On the heels of a dominant 5-2 victory Wednesday night against the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Laval Rocket kicked off a two-game series with the Springfield Thunderbirds. Friday night’s contest would feature a few lineup changes, with Cale Fleury stepping back in and Hayden Verbeek suiting up for his professional debut on a line with Lukas Vejdemo and Alexandre Grenier. The two rookies took the places of Michal Moravčík and Daniel Audette, respectively, with both needing to improve a bit, in the words of head coach Joël Bouchard.
Between the pipes for the Rocket was Charlie Lindgren who was looking to improve on another solid showing, while Samuel Montembault tried to hold down the fort for Springfield.
It didn’t take long for the Rocket to find the back of the net; under 90 seconds, in fact. Michael McCarron took a feed from Alexandre Alain and broke into the offensive zone. He then pulled back and uncorked a wicked wrist shot that Montembault barely saw before it got behind him.
Michael McCarron absolutely snipes one on Samuel Montembault to put the Rocket up 1-0! pic.twitter.com/dD50NU2uFu— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 19, 2018
The two teams exchanged power plays in the following minutes. In spite of this, the Rocket held the Thunderbirds to just one shot on net through the opening parts of the period.
Then it was Laval’s relentless playing style that forced Springfield into back-to-back penalties, giving the Rocket a chance to put up a big cushion early in the game. They had plenty of good looks too, especially from the sticks of McCarron and Brett Kulak, but were stymied by Montembault, the only Springfield player awake through the opening period.
A Hunter Shinkaruk tripping penalty sent the Rocket back to the penalty kill, and while they gave up no real scoring chances they still took a fairly big loss during it. Gustav Olofsson went down to block an Anthony Greco shot, and took the full brunt of it on his knee. He managed to stay on and finish out the penalty kill, but then headed to the locker room.
Gustav Olofsson went to the locker room after blocking this shot late in the first period. pic.twitter.com/07MtZxS2el— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 20, 2018
Neither team threatened heavily for the rest of the period, but Laval went to the locker room feeling good up 1-0, with a 14-4 shot advantage after 20 minutes.
While it was the Rocket who jumped into the lead quickly in the first period, the Thunderbirds scored the early goal in the second. Kulak flubbed a breakout attempt from his goal line, and it ended up on the stick of Jacob Horton, who made no mistake in burying it behind Lindgren.
Another Shinkaruk penalty put the Rocket down a man afterward, but as has been the case all season, the Laval penalty-killers stifled any and all scoring chances by Springfield. Then with Shinkaruk coming out of the box the Rocket created their own three-on-one rush, forcing Jayce Hawryluk into taking a penalty of his own.
The power play finally broke through on the ensuing man advantage, thanks in part to McCarron’s dominant presence around the goalmouth. Maxim Lamarche chipped a pass to McCarron behind the Springfield net, and the 6’6’’ forward used his body to drive around the crease and neatly tuck the puck past Montembault for his second goal of the game.
Michael McCarron strikes again!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 20, 2018
The big man takes a Maxim Lamarche pass and drives the net, tucking home his second goal of the night pic.twitter.com/aC5sNIRa88
A holding call on Julian Melchiori sent the Rocket to another power play, but this time with a much worse result, as Jonathan Ang tallied a short-handed goal to tie the game at 2-2 late in the second period. The Rocket, despite dominating play up until this point, were actually quite lucky to leave the period with the lead. Lindgren had to come up big with a pair of massive saves in the final minute to keep the game knotted at two.
It was another quick goal to start the third period, as Blaine Byron tucked in a loose puck to give Springfield a surprising one-goal lead in the final period. A Kenny Agostino tripping call did not help matters as Laval looked to tie the game back up, but first had to handle a power play of a suddenly rejuvenated Springfield team.
The visitors added another goal to their lead just before the midway point of the period, with Anthony Greco streaking in on a breakaway and blowing a puck past Lindgren to double the Thunderbirds’ lead.
The Rocket answered almost immediately, however, with some slick passing from Agostino setting up Alex Belzile’s first goal in a Rocket sweater, making it a 4-3 game.
Alex Belzile gets his first in a Rocket uniform, and gets Laval within a goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 20, 2018
Agostino and Fleury with the assists. pic.twitter.com/lXZlJjE6UA
That would be the end of the Rocket’s offence on the night. They eventually pulled Lindgren for the extra attacker, but a flurry of chances around the net couldn’t find their way past Montembault. An empty-net goal by Paul Thompson sealed the comeback win for Springfield, despite Laval’s heavy shot dominance in the game.
The two teams will square off again on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 PM at Place Bell.
- Jonathan Ang (1 goal, 1 assist)
- Michael McCarron (2 goals)
- Samuel Montembault (Win, 30 saves)