LAVAL, QC — The Laval Rocket are set to host the Rochester Americans for their first meeting this season over the weekend. The Rocket last faced the Americans as they eliminated them from the playoffs last year. Ahead of the back-to-back, let’s glance at some numbers from both sides!
OUR STORY SO FAR — ROCKET
The first six games of the season have decidedly not gone the Rocket’s way. They’ve faced four teams- including three tilts against their dreaded rivals, the Belleville Senators- and only won a single game. Of their five losses, the Rocket finished with a one-goal deficit three times (once in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Senators). The solitary win was a shutout for goaltender Cayden Primeau against the Springfield Thunderbirds. Here, let’s take a look at the results from the season as a whole in numbers; they tend to make more sense than words do:
- Friday, October 14, BEL @ LAV — 6-5 OTL
- Saturday, October 15, LAV @ BEL — 6-3 L
- Wednesday, October 19, SPR @ LAV — 2-0 W
- Friday, October 21, LAV @ WBS — 2-1 L
- Saturday, October 22, LAV @ BRI — 5-2 L
- Wednesday, October 26, BEL @ LAV — 3-2 L
Clearly, the Senators still have the edge that they’ve enjoyed over the Rocket across the last two seasons. They’ve won all three games against the Rocket so far, with more looming on the horizon. As those in the know with modern slang would say, Belleville has Laval in a chokehold. With their pride on the line, the Rocket took the meeting against the Thunderbirds after falling to them in the Eastern Conference Final last year. Unfortunately for Rocket fans, that’s the only bright spot on the record so far.
The Rocket underwent significant changes in the offseason, and growing pains are a natural part of the adjustment to a new leadership team and roster, but where do they stand? Well, they’re sixth in the North Division and 26th in the league going into Friday’s match against the Americans.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S STATS!
- Goals For: 15 (19th in the league)
- Goals Against: 22 (31st in the league)
- Power Play: 17.4 percent (23rd in the league)
- Penalty Kill: 75 percent (17th in the league)
- Goals Leader: Gabriel Bourque (4)
- Assists Leader: Otto Leskinen (3)
- Points Leader: Gabriel Bourque (4)
- Goaltending Leader: Cayden Primeau (0.913 SV%)
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN — AMERICANS
The Americans aren’t struggling the way the Rocket are. They’ve won three of their first five games and haven’t been bested by Belleville yet. They’ve spent the opening chunk of the year playing against three divisional rivals and racking up some precious points in the standings. It’s not what you might call a landslide, but they have a winning record. Despite playing one fewer game and squaring off against one fewer team than the Rocket, Rochester has one advantage over their opponent this weekend: they’re building confidence. Let’s take a look at the Americans’ season so far; why don’t we:
- Friday, October 14, TOR @ ROC — 4-2 W
- Saturday, October 15, ROC @ TOR — 3-1 L
- Wednesday, October 19, BEL @ ROC — 4-3 OTW
- Friday, October 21, SYR @ ROC — 4-3 W
- Saturday, October 22, ROC @ SYR — 6-2 L
The Americans are doing well for themselves in the early stages of the season and look to continue building on that momentum into the set with the Rocket.
BUY ONE, GET STATS FREE
- Goals For: 15 (16th in the league)
- Goals Against: 17 (19th in the league)
- Power Play: 30.4 percent (4th in the league)
- Penalty Kill: 66.7 percent (31st in the league)
- Goals Leader: Linus Weissbach (3)
- Assists Leader: Sean Malone (3)
- Points Leader: Linus Weissbach (6)
- Goaltending Leader: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (0.892 SV%)
A LOOK AHEAD: THE WEEKEND SET
The Friday and Saturday set between the Rocket and Americans is the first time the Rocket and Americans clash this season. Like I said before, the last meeting between these two was when Laval swept Rochester out of the playoffs. The Rocket went on to the Eastern Conference Final and be eliminated by the Thunderbirds. The Americans went home. That’s not to say that there is bad blood between the two; there’s pride on the line, no matter which sweater you’re playing in.
Speaking of pride and last year, the once mighty Rocket have fallen a step or two from grace. Meanwhile, the Americans are enjoying some early success, and that is an excellent breeding ground for the most important quality a team can have in the American Hockey League — confidence. In match-ups where one team is struggling to find its footing, and the other is building on already rolling momentum, fans on both ends of the ice are always treated to outstanding hockey. This weekend shouldn’t be any different. There will be statements made from both teams as they defend their honor and look to solidify themselves as units as the final bits of rust wear off and the shiny, new 2022-23 editions of their squads come into focus.
That being said, both the Rocket and the Americans are still inside the ten-game checkpoint on the campaign. Translation: it’s still too early to hang any hats on results. You can, however, start keeping track of trends and get a sense of the trajectories the season might take. In this case, it’s the first meeting between these two teams and the third back-to-back set they’ve both played. Keep an eye on how they feel one another out and respond to game situations. Friday and Saturday are going to be very telling for both sides. What is the goalie match-up like? What, if any, lineup changes get made as a result of the first game? How do special teams perform? The four divisional points up for grabs are major for either side and padding your place in the standings early is an integral part of success. Still, the minutia of the game and building cohesion and confidence against a team you have a history with is just as important.
The Rocket take on the Americans Friday, October 28 (7 p.m. EDT) and Saturday, October 29 (3 p.m. EDT) at Place Bell. If you can’t watch it live, catch the games on AHLTV and stick around Field Pass Hockey for coverage!
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