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Americans Blast Past Rocket in Overtime Thriller

LAVAL, QC – Saturday afternoon, the Laval Rocket and Rochester Americans faced off in a rematch of Friday night’s tilt. Like Friday’s game, Saturday’s meeting favored the visiting Americans.

FIRST PERIOD  

On the heels of a Rochester victory the night before, the Rocket took the ice at home, looking to bounce back with a victory of their own. From the get-go, both teams dropped in ready to play. The Rocket camped out in the Americans’ zone early on and cycled the puck, but Rochester’s defense was up to the task and fought them back to the neutral zone. For the better part of the first five minutes, the puck bounced between both blue lines in the neutral zone, with both teams trading giveaways. The Rocket got back into the offensive zone and laid on the pressure. After spending so much time fighting for possession in no man’s land, the Rocket turned their efforts toward holding the ice in front of Americans netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Play up to this point had been – to the untrained eye – organized chaos.

The Rocket camped out in the Americans’ zone and tested Luukkonen until the visiting Americans recovered the puck and did the same at the other end. Back in the Rocket’s territory, John-Jason Peterka took the best chance for Rochester in the game so far but was met by a sprawling Michael McNiven who made – quite possibly – the best save of the game. The Americans built on the energy boost Peterka’s breakaway gave them and set up their own camp in unfriendly waters.

Back in the neutral zone, Josh Teves and Louie Belpedio tangled up following a hit the latter took offense to. Both men sat for fighting, while Belpedio was assessed an extra two minutes for instigating. Rochester went to the power play and set to work on how to work around Laval’s disruptive penalty kill. Just shy of halfway through the power play, Oskari Laaksonen and Michael Mersch found Jack Quinn waiting. Quinn’s shot found its way past McNiven and gave the Americans a lead in the first half of the period.

After the power-play goal, Rochester showed much more jump and drive than they already had. Laval responded with more of their own pressure on the Americans’ defense. At 16:59, the Rocket got their chance with the man advantage when Lukas Craggs went off for cross-checking. The Rocket spent two minutes setting up great opportunities and cycling the puck well, but Luukkonen was up to the challenge. A couple of short-handed chances for Rochester in the other end closed out the first Rocket power play of the game.

The last minute of the period was a frantic scramble by both teams in their respective offensive zones. McNiven made another sprawling save on another fantastic look out front. The Rocket lined up to unleash one last onslaught in front of Luukkonen to no avail. As the horn sounded on the first, everyone but the goalies tangled up behind Luukkonen’s net. Jimmy Schuldt and Michael Pezzetta came out with penalties, and the Rocket went down the tunnel with a power play looming at the start of the second.

SECOND PERIOD  

With Pezzetta and Schuldt in the box for three counts of roughing between them, the Rocket took their second stab at scoring with an extra player. The penalty killers tightened up their zone clearing, and play returned to even strength without anything to show for the home team. From the onset of the period, it was clear that the officials would be letting the players play. The intensity from the first period also carried over into the second, and play was never interrupted to call a penalty.

The Rocket made Luukkonen work for his saves, and on the other end, the Americans did the same to McNiven. Eight-and-a-half minutes into the second, the Rocket find their way to the scoreboard thanks to Ryan PoehlingXavier Ouellet and Alex Belzile helped Poehling light the lamp on an odd play that knocked the net off after the puck crossed the goal line. It was ruled a goal on the ice, and the score was all tied up once again. At the 10:54 mark, Laval added another marker, this time by Jesse Ylonen from Terrance Amorosa and Jean-SebastienDea. Just about two minutes later, the Americans sneak one past McNiven to bring the score back to even thanks to Mersch with assists from Quinn and Ryan MacInnis.

The pace of the game didn’t let up from there. Strong forechecks on both sides were met with just as competent backchecks. Into the last minute of the frame, Laval ramped up the pressure on Rochester, sending them everything they had. The Americans were up to the task, and the buzzer sounded with the score all knotted up at two. But nobody – absolutely nobody – was prepared for the wild ride of the third.

THIRD PERIOD  

When the puck dropped for the third, both teams braced for more of the same fast, high-intensity hockey. What they got was pure mayhem.

One second shy of the two-minute mark, Lukas Vejdemo connected with Pezzetta, who tapped in the Rocket’s third goal of the night. Following that, both teams picked up even more steam. Laval pushed to extend the lead while Rochester looked for another equalizer. Five minutes and thirty-four seconds in, Linus Weissbach leveled the score once again directly off a faceoff to the left of McNiven. With the score tied at three, the Americans pushed a little harder than the Rocket and camped out in the offensive zone, peppering McNiven with some chances. Mason Jobst and Ethan Prow connected with Matej Pekar, who exploited a juicy rebound and lit the lamp for the first time this season with a wraparound goal to regain the lead.

Like in the second, the only whistles were the ones to signify offside play, icing, or goals. Players were allowed to play, and most of the period went on without a penalty being assessed to either side.

Dea crashed the net and made light contact with the goalie, but play went on, and the Americans continued to press the Rocket in their zone and make up the deficit on the shot clock. At 9:38, Rochester extended their lead to 5-3 when Peterka let off a shot that was stopped but not controlled by McNiven. Casey Fitzgerald picked up the rebound and fed Schuldt for a one-timer that beat the Rocket netminder cleanly. Not to be outdone, the Rocket set to work getting the game back, and their hard work paid off. At 14:18, Ryan Scarfo took an interference penalty that put the Rocket a man up. McNiven vacated his net in favor of an extra attacker and at 14:42, Ylonen – assisted by Laurent Dauphin and Poehling – capitalized on the power play, cutting the lead to one goal. Fifty seconds later, Dea found his way to the score sheet one more time with a goal. Belzile and Amorosa picked up the assists.

With five goals apiece, it was time to get down to business and finish the game on top. Goalies stayed in their nets for two minutes of cat and mouse that came to an end with the buzzer that ended regulation time. This one would have to be settled by playing some bonus hockey.

OVERTIME  

Rochester started with possession but got nothing going, and the Rocket were met with the same fate at the other end. Fewer players and more ice meant that there was less congestion to play around, but it didn’t change much else for the game. Nearly four minutes of overtime went by the same way as 60 minutes of regulation: one great chance in one direction matched by a goaltender waiting to rain on their opponent’s parade only for the same thing to happen at the other end.

The visitors got the last laugh, however. At 3:47, Peterka charged up the ice and pulled all four Laval players out of position. Bringing up the rear, Laaksonen snuck in and tapped the loose puck into the open net to notch the extra point.

Rochester won the game and the weekend series. Laval fell to a 4-3-1-0 record. The Rocket return to action in Syracuse on Saturday, November 6, at 7:00 pm.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2021 season!

    Deanna McFeron covers the Laval Rocket for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHRocket.

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