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Laval Rocket vs. Marlies recap: Rocket fall in OT as Cale Fleury continues to impress

Young defenceman scores his first professional goal in Toronto.

Toronto Marlies / Thomas Skrlj

The Laval Rocket played a rare Tuesday night game against their division rival, and defending Calder Cup champion, Toronto Marlies. It was the first meeting between the two teams this season. Last season the Rocket would win the first meeting between the two teams, but the Marlies would go on to win the next 11 games as part of their dominant season in the American Hockey League.

Unfortunately the result was no different this time around, with the Marlies beating the Rocket in overtime to take the game by a score of 2-1. It was former Rocket player Adam Cracknell who scored the winner for the Marlies.

Cracknell is a handful of new faces on the Marlies who effortlessly replaced several veterans on the squad who graduated to the Maple Leafs or left to play in Europe.

The first period was a scoreless defensive affair, with Laval only achieving three shots on net all period, to the Marlies nine. Both sides played some very tight hockey, allowing very little chances to their opponents. Lukas Vejdemo had a chance early on from far, and Jordan Subban had the best chance for the Marlies receiving the puck as the trailing player on a zone entry and shooting the puck on net.

Soon after that the Marlies hit the crossbar, which was the closest anyone got. The fourth line of Hunter Shinkaruk, Jake Evans, and Byron Froese was sparsely used all period, but they were the first to manage some sustained pressure in the Marlies zone with relentless forechecking.

The second period saw a few more chances for the Marlies due to some penalty troubles for the Rocket, starting with a minor for a face off violation delay of game penalty which they killed successfully. As has been their trademark, they did so with a couple of shorthanded chances by Michael McCarron and Alex Belzile.

Joël Bouchard decided to mix his lines, and put his best elements together on two strong offensive lines: Kenny Agostino, Michael McCarron, and Byron Froese joined up to pose the biggest threat by the Rocket all game, followed by a strong shift by Alex Belzile, Michael Chaput, and Alexandre Grenier. The tide appeared to be turning in Laval’s favour when Alexandre Alain and Brett Lernout took consecutive penalties, giving the Marlies a two-man power play. The Rocket looked to be in trouble, but managed to kill it off. This gave Laval renewed energy, helping Vejdemo draw a penalty. The powerplay with five minutes left in the period was largely controlled by the Rocket who managed seven shots to end the period, practically matching their output for the entire game up to that point, ending it 18-15 in favour of the Marlies.

The Rocket started the third with renewed vigour and drew a penalty right off the hop which was fruitless. Colin Greening scored for the Marlies soon after on a lucky bounce that trickled past Charlie Lindgren. If the Rocket were hoping to quickly get one back they would have to wait as Alex Belzile was pulled off for unsportsmanlike conduct after losing his cool following a late hit into the boards after the whistle in the Rocket zone. Late into the third the Rocket actually managed to draw even on shots at 19-19, slowly clawing back all game.

With just under four minutes left in the game, Chaput won a face off in Marlies territory, and following a scramble sent the puck deflecting off of Belzile to a wide-open Cale Fleury in the goal mouth who buried the puck to tie the game at one. It was the rookie’s first pro goal. The score remained tied and overtime was needed. Shots after three were 23-20 for Laval.

It was the first overtime period between the two clubs since November 14th, 2015 (back when the Canadiens farm team was the St. John’s IceCaps). The Rocket came close to quickly walking away with a win when Chaput broke in alone, but was stopped by Jeff Glass. The veteran wasn’t really tested all that much, stopping 24 of 25 shots, with few that could be called dangerous. Ultimately Cracknell buried his goal to give the game to the Marlies.

After the game, Cale Fleury talked to EOTP about his first professional goal.

“It was awesome. We had a set play, and everyone did their job,” he said. “It’s obviously nice to get that first goal out of the way, but I wasn’t really thinking about it, I knew it would come eventually if I played the right way.”

Fleury is happy with his progress at the professional level.

“It’s been good,” he said. “Every day I try to learn as much as I can from the coaches and the older guys, the vets. I try to take in as much as I can from them and make it easier for me to play in the league.”

Ultimately he knew where he wanted to play this season, but that nothing would be handed to him. He went through development, rookie, NHL, and finally AHL camp before getting the contract.

“I knew i had to earn it, going into camp,” he said. “Personally I didn’t want to go back to junior, I knew I would develop more here. But I had to work hard to earn that contract.”

Fleury is progressing well and fitting into Bouchard’s defensive system. His next goal is to start producing more on the opposite side of the ice where is production has already been good. His four points put him just behind Brett Kulak among Rocket defenders.

“I want to build more offensively,” he said. “We have a real good team in the offensive zone. We get a lot of time and we get a lot of shots on goal. I feel I can work on my timing there and get some more shots.”

Notes and thoughts:

  • Etienne Marcoux and Michael Pezzetta were loaned to ECHL clubs prior to the team hitting the road. Marcoux was loaned to the Indy Fuel who subsequently traded his ECHL rights to the Brampton Beast, while Pezzetta joined the Maine Mariners, becoming the fourth Rocket player on that team.
  • Hayden Verbeek and Maxim Lamarche were the scratches for the Rocket. Gustav Olofsson is injured, and Jeremiah Addison did not travel with the team. According to Raphael Doucet of 91.9 Sports he is not injured but has not appeared in a game this season.
  • Michael McCarron was heavily used in every situation, especially important face offs, and looked good once again, using his size and strength to establish position in front of the net. He also used his improved stride to capture pucks along the boards.
  • Charlie Lindgren wasn’t tested too much, making 20 saves on 22 shots. The Rocket continue to play a very solid defensive game, allowing less than 25 shots yet again. They have not allowed more than 23 shots in a game this year.
  • Most noticeable players on the ice: Brett Lernout, Chaput, Agostino, McCarron, Fleury
  • Least noticeable players on the ice: Nikita Jevpalovs, Alain, Evans, David Sklenicka