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Rocket vs. Sound Tigers recap & highlights: Jake Evans scores late for Laval in a shootout loss

It was a closely contested affair right down to the end, but the Rocket fell in a shootout on Friday night.

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The Rocket had their three-game winning streak snapped on the road last weekend in Cleveland, but rebounded with an absolute walloping of the rival Toronto Marlies on Tuesday. With Charlie Lindgren between the pipes on Friday night, the Rocket looked to begin another run.

Opposing them were the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who owned a 9-5-2 record, placing them second in the Atlantic Division. Jeremy Smith got the start for the Sound Tigers, while the team in front of him would be missing Michael Dal Colle and Stephen Gionta, who were recalled to the New York Islanders.

It was a quiet first period, with a small flurry from Bridgeport testing Lindgren early in the opening minutes. Lindgren and Smith each turned away eight shots in the period as the two sides went through the motions in the opening 20 minutes.

Laval had the first chance on the power play when Sebastian Aho was called for tripping up Nikita Jevpalovs, but Ryan Sproul canceled out the man advantage in just 11 seconds with a holding penalty of his own. The Rocket had another chance late in the opening frame with Parker Wotherspoon whistled for clipping, but the power play couldn’t buy a goal despite some good chances.

Heading into the middle frame, the Rocket forced Smith into a number of saves in tight around the Bridgeport net, but the Sound Tigers’ goalie remained flawless on the scoresheet.

The physical play continued to build as well, with everyone from Brett Lernout to Daniel Audette getting involved along the boards with some solid body checks. It also led to Michal Moravcik getting caught a step behind the play, and taking a holding penalty in the process.

Lindgren starred on the ensuing penalty kill, shutting down a handful of chances from Chris Bourque and Devon Toews. With the penalty killed off, Hayden Verbeek’s hustle forced Mike Sislo into a tripping penalty, giving Laval another chance to break the deadlock on the power play. It was a short-lived man advantage once more, as Michael Chaput stuck out his leg to trip up Connor Jones after misfiring on a shot.

The Rocket penalty kill again was flawless, and with Chaput out of the box, Michael McCarron turned on the jets and led an odd-man rush into the Bridgeport zone. On his way back down the ice, he was challenged to a fight by Parker Wotherspoon, and McCarron happily obliged his challenge, picking up an easy victory in the bout.

A Travis St. Denis cross check on Brett Kulak sent Laval to their fourth power play, but again the man advantage struggled to create consistent pressure, or find the back of the net. The Rocket put themselves on the penalty kill with under a minute left in the period with Lernout tripping up St. Denis.

With the seconds ticking away, Byron Froese broke between the Sound Tigers defencemen and picked up a loose puck. Unfortunately for the Laval captain, the horn blew before he had the chance to get a shot away, sending both teams to the second intermission still scoreless.

Another easy kill started the third period. In fact, the Rocket managed to create more chances down a man all night than the Sound Tigers did. Just a few minutes later the Rocket went down a man for the fifth time in the game. Even with key penalty-killer Lukas Vejdemo sitting in the box, the Rocket again dispatched the Bridgeport power play with no difficulty, surrendering just one good look to Josh Ho-Sang.

Discipline continued to be an issue as the third period went on, Audette took a high-sticking penalty in the offensive zone, and while killing that penalty off Chaput was sent to the box from cross-checking Kieffer Bellows in the back. The following five-on-three finally exerted too much pressure on the Rocket, and it took 14 seconds to convert, with Toews firing a shot in off a rebound save by Lindgren.

The Rocket pushed, and pushed, then pushed a little bit more looking for an equalizing goal in the final period. Smith did his best to keep rebounds to a minimum and shut down the Rocket offence. Heading into the dying moments of the game it looked like he had a shutout all but locked up.

Then with 40 seconds left on the clock, emerging rookie Jake Evans, who played the hero just days ago, came to the rescue again. With Lindgren on the bench, Audette and Evans cycled the puck, and Audette fed it back to the rookie. Evans let his shot fly and it found its way past Smith to tie the game and eventually force overtime.

Overtime solved nothing, despite great chances from Maxim Lamarche and JHo-Sang, and the two sides headed to the shootout to finally find a winner.

Alex Belzile shot first for Laval and was turned away by Smith, while Chris Bourque was stopped by Lindgren at the other end. Nikita Jevpalovs put a half-dozen dekes into his attempt, but was stopped, while Otto Koivula lost control of the puck on his shot. Neither Evans nor Mitch Vande Sompel could solve the goalies, and Brett Kulak was stopped by a sprawling Smith. Bellows stepped up in the fourth round and wired a low shot by Lindgren, and collected the extra point for his side in a closely contested game.

Laval heads to Syracuse for a showdown with the Crunch today. Head coach Joël Bouchard had already announced that Michael McNiven would start regardless of last night’s outcome, so Lindgren gets to watch from the bench after another solid outing for his team.

Three Stars

1. Kieffer Bellows (Shootout-winning goal)
2. Charlie Lindgren (26 saves)
3. Jake Evans (1 Goal)