LAVAL, QC – The Laval Rocket hosted the Bridgeport Islanders and the Utica Comets on Friday and Saturday in a rematch of the previous week’s central New York tilts. The home team split the weekend with an overtime win and a regulation loss.
The Rocket entered Friday’s match on the heels of a shutout win against the Belleville Senators earlier in the week. Coming into the first half of a back-to-back situation, Laval was looking to string together some consistency and cohesion between Wednesday’s win and the game on Friday. They’ve struggled with their team play all season. Suiting up against Bridgeport was an excellent time to find themselves as a team – the last meeting between these two teams resulted in a shutout win for the Islanders. The Rocket also had their own lack of discipline with which to contend: they came into the game as the second-most penalized team in the American Hockey League.
The game against the Islanders was a high-scoring affair, complete with nail-biting back-and-forth action. Seven different skaters found the back of the net before the initial 60 minutes expired. Robin Salo, Arnaud Durandeau, Paul LaDue, and Chris Terry all lit the lamp for Bridgeport. Meanwhile, Danick Martel, Kevin Roy, and Xavier Ouellet netted their own tallies for the home team. Martel, for his part, notched two. The game was all knotted up at four apiece by the end of regulation, and it took overtime to decide a winner. Laurent Dauphin whipped home the go-ahead goal in extra time for the Rocket.
Outside of the goal-scoring frenzy that occurred on the ice at Place Bell, the game took on the feel of one whose participants have enjoyed a long-standing rivalry: there were bruising hits, shoving after the whistles, and palpable animosity between the players in white and the players in blue. The Islanders continued to exploit defensive lapses on the Rocket’s back end. This time, the Rocket responded by capitalizing on their chances by outworking the Islanders in the offensive zone. Despite the number of goals against, Jakub Skarek and Michael McNiven (the goalies for the Islanders and the Rocket, respectively) battled hard in the blue paint. They made incredible saves all night to keep the offensive onslaughts from both sides at bay.
The lack of discipline continued to be a thorn in the Rocket’s sides through three periods. Even though their opponents only capitalized on one power-play opportunity, the flow and rhythm of the Rocket’s game suffered due to being on the penalty kill so often. The penalties were evenly distributed at eight all, and the Rocket also only exploited the man advantage once. Still, for a team struggling to build and carry momentum, any short-handed play is detrimental.
Grosse victoire !
Big W!#GoRocket | @Miseojeu pic.twitter.com/PYSmlekLXX
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) November 13, 2021
Although the Rocket showed a marked improvement in their team play on Friday, the bigger test of the building cohesion and chemistry was facing a team that seemed to have no limitations on their success. After besting the visitors from Bridgeport, the Rocket stepped back out onto the ice Saturday afternoon to take on the undefeated Utica Comets. The last meeting between these two foes resulted in Utica’s 4-2 win that cemented their rolling momentum and extended the unbeaten streak to start the season.
Saturday’s game was a much more closely contested affair than the scoresheet would suggest. Cayden Primeau and Nico Daws got the starts for their respective teams, and the game was up for grabs through two-and-a-half periods. Ryan Schmelzer, Joe Gambardella (with two on the game), Graeme Clarke, and Marian Studenic (empty net) all tickled the twine for Utica. On the other side of the scoreboard in lavender Hockey Fights Cancer sweaters, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Cole Caufield, and Jesse Ylonen all registered their own goals. Caufield had spent most of his time with Laval this season frustrating fans eager to see him score his signature goals. On Saturday, he didn’t disappoint, banking an impossible-angle shot off of Daws’ name bar and into the back of the net.
Once again, discipline came back to bite the Rocket. The Comets didn’t score on the power play, but the constant defensive-zone penalties tilted the ice in Utica’s favor as the third period waned. The Rocket responded well to the pressure applied by the Comets, not relenting in the pressure of their own after the fourth and fifth goals were scored, but they didn’t have enough time to pull out a win. The Comets retreated to the locker room with yet another consecutive victory, remaining undefeated despite the Rocket’s best efforts.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) November 13, 2021
- Record: 5-5-1-2 (6th in the Atlantic Division, 19th in the league)
- Points leader: Otto Koivula (12)
- Goals leader: Chris Terry (6)
- Goaltending leader: Jakub Skarek (2.83 GAA, 0.910 SV%)
- Record: 9-0-0-0 (1st in the North Division, 1st in the league)
- Points leader: Chase De Leo (12)
- Goals leader: Joe Gambardella (6)
- Goaltending leader: Akira Schmid (1.31 GAA, 0.953 SV%)
- Record: 6-6-1-0 (5th in the North Division, 18th in the league)
- Points leader: Laurent Dauphin (12)
- Goals leader: Laurent Dauphin (8)
- Goaltending leader: Cayden Primeau (2.41 GAA, 0.916 SV%)
The Rocket seem to have found a way to battle through the adversity without losing the team game and the cohesion that makes them successful when they play to their strengths. They need to continue solidifying the chemistry throughout the team and tighten up on the discipline they play with — fun fact: the Rocket closed out this weekend as the most penalized team in the league.
The Rocket are back in action on Wednesday, November 17, at 7 pm Eastern as they take on the Toronto Marlies on the road.
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