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Senators Topple Rocket

Senators Topple Rocket

BELLEVILLE, ON – On Saturday, the Laval Rocket and Belleville Senators met up for the first of a three-game set against one another. It was another closely contested match between these two foes that wasn’t accurately reflected on the box score, with Belleville winning 5-2.   

First Period

The Senators’ Pontus Åberg took a boarding penalty 30 seconds into the frame to send the Rocket to the power play early. The best chance on that man advantage rang iron, and play returned to even strength without a change to the scoreboard. The game settled into the familiar back-and-forth that usually characterizes matchups between these two teams – see-sawing from zone to zone and disruptive backchecking on both ends. Senators forward Mark Kastelic (aided by Chris Wilkie and Cole Reinhardt) drew first blood at 07:23. The Rocket responded just over three minutes later with an equalizer from Lukas Vejdemo (from Corey Schueneman and Gabriel Bourque).  

At 11:44, Laurent Dauphin gave Belleville their first shot at the power play on a cross-checking minor. Laval’s penalty kill came out victorious, and with just under five minutes to go in the period, Dillon Heatherington took one more penalty and sent Laval to the power play. The penalty killers once again reigned supreme, and the teams headed back to the locker rooms all tied up at one. Both sides sustained the same amount of pressure in both ends throughout the frame, and momentum swung toward both ends of the ice in the first 20 minutes. With the chances that netminders Kevin Poulin (Laval) and Mads Sogaard (Belleville) stopped, both teams could have easily registered an extra goal apiece.  

Second Period

Both teams came out of the gate for the second ready to pick up exactly where they left off in the first. Three and a half minutes in, Reinhardt was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway. Poulin made the save, and play resumed as usual. As the game’s physicality picked up near the period’s halfway mark, so did the number of penalties. At 10:07, Cameron Hillis put the Rocket a man down for tripping. Off a faceoff, Kastelic fed the puck to Zac Leslie, who potted the first of three consecutive power-play goals to pull the Senators ahead. At the 12:23 mark, Jesse Ylönen made his way to the box for delay of game.

Nearly two minutes later, Max Guenette (from Egor Sokolov and Andrew Agozzino) capitalized on the man advantage and pushed the Senators to a two-goal lead. Shortly after regaining the lead, the Senators reversed the roles, and the Rocket took their turn a man up.  

At 15:20, Colby Williams went to hockey timeout for cross-checking, and the Rocket couldn’t find their footing on the ensuing power play. The Senators, however, found a way to force shorthanded opportunities — three of them. About a minute after Williams’ penalty expired, Roby Jarventie gave the Rocket power play another go on a boarding minor. This time, with about 30 seconds in the period, Dauphin finished a play from Jean-Sébastien Dea and Ylönen to cut the lead in half. At the same time, the Rocket drew another penalty. Heatherington skated off to the box again, this time for hooking. The period came to a close with a minute and a half left on the penalty clock, and the Rocket were starting the third with the momentum of Dauphin’s goal and one more skater on the ice.  

The second period highlighted the double-edged sword that has become Rocket and Senators games. Both teams are so similar, and so evenly matched all the time; there’s no telling which one of the teams has the natural advantage over the other.  

Third Period

Both teams took the ice for the final frame, with most of the late penalty to Heatherington still on the board. The Senators’ penalty kill kept the Rocket from repeating their success in the waning moments of the second. The game quickly returned to the back-and-forth, swaying momentum that permeated the first 40 minutes. Neither team had the clear edge over the other, play zipped between the two goalies, and the players relied on big hits and disruptive play to keep their enemies at bay. Belleville’s Jacob Bernard-Docker sat out for cross-checking just past the halfway point, and the Rocket’s frustration at a re-energized Sogaard started to show in their play. The best chance on the power play rang iron, and the Senators got back into the offensive zone with yet another shorthanded look.  

The Rocket tried to find their footing once more and reapply that pressure that created so many chances for the forecheck across the first two periods, but their plans were foiled every time by a buzzing Sogaard. The Senators’ backstop seemed hellbent on keeping the Rocket from earning even a single point in the standings. With around two minutes left to play, Poulin started the familiar glances to the bench. He vacated his crease for an extra attacker when he got the word, and the home team struck gold. Not once, but twice. At 18:19, Heatherington shot the puck into the empty net from behind his own goal line. That didn’t stop Rocket Head Coach Jean-François Houle from signaling him back to the bench a second time in hopes of sending the game to overtime.

At 19:09, Matthew Wedman (from Scott Sabourin and Sogaard) cashed in on the unprotected net to seal the Rocket’s fate.  

Belleville took the match and the two points – one for every empty netter they buried. The box score doesn’t tell the whole story for a game that ended 5-2 in favor of the home team. Tilts between these two growing rivals are never predictable, and the outcomes are never apparent until the final buzzer sounds.  

The Rocket and the Senators are back in action Friday, Nov. 26 at 7 pm EST when the Rocket return to Place Bell and fight for retribution.  

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    Deanna McFeron covers the Laval Rocket for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHRocket.

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