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Laval Rocket weekend highlights & recap: Comeback in Providence, tripped up in Hartford

A win and loss started the season for Laval, but much like their NHL club this isn’t last year’s team

Club de hockey Canadien inc.

Laval Rocket 3, Providence Bruins 2

Many times last season, the Laval Rocket would have a third period lead only to see it evaporate into a loss. Perhaps there was no result more fitting to start the Joël Bouchard era than erasing a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 regulation win.

Brett Kulak scored with 35 seconds remaining in the third period to complete the comeback with a one-timer from the left circle to beat Bruins goaltender Dan Vladar.

It was a dominant performance by the Rocket, even though the scoreline wasn’t in their favour until the game’s final minute.

Scoring chances were created in the first period by Alexandre Grenier, and Michael Chaput while Lukas Vejdemo had a very good North American professional debut as well, but Vladar was up to the task.

On the other end of the ice, Charlie Lindgren was very good, and Adam Plant blocked two great Providence chances as well.

Early in the second period, Michael McCarron had a innocent check on a Bruin that aptly-named Austin Fyten had an issue with. The two then had a fight as Fyten challenged McCarron.

After the teams traded penalties, the Bruins opened the scoring when Mark McNeill tipped a Cameron Hughes point shot past Lindgren.

They doubled their lead just 21 seconds into the third period when Jeremy Lauzon’s point shot tipped off a Rocket defender into the net past Lindgren.

The comeback started when Michael Chaput, who had nine shots on his own, blasted one past Vladar less than four minutes into the period.

Six minutes later, a great shift from the line of Michael McCarron, Byron Froese, and Hunter Shinkaruk used a bunch of zone time to tie the game up. Froese put home a rebound from an initial McCarron shot.

It was a just result for the game, as Laval outshot the Bruins 34-20 through the game and 27-15 in the final 40 minutes. It was really a total team effort from Laval as all four lines had some chances, but especially the top three lines centred by Chaput, McCarron, and Vejdemo. Jake Evans was the other centre.

Three Stars

1. Brett Kulak, LAV (1 Goal)
2. Mark McNeill, PRO (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
3. Byron Froese, LAV (1 Goal, 1 Assist)

Laval Rocket 1, Hartford Wolf Pack 3

After the previous night’s victory in Providence, Joël Bouchard opted for just one change to his lineup against Hartford. Drawing in was rookie Cale Fleury making his professional debut, replacing the veteran Maxim Lamarche on the second pair with Brett Kulak. Charlie Lindgren once again got the start in net, and for the Wolf Pack former Canadiens netminder Dustin Tokarski was between the pipes.

The Rocket shot right out of the gate from the opening puck drop, forcing Hartford to defend in their own end for large chunks of the opening period. This was aided by a pair of Laval power plays, but through the opening 10+ minutes, the Rocket had surrendered just one shot on goal to the Wolf Pack. Even a Wolf Pack power play did little to trouble the Rocket.

After killing off the penalty Laval would counter attack well and Alexandre Grenier would find the back of the net for his first of the year. Cale Fleury would get the only assist on the play as well, making it his first career professional point.

What followed was an abysmal stretch for Laval, in particular Charlie Lindgren as the team surrendered three goals in under two minutes to Hartford. Michael Lindqvist, Ville Meskanen, and John Gilmour potted three in a row to send Laval to the intermission looking for a second straight comeback.

Trailing by two goals, the Rocket needed to get the flow of play heading in their direction once again, but through the opening half of the second period they had just one shot on goal. Penalties by Michael Chaput and Brett Lernout put the Rocket shorthanded for parts of the period, but the new look penalty kill did well to keep pucks out of the net and the deficit at two.

Chaput had a fantastic chance to cut the Wolf Pack lead down by a goal, he collected a pass and looked to slam it home short-side. Dustin Tokarski would throw his body across the crease and deny the Rocket what looked like a surefire goal. Tempers ran hot as the period came to an end with Michael McCarron and Lias Andersson attempting to fight one another before being quickly separated by the officials.

It was an uneven final period for the Rocket. When they kept the play at even strength they dominated play and piled up the shots on Tokarski. The problem is that they didn’t play at even strength for long stretches in the third period, taking three minor penalties that broke up the rhythm that the team was trying to create.

Credit has to be paid to Tokarski in net for Hartford, every dangerous chance in the final period was swallowed up or turned aside by the veteran goalie. Hunter Shinkaruk, Kenny Agostino and Lukas Vejdemo all had prime chances, but couldn’t quite get the puck past the Hartford goalie.

Bouchard opted to be aggressive late in the contest, pulling Charlie Lindgren with well over three minutes remaining on the clock. The Rocket pushed heavily for any sort of breakthrough, but even with a 6-on-4 in the final minute they couldn’t solve Tokarski.

The Rocket will now head back to Laval for a two-game series against the Binghamton Devils, which will also serve as the home opener for the team. It is expected that the newly-acquired Gustav Olofsson will join the team in full for that series.

Three Stars

1. Dustin Tokarski, HFD (Win, 20 saves)
2. Ville Meskanen, HFD (1 Goal)
3. Michael Lindqvist, HFD (1 Goal)