LAVAL, QC – The Laval Rocket defeated the Abbotsford Canucks in their first meeting this season on Wednesday night. The Rocket played to their identity and benefitted from stellar goaltending from Cayden Primeau to propel them to a 4-2 victory, their fourth win of the year.
The Rocket went into Wednesday’s match, holding a 3-8-3-0 record. They’ve been struggling to find the identity that sent them to the Eastern Conference Final six-and-a-half months ago. The Rocket eked out a single win in the last five games ahead of their tilt against the Canucks. They took the ice on the heels of a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Hershey Bears on Sunday, November 13.
The Canucks have… also struggled so far this season. The Canucks dropped a close, one-goal match against the Henderson Silver Knights on Saturday, November 12. They held a 5-4-0-1 record, alternated wins and losses in their last five, and sat at 24th overall in the league standings heading into the game. They had yet to make their way to Place Bell this year but held the head-to-head edge against the Rocket in the four meetings they played in 2021-22.
LAVAL ROCKET HOCKEY
I have often said there is a difference between “Laval Rocket Hockey” and “L’Hockey du Rocket.” The former is chaotic, disjointed, unproductive hockey with glimpses of promise and dominance. The latter is an utter beat down of the men in opposite sweaters – the kind of hockey that burns out an opponent and breaks down whatever systems earned them success. The Rocket have struggled to balance organized, methodical chaos and full-out pandemonium this season.
Laval isn’t known for flashy skills or masterclass power-play performance. They’re known for their physicality, insistence on exerting their will, and aimlessly skating as it all crumbles around them. Wednesday night saw the return of the Rocket that can skate with – and outskate – any opponent. They started the game with possession and set an immediate tone for the night. Abbotsford registered the first shot of the game and sustained possession before the Rocket got anything set up, but Laval stepped up and played their game.
L’HOCKEY DU ROCKET
The first period went by pretty quickly for both sides – it wasn’t until closer to the halfway point of the frame that the first whistle sounded. Both sides hit the ground running, feeling-out process be damned. Steady, aggressive hockey on both sides was all the introduction the current editions of these squads needed. Through the first half of the first, the active forecheck of one side was met with suffocating backchecking from the other as the teams fluidly transitioned from one offensive zone to the other. At both ends, the goalies put on clinics in their respective creases – Primeau for the Rocket and Collin Delia for the Canucks.
The men between the pipes kept the flurries of shots at bay, and both got incredible support from the defenders in front of them. Delia was the first to concede as Anthony Richard claimed the league’s top-scorer title. Richard’s goal energized an already buzzing Rocket, but those who have followed the Rocket for any period of time know that the other edge of that sword is that they tend to view discipline as an optional trait. Less than a minute after Richard opened the scoring, Tory Dello received the first penalty and set the Rocket down their well-trodden road of carving out some dominance through heavy shorthanded minutes. Defenseman Corey Schueneman spent the first 15 minutes of the game playing some of the best hockey on his side, and as the Rocket picked up steam in the offensive zone, he lit the lamp for the second time this season to extend the lead.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) November 17, 2022
Late in the period, the penalty monster reared its head once again and put the Canucks a man up. This time, they capitalized on that opportunity and left their first mark on the scoreboard courtesy of Tristan Nielsen. The Rocket closed out the first period and started the second on a power play, but as it so often is, that power play added up to very little other than shots. Undeterred, the Rocket continued full steam ahead. The Canucks drew another penalty that the Rocket killed with some effort and – just past the expiration of that high-sticking minor– gave Laval a breakout where Rafaël Harvey-Pinard buried the only goal of the frame.
If ever there was a low-event, high-energy poster child, this second period was it. The Canucks played the Rocket’s game with them and matched speed, pace, and intensity. About the halfway point, the rhythm evened to gently rocking back and forth. Both sides sustained some possession time in the offensive zone once again and finally started aggravating one another enough that some extracurricular shoving made an appearance. The Canucks used that to build some momentum – Delia led the way, keeping the Rocket at bay, even on a power play.
Like Schueneman for the home team, former Rocket Noah Juulsen was everywhere on the ice for the visitors. His active defense and smart positioning made it easy work for the Canucks in their efforts to bite back against the surging Rocket. The Canucks’ hard work paid off, putting them back on a man advantage. They ended the period with a little bit of 5-on-3, rolling over into the third.
The Rocket went down two men in the second period and had to handle a double minor on top of the rollover. The extra effort the Rocket had to spend killing long penalty minutes took a toll on them, and the Canucks used that chance to keep them off the board on a power-play chance of their own. Laval forward Xavier Simoneau took an open-ice hit from Jett Woo and left for the dressing room for the rest of the game. Both teams kept the same pace until Joël Teasdale forced Woo to answer for his hit on Simoneau. The Rocket just had to wait out the clock, keep the Canucks from scoring, and not hand them any golden chances to pull back into the game… so of course, the Rocket took a late penalty in the offensive zone.
Abbotsford pulled Delia and tried to even things up 6-on-4. Richard threw the puck at the open net from the near circle and added a fourth goal to the Rocket’s tally on the night. Not long after that, Lane Pederson snuck a goal past Primeau on the short side to round out the score at 4-2 in favor of Laval. The two teams closed out the game the way they played the rest: high intensity, Canuks pushing back for a shot at getting the game under control.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) November 17, 2022
IDENTITY IS KEY
The Rocket played the entire game to their identity, with unfortunate penalties and all. Primeau held down the crease on his journey to prove that he is the No. 1 goaltender in Laval. That identity may help the Rocket turn their season around and regain some valuable positioning on the standings table. They will need to carry that momentum into Friday’s game against the Cleveland Monsters and use everything in their arsenal to keep finding themselves again.
The Monsters head to Laval on Friday, November 16, at 7 p.m. EST.
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