LAVAL, QC – The Laval Rocket took on two different opponents this weekend – a rematch game against the Utica Comets and the first game against the Belleville Senators since November.
Friday: Utica 3, Laval 2 (OT)
The Rocket came into the game against the Comets on the tails of a win against them on Wednesday. The Comets and the Rocket battled hard and let a ton of animosity boil over as the contest wound down. Coming into Friday, Utica was looking to re-establish its dominance on home ice, while Laval needed to keep building on the momentum that it carried in from success in their previous tilts.
The Rocket seemed to dominate possession of the puck through the opening minutes of the first period. That changed quickly after the Comets settled into the pace and took over control. Late in the first period, A.J. Greer found the back of the net twice to get Utica on the board and take a two-goal lead into the intermission. The second period was little more than a bunch of back-and-forth, trading possession, and punches. At nearly the 14-minute mark, Tory Dello got the Rocket on the board, and they looked to build some momentum off that. Shortly afterward, Gabriel Bourque laid a big, borderline hit on Comets captain Ryan Schmelzer and had to answer to Kevin Bahl for it. Both men sat for two for fighting.
The Rocket capped off the second period with a brief power play that rolled into the third. The Comets killed off that penalty, and play returned to 5-on-5, where the see-sawing continued. The Rocket continued pressing for the equalizer and found it courtesy of Corey Schueneman. Play became increasingly physical as the period wore on, but the pace became more staccato than the previous two periods. The increase in play stoppage didn’t deter either team as they bore down and pressed to gain an advantage over the other. One last Rocket power play in regulation came without success, and both sides settled into trading possession and offensive zone time.
Schueneman’s goal went unanswered, and this game headed into a short overtime period. Alexander Holtz only needed 21 seconds to call the game in extra time, but after the buzzer sounded, the tension between these opponents erupted into chaos.
The following penalties were assessed:
- Brandon Baddock
- Game Misconduct – fighting other than during periods of the game
- Gianni Fairbrother
- Game Misconduct
- Danick Martel
- Game Misconduct – secondary altercation
- Joe Gambardella
- Game Misconduct
- Game Misconduct – secondary altercation
- Patrick McGrath
- Bench Game Misconduct – Coach (Utica)
The Rocket battled back through constant pressure by the Comets and earned a point in the standings against a division rival. They then hit the road to return to Canada and take on the dreaded Belleville Senators – a team that has had no problem dismantling their systems and steamrolling them on the way to victory all season long.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 5, 2022
Saturday: Belleville 6, Laval 1
The Rocket and the Senators last met up in November, when Laval visited CAA Arena, and Belleville handed them a 7-3 loss. The Rocket have struggled against the Senators all year and came in on the heels of a heated loss to Utica. Both teams were on the tail ends of back-to-back sets – the Senators dropped their game against the Crunch at home on Friday, while the Rocket were still on the road and traveled to Belleville to close out the weekend.
Rocket goaltender Kevin Poulin got the night off in favor of Louis-Philip Guindon after his outstanding showing in Utica just the night before. The Rocket were also without forward Jean-Sebastien Dea for the evening. The Senators set the pace and tone for the entirety of the game in the match’s opening minutes when Rourke Chartier netted his first goal of the night. The Rocket were undeterred by the early goal against and looked to get on the board themselves. After two lengthy pauses to fix an errant stanchion, the Senators took complete control of the game through the first and kept the Rocket from setting up any dangerous chances. Laval got its first crack at the man advantage in the dying seconds of the period. They couldn’t take advantage of it before time expired, but they headed down the tunnel down by one with time still left on the power play.
The Senators kept the pressure and pace up in the second period. They shifted to a disruptive game that left the Rocket disjointed and struggling to piece together enough cohesion to regroup. The Senators were buzzing. Chartier extended the lead and gave his team another boost of energy. The Rocket, on the other hand, were still struggling to find their team game. The Senators had total control of the game – even when the Rocket were on the power play, they drove the play and maintained possession of the puck. Belleville was outworking Laval, and it was yielding results. Chartier added a third point on the night with an assist on a goal from Egor Sokolov that gave the home team a comfortable cushion.
In the third period, the Rocket had more jump in their game, but it didn’t do too much to help them out of the hole they had already started digging for themselves. Laval played with discipline and kept being rewarded with power plays, but even those were not the blessing they should have been.
Logan Shaw added a fourth goal to Belleville’s total – a shorthanded goal. The stars kept trying to align for the Rocket, though. They were given a four-minute power play that turned into an extended 5-on-3. Jesse Ylonen took advantage of the extra space on the ice and got the Rocket on the board halfway through the period. The Senators kept the Rocket from cutting into their lead for the remainder of the two penalties. The Rocket managed to carry some momentum from the successful man advantage, but their hosts refused to let them build on it. In the game’s closing minutes, the Rocket were assessed their own double minor, and the Senators made easy work of their own four-minute advantage. Twice. Jake Lucchini and Mark Kastelic hammered in the final nails in the Rocket’s coffin.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 6, 2022
Where The Wheels Fell Off
The Rocket were in the game with the Comets. They skated with them, and neither team had the edge over the other. Tensions ran high, and passions erupted into a post-game kerfuffle, but it was an even matchup. In the game against the Senators, it was precisely the opposite. The Senators bulldozed right over the Rocket and never let go of the reins. That’s a recurring theme in games between Laval and Belleville this season – the Senators know exactly how to counter-attack and dismantle the Rocket.
The fact that the Rocket are missing so many key members of their lineup is also not helping. Dea being out of the lineup against Belleville was another major blow to an already depleted Laval squad that’s relying on an ECHL goaltending tandem. In addition to both of their netminders, the Rocket are still missing Laurent Dauphin, Ryan Poehling, and Michael Pezzetta while they’re up reinforcing the ranks of the Montreal Canadiens. While they’re not likely to get their players back from the Habs anytime soon, Dea’s return to the lineup can’t come soon enough. The Rocket sorely missed his sharp playmaking at both even strength and on the power play.
The Rocket have also been on the road since January 28 and traveled between the games on Friday and Saturday.
The Rocket finally return home later this week to Place Bell to host the Syracuse Crunch for a three-game set. They don’t have very long, but they need to reset and regroup between now and then. The keys to beating Syracuse are in their ability to stick to their game plan while focusing on the issues that keep cropping up – discipline, team play, adaptability, motivation, and moving on quickly from losses.
The game schedule for the Syracuse set is as follows:
- Wednesday, February 9 at 7:30 pm EST
- Friday, February 11 at 7 pm EST
- Saturday, February 12 at 3 pm EST
Here’s the quick breakdown of some notable stats from the Laval Rocket:
- Record: 17-13-3-0 (4th in the North Division, 16th in the league)
- Points Leader: Jesse Ylonen (19)
- Goals Leader: Jean-Sebastien Dea (11)
- Goaltending Leader: Kevin Poulin (3.05 GAA, 0.905 SV%)
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