Less than 24 hours after a thrilling win, the Laval Rocket took back to home ice against the Utica Comets. Clearly feeling the effects of playing an afternoon game after going to overtime the night before, they put forth a valiant comeback effort before collapsing in the third period.
The first period was largely controlled by the Comets, jumping out to an 8-1 lead on the shot counter after just half the period. Aided by a Danick Martel cross-checking penalty, they had a number of good scoring chances, but Cayden Primeau was equal to the task, giving them nothing easy.
Even after the Rocket killed off the Martel penalty, the ice remained tilted in Utica’s favour. With just over four minutes remaining in the period, Ryan Schmelzer redirected a Tyler Wotherspoon point shot, giving Primeau no chance to make a save and putting the Comets up 1-0.
That is how the period would end, but it could have been much worse if not for Primeau. Among his 12 saves, he robbed Nolan Foote on two consecutive scoring chances at the end of the period, allowing his team to enter the second down only one despite being outshot 13-5.
Unfortunately things didn’t get much better in the second period. After a somewhat scary moment where Primeau went down due to taking an accidental stick to the face, the Comets were able to hem the rocket in, and Joe Gambardella was able to bang in a loose puck in the slot to make it 2-0.
But the Rocket would get one back. After coincidental minors to Brandon Baddock and Fabian Zetterlund for hooking and diving respectively, some wide open four-on-four was in order. Jean-Sebastien Dea drove the slot and slammed home a Tory Dello dump that ricocheted right to him in front to make it 2-1.
And then, the kid everyone has had their eyes on in Laval made his mark on the game. Cole Caufield took a puck down below the goal line, and elected a very low percentage shot that only he could attempt. Banking it off the back of Nico Daws, even the refs didn’t believe he had scored until they checked the replay. Just like that, 2-2 and the Rocket had clawed back into a game they looked very out of.
It seemed as if the Rocket found a magical second wind in that frame, after looking quite listless for the first 30 minutes or so. And they kept on rolling with that newfound energy in the third. Starting the period with a power play, Jesse Ylonen unleashed an absolute cannon from the left faceoff circle to complete the comeback and take the lead.
All of a sudden, it was wave after wave of Rocket incursions into Comets territory. Gabriel Bourque would take an elbowing penalty to give the comets a break from the pressure, but when they got their scoring chances, Cayden Primeau stood tall.
But with just over eight minutes left, Corey Scheuneman threw a blind pass below his goal line towards the point, and Jeremy Groleau jumped on it. Gambardella would finish it off for his second of the night, tying the game at three apiece.
And with less than two minutes to play, Graeme Clarke was sent in on the right side by Frederik Gauthier. Primeau was able to make the initial save, but Clarke jarred the puck loose from his grasp and roofed the rebound to make it 4-3. The Comets would add an empty netter to complete a 5-3 win and thwart a valiant comeback effort by a tired Rocket squad.
- The Rocket skaters looked very much like a team that played the night before for the first 30 minutes. It was quite impressive to see them find their second wind and fight back into the game. I think the best thing for them to do is chalk this up as a schedule loss, as playing at 1pm the day after playing at 7pm is some pretty rough scheduling to say the least.
- Cayden Primeau looked great. He really gave his team a chance in this one, because it could have been out of hand after the first period. Even once the Rocket got their second wind, the Comets were still getting good chances, and Primeau made a number of excellent saves. Very strong effort, and he shouldn’t hang his head at all over the loss.
- Cole Caufield’s goal was something only a pure goal scorer can do. He fired a laser precise shot when he saw a slight weakness in Daws’ position in net, and he got exactly what he was looking for. I find it strange that they’re using him at the bumper spot on the power play, but he did draw an assist on the Ylonen goal, so maybe they’re just going with what works for the moment. Perhaps this is the opening of the flood gates for him, and if it is, perhaps this precipitates a return to the big club sooner than later.
- Speaking of players being called up to the Canadiens, Ylonen’s shot on the power play seems like a weapon they could use. I’m not sure if he’d be next in line for a call up before Caufield for example, but if he keeps scoring goals like that, he’s going to force the brass to take notice and move him up on the list.