Rockets split the weekend; looking back at best-ever start to the season

van Kessel leads league in scoring

The Rockets’ Launch Pad

by Rob Sadler
North Dundas Rockets General Manager

The North Dundas Rockets extended their winning streak Saturday night at home with a 7 to 3 win over the St. Isidore Eagles.  Leading the offensive charge up front for the Rockets was local winger Brad Stitt with 2 goals and 2 assists on the evening.  The Rockets lead 3 to 1 after the first period on goals from Bryden Vankessel (unassisted 16:54); Landon Veenstra (Brad Stitt, Brodie Barkley 13:09) and Justin Lefebvre (unassisted 8:21).  In the second the Rockets picked up where they left off scoring a pair of goals beginning with Tom Fingler (Bryden Vankessel, Landon Veenstra 16:25).  Brad Stitt (Tom Fingler, Landon Veenstra 4:41) would put the Rockets up 5 to 2 heading into the third and final period where the three would connect again on the last two Rockets goals at 19:39 and 13:40.

We got a big effort out of the Stitt, Fingler and Veenstra line Saturday night.  Head Coach Nik Paas assembled that line at the beginning of the winning streak when we beat Gatineau 8 to 2; and they haven’t looked back since.  Saturday night also marked the debut of Matthew Cowley with the team, a three year Vet of the CCHL 2 and former captain of the Ottawa West Golden Knights seemed to fit right in on our top pairing with Bryden van Kessel.  Cowley brings leadership, ability and size to our already deep blue line, a welcomed addition for our push into the playoffs.

Sunday, December 17th, the Rockets traveled to Clarence Creek to take on the Castors where the winning streak would ultimately end.  Dressing a line up that consisted of 6 forwards and 5 Defense; the final was 6 to 4 in Clarence’s favor.  The Rockets opened the scoring at 17:33 of the first when a point shot from Matthew Cowley  (Brad Stitt) elude Clarence goaltender Corey Camicand.  The lead would last exactly 13 seconds following a Rockets turnover in the offensive zone in which Matt Wilson (Matt Clement, Patrick Lemay) would capitalize on quickly.  Ten Minutes later the Castors would take the lead on a Matt Clement (Matt Wilson, Patrick Lemay) goal and would finally go up 3 to 1 before the period end as Nathan Melee (unassisted) buried another Rockets turnover at 2:14.  In the second period North Dundas showed a little bit of life as Tom Fingler (Brad Stitt) would find the net in the opening two minutes only to have Patrick Lemay (Matt Wilson, Raphael Payant) restore the Castor’s cushion.  Shawn Simms (Bryden van Kessel, Justin Lefebvre) struck for North Dundas at 6:12 and Clarence’s Matt Wilson scored the final two goal of the period completing the hat trick, the first goal coming unassisted and the second drawing assists from Raphael Payant and Matt Clement.  The lone third period goal was scored with a minute left on a scramble by Shawn Simms (Matthew Cowley, Connor Roth), but it wasn’t enough as the Rockets closed out the first half of the season with a loss.

As General Manager of the club I would like to congratulate the guys on our team for a good 6-game run and first half of the season.  It’s unfortunate that it had to end on Sunday, but the reality is Clarence has been playing some good hockey lately.  All we can do as an organization is focus on the positives moving into 2018:

• 14 – 6 record is the best start in Rockets franchise history;
• Despite some player movement, out of 18 players, over 50 percent of the team continues to be local, 11 guys from the area will remain with the team and its final roster, as well as 6 local affiliates;
• We’ve had some welcomed additions in Connor Roth, Ryan Carbonette, Matthew Cowley, Griffen Mccaffery, Nick Sourges, Tom Fingler and Jace Legue;
• We’ve had great leadership from our captains in Bryden Vankessel, Brad Stitt, Shawn Simms and Landon Veenstra;
• Strong goaltending in Jason Buma;
• We are as deep a team as I’ve been a part of in 8 years of junior hockey in Mckay Balaton, Tanner Barnett, Justin Lefebvre, Jack van Kessel, Brodie Barkley, Tyson Sherrer, Chris Marchand, Shayne Lynott and the affiliates we have used, Ben Medynski, Curtis Barkley, Travis Mcginnis, Justin Shay and Kage Hallet;
• Bryden van Kessel is leading the league in scoring with with 47 pts;
• Connor Roth opened his first 10 games with our team recording 31 pts;
• Tom Fingler and Brodie Barkley have been tremendous local additions to our team;
• Justin Lefebvre is definitely in the running for rookie of the year honors with 16 goals and 10 assists through 19 games;
• This team is a phenomenal group of young men that I am proud to have representing North Dundas;

The list of positives is actually much longer; but these are a few that come to mind for myself.

On December 29th, 2017, I would like to remind you all that the North Dundas Rockets are hosting a junior team from Meyrin Switzerland — rumoured to be sponsored by Winchester Foodland courtesy of Store Manager Dan Pettigrew — in an exhibition game at the Chesterville arena.  Puck Drops at 7:30 p.m. while we would invite as many to the rink as possible to cheer on the Rockets and give the Swiss team a small town Canadian feel for just how important junior hockey is to our communities.

The Rockets would also like to thank all of the fans who have been coming out to support us on Saturday nights and our sponsors who have really stepped up to the plate this year and shown incredible support.

Finally, on a personal note, I would like to thank Rockets President Kevin Byers and Vice-President Kent Young for giving myself and the staff the opportunity to be a part of a great organization, and would also like to extend season’s greetings to everyone in the community, hoping for a safe and Merry Christmas, take the time to enjoy your loved ones over the holidays.

See you at the Rink!

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