After a hard fought loss against the Springfield Thunderbirds on Friday, the Rocket took the ice at Place Bell for a rematch with the same team on Saturday afternoon. The result was another disappointing one: A 4-2 loss, and a weekend sweep for Springfield.
The lineup remained nearly the same, with the only major swaps being the return of Daniel Audette for Hayden Verbeek, and the injured Gustav Olofsson being replaced by Michal Moravčik. Michael McNiven was given the net as the starter for the Rocket. Opposing him would be Chris Driedger for the Thunderbirds.
Penalty issues arose early in the game once again for the Rocket as they looked to jump out to an early lead like they had done in the previous game. Michael Chaput would be sent to the box for holding the stick, and with one of their best penalty killers in the box the Rocket would surrender the first goal. Anthony Greco continued his haunting of Laval with a power play marker, converting a Jayce Hawryluk rebound into the opening tally of the game.
It would be a closely contested period following the opening goal, with the Rocket pushing the pace of play at even strength like they have done all season, but they could not find their own opening goal. Another penalty, this time to David Sklenička would force them back to the penalty kill, which was successful this time.
Looking to provide his team with a spark late in the period, Maxim Lamarche threw down his gloves in a spirited bout with Sebastian Repo, and came away with what looked like a solid win for the Rocket defender.
AHL highlights thread for those interested— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 21, 2018
First up Maxim Lamarche lands some solid blows to get the decision over Sebastian Repo. pic.twitter.com/HdaLHvbEix
The fight must have worked a little bit, because in the final minute of the period Kenny Agostino collected a puck in his own end, and proceeded to score a highlight reel goal for the Rocket to tie the game on the power play.
Weaving his way in and out of Springfield players, and splitting a check in the offensive zone, the AHL veteran sniped what is arguably a goal of the year candidate to knot the game at one late in the first period.
Similar problems to Friday night reared their heads once again in the second period, with the Rocket owning the flow of play, but surrendering an early goal in the period. Jacob MacDonald let a wrist shot fly from the blue line, and despite it hitting McNiven it found a hole and slowly trickled into the net as the netminder desperately dove to try and prevent it from crossing the line.
Trailing by a goal the Rocket turned the offensive jets on, firing 14 second period shots at Driedger, but were unable to find another goal in the period. Neither side could find another goal on their power plays in the middle frame as well, and they would head into the final period with Springfield leading by one goal.
Trailing by a goal the Rocket needed a big start to the final period, and they’d start by peppering Driedger with shots, but again couldn’t find their tying goal. With just shy of six minutes left they gave up the first goal of the period once again, this time to Repo who completed his Gordie Howe hat trick with his first of the year.
Laval would continue to push Springfield while searching for more goals, in fact the Thunderbirds managed all of just five shots in the final period, while the Rocket fired 17 shots of their own. Unfortunately for the Rocket their breakthrough would come too late in the game.
With the net empty it would be Agostino who tallied his second goal of the game. Alex Belzile dished the puck to Brett Kulak at the point, and Kulak would in turn feed the puck to Agostino who blistered one to the back of the net to cut the deficit to one goal.
Agostino again, this time with the net empty for his third goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/8VEOr9XyqY— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 21, 2018
The Rocket continued to push for another goal with McNiven on the bench, but Driedger continued to keep them from tying it up in the dying minutes. With five seconds left on the clock Joel Lowry would add an empty net goal to make it 4-2 for Springfield, and finish off the weekend sweep.
Laval won’t have long to linger on this loss as they’ll head to Toronto on Tuesday for a showdown with the Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies before heading to Rochester for a Saturday night clash in the Flower City.
- Only one player on the Rocket failed to register one of the 40 shots on net tonight, and that was Brett Lernout, the offence is piling up shots, they just need a bit of finish.
- The Rocket also held the Thunderbirds to just 16 shots on net. That’s astounding and something that’s becoming a trend for them this year. A revamped defence and penalty kill is paying tremendous dividends even if the results aren’t great so far.
- The Marlies and Amerks next week are a major test for this team. Both have high powered offences that will test the goaltenders and defence of this Laval club.
- Chris Driedger (38 Saves, Win)
- Sebastian Repo (1 Goal, 1 Assist, Gordie Howe hat trick)
- Kenny Agostino (2 Goals)