Rockets regular season ends this week

The Rockets are flirting with .500 as they battle for fifth in the Western Conference in the final games of the regular season.

Strathroy was 3-3 for the month of February heading into Feb. 18’s game against eighth-place Sarnia. That third loss came on Feb. 11 against the LaSalle Vipers and put the team’s record at 20-19-7-1.

It was a 5-2 decision that also ended with another two-game suspension for defenceman Matthew Balloch. This is his fourth suspension for a total of nine games this season. The entire rest of the team has been suspended 10 games total this season.

In the five games before Feb. 11, Balloch was one of the hottest players on the Rockets, scoring six of his 11 points on the season. He had no penalties in those five games, even though his tough guy persona has him second on the team in penalty minutes with 78 in 28 games. Balloch is first with 2.79 penalty minutes per game, despite his no penalties hot streak.

The six-foot, 185-pound defenceman came over from the Sarnia Legionnaires early this season, where he had 51 penalty minutes in 25 games to go with his five points. He is fourth among Rocket defencemen in scoring, and seventh in games played thanks to the suspensions.

Balloch’s latest suspension was for removing his chinstrap in a fight and fighting in the last 10 minutes of a game (it was with less than three to go). His other three suspensions were for head contact.

Rookie Brennan Faulkner scored 18th goal and 52nd point of the season in the losing cause. Through 45 games, Faulkner was second in points among all Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League rookies.

Strathroy rookies Dylan Richter (46) and Ethan Facchina (43) are not too far behind in fifth and seventh place. Richter is second in rookie goals with 23, and first in rookie game-winning goals with six.

Three other rookies make up seven of the other 10 games suspended: Andrew Jaques (2) who also leads the team in penalty minutes (84), Griffin Cann (2) who is third in Rocket penalty minutes (76), and William Hull (3) who has 65 penalty minutes.

Rocket forward Noah Cameron is also in the top 20 rookie penalty minutes with 61. Those four Rockets are only one less than the five Caledon Bombers in the top 20 GOJHL rookie penalty-minute list for most of any of the 25 teams.

The Bombers are tops in the league with 919 penalty minutes and have six wins and 40 losses this season. The Rockets are fourth in the league with 828 penalty minutes and second in conference PIMs to the London Nationals, who have dropped to third place in the West after going sub-.500 in January and February.

The last Rockets regular season game is Saturday, Feb. 25 at West Middlesex Memorial at 7:30 pm against the Chatham Maroons whom they are locked in a battle for fifth with.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner