STRATHROY ROCKETS STRENGTHEN POSITIONING BY EARNING 3 OF 4 POINTS

You do the math.

In back-to-back home games the Strathroy Rockets picked up 3 of 4 points in the battle for the last two playoff spots with the St. Marys Lincolns and the Komoka Kings.

When the St. Marys Lincolns skated onto the West Middlesex ice in front of 458 fans they trailed the Rockets by just a single point for the 8th and final playoff spot.   The large crowd, including many Lincoln supporters, witnessed the Lincolns and the Rockets battle through a hard-fought 70-minute double overtime draw.  Both teams earned a point in the standings and kept the Rockets with their slim lead still intact.  The Rockets were fortunate on this night to escape with the tie.  The home squad never led in the game and were forced by the desperate Lincolns to rally from a 3-1 deficit.  Three times the Rockets tied the match at 1-1, 3-3 and 4-4.  The Rockets had Lady Luck shining down on them on a pair of goals and on a potential game winning tally by the Lincolns that was waved off due to a dislodged net thanks to the extra-curricular activities of Rocket netminder Vince Michelizzi.

The Lincs led 2-1 after one period on goals by Mitch Bakker and Michael Andrews despite the Rockets controlling the majority of the play.  Brady MacDonald’s screened shot from the top of the faceoff circle was the lone Rocket tally.  The Lincolns had a much better effort in the second period but both clubs scored once – Ben Maidment for the Lincolns and a fortunate shot by Spencer Allen that ricocheted off Linc goaltender Jacob Hutchings’ skate and into the net.  St. Marys led 3-2 heading into the second intermission.

When Rocket Michael Wood popped home a juicy rebound off a skate save from a MacDonald point shot at 3:35 the game was tied at 3-3.  At 5:48 the Rockets dodged a bullet when a Lincoln goal was waved off due to the dislodged net.  Less than a minute later a Braeden Bowers blast rang off the iron behind Hutchings and the game still remained tied.  At 8:29 Spencer General put the Lincolns back on top after some effective forechecking with Darcy Winkler.  Allen notched his second of the game after Wood beat the Lincoln defense to a shoot-in behind the St. Marys’ goal and made a perfect pass to Allen at 10:08.  Regulation time ended with the game deadlocked at 4-4 on the scoreboard and on the shot clock at 34-34. Both clubs had excellent opportunities to end the game in extra time but both netminders and a bouncing puck kept the game at bay.  The Rockets outshot the Lincs 8-4 in overtime and 42-38 over the match. Despite the heavy hitting in the game, both clubs were able to keep their composure in this vitally important match.  Only 3 minor penalties were called in the game.  The Lincs went 0 for 2 with 4 shots on goal while the Rockets were 0 for 1 with no shots.  Aiden Burns and Allen led the Rockets with 6 shots.  Dalton Bancroft, who had the best opportunities to score late in regulation and in OT, led the Lincs with 9 shots.  St. Marys captain Daniel Cloutier had 5 shots.  The Lincs won the faceoff battles 51-40 (56.7%).  The season series is tied 2-2-1-0 with one game to be played in St. Marys next month.  The Rockets have not lost a season series to St. Marys in the previous 14 years.

The following night the Rockets earned their first win at home in over 15 weeks with a 5-4 victory over the Komoka Kings in front of 298 fans.  It was the Rockets first win at home in over 3 months.  The key win gave the Rockets a little breathing room increasing their lead for the final playoff spot by 3 points over last place St. Marys and moving themselves within 2 points of seventh place Komoka.  The season series is tied 2-2-1 with the final game in Komoka on a Family Day matinee.  The Rockets have not lost a season series to Komoka/Lambton Shores/Petrolia in the past 13 years.

The Rockets led by period scores of 2-1 and 5-2 but had to hold on for a 5-4 win.  The Kings outshot the Rockets 13-4 in the third period and 21-11 in the second period.  Final shots favoured Komoka 43-28.  An undisciplined first period cost the Kings the win as the Rockets tallied a pair of powerplay goals.  The Kings did rally for 3 powerplay goals including a pair by Joel Mazzilli who increased his GOJHL record for powerplay goals in a season.  Allen added a pair of goals for the Rockets in the second straight night.  Cameron Rombouts, Denis Novikov and Wood also scored for the Rockets.  Wes Dobbin and D”Arcy Panziera replied for the Kings.  The Rockets clicked on 2 of 4 powerplay chances on 10 shots while the Kings converted 3 of 5 chances on 9 shots.  Allen also tallied shorthanded.  The Kings nipped the Rockets in the faceoff circle 45-42 (51.7%).  Nicolas Grandy (14-8) led the Rockets.  Allen and Wood led all Rockets with 4 shots on goal.  King captain Andrew Kim had 7 shots, Dobbin had 6 and Panziera added 5.  Josh Diamond (2-10) earned the win while Reagan Giles (4-17-3) was tabbed for the loss.  The Kings have won just 3 games on the road all season.

David Honsberger

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