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Laval vs. Hartford recap: Daniel Audette is the overtime hero for the Rocket

The Rocket snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat on Sunday.

Club de hockey Canadien, Inc.

The second half of the Laval Rocket’s back-to-back weekend took them into Hartford, home of the Wolf Pack, on Sunday evening.

The previous night in Springfield the Rocket jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and looked to be coasting for an easy victory. Then between a combination of poor discipline, an official’s mistake, and stagnant five-on-five offence, the Rocket coughed up the lead, and fell 6-4 to the Thunderbirds.

Michael McNiven once again got the start between the pipes for Laval while both Charlie Lindgren and Zachary Fucale are on recall with the Montreal Canadiens.

It was a relatively innocuous start for both sides, and until Ryan Fogarty got a couple of chances, neither netminder was tested very much. McNiven turned away a shot, Fogarty clocked the rebound, and the rookie goalie managed to kick the pad out and turn away a prime scoring chance for the Wolf Pack.

After Yannick Veilleux and Eric Selleck settled a beef with their fists, the Rocket slowly began to take over the period. Kyle Baun continued his strong early season form, collecting the puck and firing it on Alexander Georgiev. The puck trickled behind the Hartford goalie, and in a spot of good luck for the Rocket, Brandon Crawley tried to help his goalie by covering the line behind him, and inadvertently directed the puck in for Baun’s second goal of the year.

A pair of Wolf Pack penalties strangled any chance the Hartford offence had of getting going after the opening goal. Despite not scoring on the man advantage, Laval piled on the shots, posting 15 in total in the opening 20 minutes, while Hartford managed just seven.

Heeding last night’s loss, the Rocket came out just as strong in the second period as they had in the first. Perhaps even more reassuring is that the Rocket were able to drive play on both the power play and at even strength in the opening 40 minutes.

Laval used their power play to not only tee up Chris Terry from his usual spot by the faceoff circle, but also to move the puck and create chances down low. Even without a goal, they took that momentum and used it to continually test Georgiev.

The penalty problem was kept mostly in check, with the Rocket surrendering just one power play to Hartford through two periods. McNiven stood tall for the penalty kill as well, coming up with a number of big stops, including a glove save around a Daniel Catenacci screen.

However, the Rocket’s goal-scoring luck would balance out late in the period, as Daniel Catenacci broke the shutout with around two minutes remaining in the frame. The Wolf Pack player threw a harmless backhand shot towards the front of the net, and it deflected off a Rocket player and past McNiven to tie the game at one goal apiece.

Despite the unlucky goal against, Laval continued to dominate on the shot clock, with 30 launched on target through two periods, compared to a paltry 14 for Hartford.

The third period was one of near disaster for the Rocket, who seemingly couldn’t get another puck past Georgiev. Each side had a lone power play as well in the final period, but keeping the theme of the game it would be the netminders who stole the show and kept the offences at bay.

The Rocket suffered a major setback with under two minutes remaining in the game. Brett Lernout failed to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and was forced to retreat into his own end. From there a loose puck fell to the stick of Vinni Lettieri, who twisted Eric Gelinas around before slotting the puck past McNiven and giving Hartford the lead.

As is the case with this Laval Rocket team, they are never truly out of the game, even with next to no time remaining in regulation. With McNiven on the bench, the Rocket forced the puck in deep in the Hartford zone, and it made its way to the suddenly hot Jakub Jerabek on the point. Jerabek then found Terry all alone by the edge of the circle, and the forward buried his eighth goal of the year with under a minute remaining.

The late goal gave the Rocket momentum going into overtime, as right from the outset they put pressure on the Wolf Pack skaters. Daniel Carr broke across the net and was stopped by Georgiev, but he picked up his own rebound and sent it back to Jerabek at the point. Jerabek found Daniel Audette, who closed in on the top of the circle and let a wrist shot fly. The puck beat the Hartford goalie low, and sent the Rocket home with the two points firmly in hand in what was a well-earned victory.

McNiven stopped 26 out of 28 shots for his first ever AHL victory, while Alexander Georgiev stopped 37 out of 40 for the Wolf Pack. Laval will return back home for a Wednesday night showdown with the Utica Comets at Place Bell, before welcoming the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday night.

Three Stars

  1. Daniel Audette (1G)
  2. Alexander Georgiev (37 Saves)
  3. Kyle Baun (1G)