SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Laval Rocket struck back in a big way in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals, dealing the Springfield Thunderbirds their first loss in nearly two months and the first of these Calder Cup Playoffs by a 4-2 count at MassMutual Center. The decision sends the series north of the border to Laval even at one game apiece, where the Rocket have the opportunity to play the next three games in front of their home crowd. Cayden Primeau earned the win with a 33-save performance, while Charlie Lindgren suffered the loss with 22 stops.
If there was any momentum gained by a dramatic game one win in overtime a day prior, it was squelched early as Laval scored just over five minutes into the first period with Brandon Gignac‘s fourth goal of the postseason. Jesse Ylonen made the first of several key plays on this night, staying with the puck beautifully to stay on-sides and finding Gignac for the goal. Ylonen, who was named the game’s first star for his efforts, would pot his third of the postseason minutes later when Matthew Peca would miss on a partial breakaway. Ylonen would take the puck the other way and whip a shot from the right faceoff circle past Lindgren to open the first multi-goal lead of the series in what proved to be a crucial goal in this game.
Springfield wouldn’t give up as they have not this playoff year and got right back into the game when Mackenzie MacEachern scored his fifth of playoffs by jamming a puck past Primeau at the side of the net to make it a one-goal game.
Brandon Gignac takes advantage of the space and uses the feed from Jesse Ylonen to give the Rocket the early lead in Game 2. #LAVvsSPR @FieldPassHockey pic.twitter.com/0uzfH8owMF
— Corey Swartz (@cswa11) June 5, 2022
The difference in this game, however, would be Laval keeping their foot on the gas pedal offensively. The Rocket would get a goal from Alex Belzile when he’d bury a pass from Danick Martel, then strike one more time before the period was up when Ylonen would make another great feed, this time onto the stick of Rafael Harvey-Pinard who struck to make it 4-1.
Springfield has demonstrated the ability to come back from unlikely deficits, once erasing a 4-1 deficit earlier in these playoffs against Wilkes-Barre and struck early in the third with Klim Kostin burying a feed from Hugh McGing to bring the Thunderbirds back to two goals. However, despite a 14-3 shot advantage in the third and a 35-26 advantage for the game, Primeau and the Rocket would make that lead stand up for a 4-2 decision in the game.
Jesse Ylonen continues to have a big game, setting up Rafael Harvey-Pinard for his first of the playoffs! #LAVvsSPR @FieldPassHockey pic.twitter.com/HDLdgKf7CN
— Corey Swartz (@cswa11) June 5, 2022
The series shifts to Laval for the next three games where the Thunderbirds will have to respond to losing for the first time in these Calder Cup Playoffs, an eventuality their group has been preparing for. Springfield has been going with a mantra of fighting adversity both in-game and in-between, but this will be their first test in playing after a loss at home. Springfield went with Lindgren in net a day after Joel Hofer earned the win, a decision that the coaching staff similarly did in a back-to-back during the Wilkes-Barre series. It will be interesting to see if the team goes back to Hofer in game three on Wednesday.
The Rocket, meanwhile, have only lost twice in the postseason but have bounced back to win the next game both times.
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