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Rocket Hang On, Launch Past Comets

LAVAL, QC The Laval Rocket traveled from Texas to New York to take on the Utica Comets Wednesday night. The Rocket built upon the success of their last game to hand the Comets a rare loss at home.  

The Utica Comets have been a thorn in the side of the Laval Rocket all season long. The Rocket have now won their last two games against the Comets, but Comet goaltender Nico Daws has been a puzzle that the Rocket have been unable to solve reliably in the three games leading up to the meeting Wednesday night. They also had Joe Gambardella and Chase De Leo to contend with – both guys really like to slip pucks past Laval’s netminders.  

THE GAME 

Both teams carried essentially the same energy into the first period, with the Comets only just edging out the Rocket. Utica took the first lead of the game late in the first period thanks to a goal from Reilly Walsh that found its way behind Kevin Poulin. They extended that lead to two goals thanks to Alexander Holtz, who also assisted on Walsh’s goal. However, the Rocket refused to be counted out of the game, and in the waning minutes of the second period, Danick Martel got the Rocket on the board and started the eventual comeback. The Rocket kept pressing and pushing the game’s pace with their physical play and never let up on the gas pedal. In the third period, Laval added three more goals to the scoreboard – Rafael Harvey-Pinard capitalized on a power play in the middle of the period, and Alex Belzile netted himself two, including the empty-net insurance goal.  

The Rocket stuck to the game plan that has brought them the most success over the season: frustrating their opponents. Strong, physical play from the visitors got under the skin of the Comets and forced them to play with their emotions. Unfortunately, that gave the Rocket the upper hand and let them close out the game with a notch in their win column. Nowhere was the physical play more on display that when Rocket defenseman Gianni Fairbrother laid a massive open-ice hit to knock an attacking Comet off the puck. The Comets responded with an enormous hit of their own 30 seconds later, but all that served to do was energize the Rocket. Laval may have been out-skilled, but they refused to be outworked.  

Thanks to the adjustments the Rocket made between periods to build off what was working, the triple-threat of Daws, De Leo, and Gambardella was neutralized, and the Rocket have some momentum to carry into their next game against the Comets on Friday.  

UP NEXT 

The Comets host the Rocket for a rematch at 7 pm on Friday. Look for the Comets to try and exact some revenge for the game tonight. Utica rarely drops a game in their barn; they must defend home ice and re-establish dominance against visiting teams. One last thing to keep an eye on is that animosity between these two teams makes for exciting hockey and has all the makings of a budding rivalry.  

The Rocket will continue their weekend Saturday at 7 pm when they face off against the Belleville Senators. They haven’t met up since November, but the Senators are by far the most frustrating for the Rocket of all their regular opponents. Both teams spent the entirety of the 2020-21 season together in the Canadian Division – they’ve seen more than enough of one another in the past two years. The games between them are always a toss-up. This season, Belleville has the upper hand, winning four out of the six games where they’ve faced one another. Belleville has its own batch of players – Jake Lucchini, Egor Sokolov, Andrew Agozzino – who sit atop the team points leaders and love to score on the Rocket. The Senators could also choose to deploy goaltender Mads Sogaard against the Rocket. Much like with Daws, Laval tends to have a tough time getting anything past Sogaard, while the team in front of him has no issue running up the score in their favor.  

QUICK STATS 

Here’s the quick breakdown of some notable stats from the Laval Rocket: 

  • Record: 17-12-2-0 (4th in the North Division, 15th in the league) 
  • Points leader: Jesse Ylonen (18 points) 
  • Goals leader: Jean-Sebastien Dea (11 G) 
  • Goaltending leader: Louis-Philip Guindon (1.63 GAA, .946 SV%) 

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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