OTTAWA, ON – The Laval Rocket were back in action Wednesday following two postponed games traveling to take on the Belleville Senators. The Rocket prevailed, 5-4.
The Rocket resumed play after having two games against the Toronto Marlies postponed due to the American Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol. Rocket fans got a dose of good news Wednesday afternoon when Laval Head Coach Joel Bouchard announced that four forwards were set to return to the lineup – Jesse Ylönen, Lukas Vejdemo, Alex Belzile, and Jan Myšák.
Fans have sorely missed Ylönen and Vejdemo, and their absence has, likewise, been felt on the scoreboard. Belzile’s consistency and veteran presence was also missing from the Rocket lineup, and Myšák’s development resumed with him drawing back into the lineup.
Coming into the match, the Rocket held a strong lead in the Canadian Division, sitting atop the AHL standings. The Senators had only won two games against the Rocket all season and held the fourth spot in the division, 20th in the league.
Both teams came out of the gate ready to play – Belleville took control of the game early on in the first, hemming Laval into their zone. The early dominance by the Senators gave them a quick lead. Jack Dougherty and Cole Cassels set up a chance off the boards, and Mark Kastelic’s wrister found its way past Laval netminder Michael McNiven.
Laval pushed back, however. They were given the first power play of the evening when Lassi Thomson was sent to the box for a hooking minor. The home team killed the penalty, but the shaky start from the visitors all but vanished as they built momentum to carry with them as they returned to even strength. The Rocket tied it up on Tobie Paquette-Bisson’s first AHL goal. Assisted by Belzile and Laurent Dauphin, Paquette-Bisson let loose a lazy wrister that made its way past Filip Gustavsson. Shortly after the tying goal, Joël Teasdale accepted a feed from Joseph Blandisi off a faceoff. Teasdale fired the puck from the hash marks and found the back of the net to give the Rocket their first lead of the night.
Jonathan Aspirot gave the Rocket another chance at the power play on a tripping minor, but the penalty killers came up on top. Laval found their footing after not playing hockey for a week and dominated the Senators for the remainder of the period. Belleville, for their part, skated with the league leaders to close out the period and held them to a one-goal lead as the horn sounded to send the two squads down the tunnels.
Laval took a one-goal lead into the intermission and outshot Belleville 11-4.
Les 11 jours d'inactivité n'ont pas trop dérangé le Rocket. Laval mène 2-1 contre Belleville après une période. Les tirs sont 11-4 Laval.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) April 21, 2021
Back for the sandwich stanza, both teams test their respective opposing goalies early. The Rocket extended their lead about a minute into the second off a last-minute tip from Vejdemo, who redirected a chance from Belzile and Corey Schueneman. The Senators spent the rest of the period looking for an opportunity to get back into the game and find an equalizer.
Their first chance came when Laval was assessed a bench minor for too many men – served by Myšák. The power play was cut short when Parker Kelly sat for two on a slashing call, making it 4-on-4 for 37 seconds. The Rocket took their chance on a shortened power play, but the penalty killers came up victorious.
Belleville got its best chance of the period when Michael Pezzetta was given a high-sticking minor and, halfway through that penalty, Gustav Olofsson took a hooking minor. The Senators failed to capitalize on the two-man advantage and the subsequent one-man advantage on the remaining penalty to Olofsson. The Senators gave their foes one more stab at playing a man up when Kelly took his second penalty of the game on a faceoff violation. It started 4-on-4, but the penalty expired on the Rocket before they could score one last time in the second.
Avec 29 tirs en deux périodes et une avance de deux buts, on ne se plaindra pas!
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) April 22, 2021
Zach Magwood put the Senators a man down in the opening minutes of the third. The Rocket had nothing doing on the power play but extended their lead on a bar-in snapshot from Ryan Poehling – with an assist from Paquette-Bisson. Just over a minute later, Vejdemo buried his second on a smart play by Belzile to intercept the puck as it was being passed up the ice from behind the home net.
As the period went on, Laval’s discipline dropped off, and they handed Belleville everything they needed to close the gap on the scoreboard.
Yannick Veilleux was assessed two for unsportsmanlike conduct – Angus Crookshank, with helpers from Egor Sokolov and Logan Brown, took advantage of that. Jacob Leguerrier sat for boarding and, while that penalty was being served, Vejdemo took a minor for tripping. Cole Reinhardt – assisted by Thomson and Kastelic – scored on the 5-on-3. Gustavsson skated to the bench for the extra attacker for the rest of the power play, and Kelly buried a feed from Reinhardt and Thomson to bring Belleville within one.
The Rocket staved off the comeback as the game drew to a close and improved their record on the series against the Senators to 6-2-0-0.
À leur premier match en près d'un mois, Lukas Vejdemo (2 buts) et Alex Belzile (3 passes) ont brillé dans une autre victoire du Rocket.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) April 22, 2021
The Rocket and the Senators square off again on Friday, April 23 (5 pm EDT) at the Canadian Tire Centre.
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