The Rockets’ Launch Pad
by Rob Sadler
North Dundas Rockets General Manager
The week started off promisingly as we hosted the Morrisburg Lions last Wednesday night at home. Morrisburg has been playing good hockey, leap-frogging the St Isidore Eagles for the seventh and final playoff spot in the NCJHL race. We spotted the Lions an early 4-to-0 lead just 7:59 into the first period. Once we settled down the club revived itself on the back of Landon Veenstra who recorded a natural hat trick in six minutes to cut the lead down to a goal entering the second period.
The second period saw the Lions get on the board for one final time, before Chris Marchand cut the lead again, scoring a slippery goal off the back of the goaltender’s leg from behind the net. Dylan Nixon would tie the game at the 12:00 minute mark of the third with a bullet short side an high, 5 to 5. The game came down to the final 2 minutes of the third period when we were assessed a minor tripping penalty putting the Lions up for the rest of the period. On the ensuing power play, Brandon Mullin forced a turnover from their point and slid the puck over to Shawn Simms off the rush on a two on one, completing the comeback and giving us a 6 to 5 win.
We showed a lot of heart, determination and character to complete that comeback; we told the team after the first period, to use an old cliché, that life consists 10 percent of what happens to you, and 90 percent is how you react to it. To say the least, as GM, I was pleased with the reaction and the results.
Saturday night we hosted the first place Embrun Panthers, winners of six in a row — a streak that would improve to seven in a row once the evening was completed. We started the game looking very unsettled, spotting the Panthers a one-goal lead early in the game. Things took another poor turn after they got up 2 to 0 following a questionable goal in which the official blew his whistle a full second before the Embrun player was able to put the puck in the back of the net. He had no clear view of the puck, was out of position, blew the whistle to stop the play and yet somehow found a way to indicate ‘goal’ on the play. Shortly thereafter we were assessed a slashing penalty on a play at the net that was marginal at best, putting Embrun up on the power play and putting us down 3 to 0 shortly thereafter. We got through the first period down 4 to 0. In the second period we had some opportunities to close the gap on a series of power plays, but Embrun’s goaltending was excellent as the fought off some hard penalty kills to push through to the third. In the third the game got away and the end result was a 10 to 2 loss.
We got away with spotting Morrisburg a four-goal lead in the first; the same cannot be expected with Embrun, they are in first place a reason and far too strong a team to be given any advantage by us or the officiating. As GM I felt the official really ruined what could have been a good hockey game in that first period, setting the tone and taking the wind out of the sails a bit. He tried to make up for it in the second by assessing a series of penalties to Embrun, but realistically the damage was done.
Next up we have Cumberland on Friday night, and then are at home hosting the Vankleek Hill Cougars, a team we have struggled against all year.
With a handful of games left, and a handful of points separating everyone, it is going to be a great finish down the stretch. We would love to sneak into the top three, and the possibility still exists of that happening. We should have a full and healthy lineup finally by this weekend, I know that will help tremendously.