The Chatham Maroons' winless skid hit three games Sunday with a 5-4 loss to the Strathroy Rockets in double overtime.
One benefit to having a veteran team is its sense of calm when things go wrong.
Hitting a rough patch shouldn’t scare players who have been in junior hockey for four or five years.
The Chatham Maroons said they’re not worried after their winless skid reached three games Sunday with a 5-4 loss to the Strathroy Rockets in double overtime at Chatham Memorial Arena.
“We’re an older group and a couple of losses in a row aren’t going to affect us,” said Maroons forward Maddux Rychel, 20, who had two goals and one assist.
This is the Maroons’ longest winless streak of the season. The playoffs are only two weeks away, so it’s not a good time to be slumping, but the veterans know there’s enough time to turn things around.
“It’s almost the end of the year, but I wouldn’t say it’s time to hit the panic button yet,” said Maroons defenceman Matt Murray, 20. “We’ve just got to find our identity again. Just get that swagger back we had at the beginning of the year or halfway through the year. I think if we can do that, then I think we’ll be all right.”
The Maroons were rolling not too long ago. This three-game skid (0-1-1-1) was preceded by a three-game winning streak during which they scored 21 goals.
They’ve scored a total of eight goals in the past two games but earned only two points. They squandered third-period leads in each game against sub-.500 teams.
“A couple blown losses is not acceptable,” Rychel said. “As an older club, in our barn, too, it’s unacceptable. We’ve just got to be ready to play no matter who’s coming in. Whether it’s London, St. Thomas, it doesn’t matter who it is. We’ve just got to be ready to play at all times.”
Michael Wood of the Rockets scored 3:23 into the second overtime before a crowd of 775.
Rookie forward Lucas Fancy of Charing Cross scored twice for the Rockets, who erased three one-goal deficits.
The Maroons’ focus lately has been on their team defence.
“We try to take pride in our defence,” Murray said. “You play good defence, it creates good offence, right? I just think if we take care of our ‘D’ zone (and) just tighten things up, the offence will come.
“There’s a lot of skill and a lot of guys in the room that can contribute to that. I think if we just play the right way in the ‘D’ zone, hopefully we can keep the offence going.”
Maroons captain Dane Johnstone scored on a power play at 10:49 of the third period for a 4-4 tie.
Deni Goure had the Maroons’ other goal. He was called up from the Chatham-Kent Minor Midget ‘AAA’ Cyclones.
Maroons goalie Tristan Lewis made 30 saves. Joshua Diamond made 43 for the Rockets.
The Maroons (24-12-3-4) remain in third place in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Western Conference. They’re nine points behind the Leamington Flyers and six back of the London Nationals.
“We definitely want to finish strong and play the right way heading into the playoffs,” Murray said. “We’ve just got to stay consistent, get back to doing the little things and just play our game better. I think we got away from that lately.”
The Maroons led 1-0 after the first period on Goure’s second career junior ‘B’ goal.
Fancy replied 59 seconds into the second period, but Rychel restored the Maroons’ lead at 6:39.
Fancy scored again on a power play at 9:53 for a 2-2 tie. It was his first career two-goal game in junior ‘B’.
Fancy played in the preseason for the Maroons and was traded to the Rockets just before the season opener.
Rychel and Liam Israels traded goals early in the third period before TJ Harris gave the Rockets their first lead at 8:33 on a power play.
“We’ve just got to focus on defence more,” Rychel said. “Defence is good offence and eventually the puck will start going our way.”
Eddie Schulz, Jake O’Donnell and goalie Adam Harris were out of the Maroons’ lineup. There’s no timetable for their return, but assistant general manager Kevin Fisher expects each to be ready for the playoffs.
The Maroons have five games left in the regular season. They’ll visit the Sarnia Legionnaires on Thursday and St. Marys Lincolns on Friday before hosting the St. Thomas Stars at 7 p.m. Sunday.