.  The Rockets’ season is far from lost.  Even the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs survived a 10-game losing streak on route to their Stanley Cup victory.  The win helped solidify the Maroons 6th place ranking.  They trail LaSalle by 9 points and lead Komoka by 11 points.  The Rocket loss combined with the point earned by the St. Marys Lincolns in a 4-3 overtime loss in Leamington moved the Lincolns into a tie for the 8th and final playoff position with the Rockets.

(photo – Chatham Maroons’ facebook)

David Honsberger

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