The Laval Rocket rolled into a snowy Rochester on Saturday night looking to keep their winning streak rolling. The Americans were fresh off a shutout victory over the Toronto Marlies the previous night; a win that shot them to the top of the Eastern Conference. The Rocket had previously defeated the Belleville Senators on Thursday and were looking to end the year on a high note with another North Division victory.
The game did not get off on the note the Rocket were looking for, as Michael McCarron got called for tripping less than five minutes in, sending a struggling Laval penalty kill onto the ice. Even with the penalty killed off, Rochester held the flow of play, hemming the Rocket in their own end and forcing Charlie Lindgren to stand on his head.
When the Rocket did finally gain the zone, it was the line of Chris Terry, Adam Cracknell, and Nikita Scherbak who did the damage. Scherbak fired a shot high off the glass and behind the net. With Terry being chased by Matt Tennyson, he picked out a streaking Cracknell with a pass. Cracknell made no mistake and slammed home his seventh goal of the year.
Nikita Scherbak shoots high off the glass, Chris Terry gets the loose puck to Adam Cracknell, who slams it home for his 7th goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/uuC1x16Oms— World Juniors Scort (@scottmatla) December 31, 2017
A late chance came to the duo of Terry and Scherbak again, as they snuck in behind the Amerks defence. With no one between them and goalie Adam Wilcox, Terry looked off Scherbak and fired a shot high and it caught just the tip of Wilcox’s glove.
From that point on there wasn’t much pressure from the Rocket, and they ended the open 20 minutes fortunate to be up by a goal.
The start of the second period held much of the same for Laval, as Rochester dominated the zone time, forcing Lindgren to battle for every save.
Despite struggling to create sustained offence, the Rocket once again broke through first in the second period. Kyle Baun took a pass from Markus Eisenschmid and danced his way through the Rochester defence. A rebound shot came out to Jordan Boucher, who shot the puck behind Wilcox and doubled the Rocket’s lead in spite of the shot disparity.
Kyle Baun with the slick moves, and Jordan Boucher pounces on a rebound to make it 2-0 Rocket. pic.twitter.com/OqQmwaTb5F— World Juniors Scort (@scottmatla) December 31, 2017
A late penalty against Antoine Waked sent the Amerks to the power play with under five minutes left in the period, and the potent man-advantage unit finally broke through. Seth Griffith picked out Zach Redmond low in the offensive zone. A perfect pass across the zone gave Redmond all the time in the world to pick his shot, and cut the Laval lead in half.
The Americans clearly held the momentum on their side entering the final period after scoring a late power-play goal in the second. Yet once more the Rocket struck first on a nice bit of interplay between Terry and Cracknell. Nikita Scherbak chipped the puck out of the defensive zone and Terry picked it out of the air, and in the same movement, slapped it across the ice to Cracknell. The duo broke in on Wilcox and with one perfectly threaded pass, Terry notched the game-winning goal; his 18th of the season.
What a play by Chris Terry and Adam Cracknell to make it a 3-1 Rocket lead! pic.twitter.com/RtLEobzJpf— World Juniors Scort (@scottmatla) December 31, 2017
With the game put out of reach by Terry’s goal, Rochester pulled Wilcox in favour of an extra attacker, and Cracknell repaid them in kind by notching an empty-net goal shortly after, giving him three points on the night.
Then things got hairy with the game in the books. Dalton Smith requested a fight with McCarron with about three minutes left to play. McCarron obliged, and was fed several punches to his head and body while he was down on the ice and officials were attempting to step in.
Dalton Smith continues to throw punches at McCarron who is in a vulnerable spot, in a 4-1 game with less than three minutes left.— World Juniors Scort (@scottmatla) December 31, 2017
Top stuff lads pic.twitter.com/BU2mBoj9hP
Out of the ensuing chaos, the Rocket went to the power play, giving up a short-handed break against, with Matt Taormina taking a penalty. On the same play C.J. Smith was taken down on his breakaway giving him a late penalty shot.
As he had done all night, Lindgren stopped the shot with ease, and preserved the lead. A late goal for Sahir Gill with the net empty made it a 4-2 game, but the Americans never really threatened to pull off the comeback.
Laval ended 2017 riding a three-game winning streak, all against North Division opponents, including a pair over the red-hot Amerks. The Rocket will be back in action on January 3 when they square off with the Toronto Marlies at Place Bell.
1. Charlie Lindgren (W, 36 saves)
2. Adam Cracknell (2G, 1A)
3. Chris Terry (1G, 2A)