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Laval vs. Belleville recap & highlights: Karl Alzner scores in winning debut

There’s no place like home to snap a losing streak.

Club de Hockey Canadiens

Mired in a five-game losing streak, the Laval Rocket returned home to Place Bell after dropping a pair of closely contested games in Charlotte against the Checkers.

Standing in front of them were the Belleville Senators, one of the teams leading Laval in the AHL’s North Division. Luckily for the Rocket, rookie sensation Drake Batherson is still on recall with the Ottawa Senators, leaving their offence to be driven by Jack Rodewald (15 points) and Rudolfs Balcers (13 points).

Of course, three of Laval’s top-five scorers are still with the Canadiens, so going into this game Joël Bouchard was looking for more production from his veteran players like Alexandre Grenier, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Michael McCarron. Rookie Jake Evans has 14 points in 21 games, and went from the fourth line to top line in less than a month. Lukas Vejdemo also has quietly been productive while playing heavier defensive minutes for Bouchard.

Also joining the Rocket lineup would be Karl Alzner, who cleared waivers on Tuesday, and was on the ice for the morning optional skate. In net Charlie Lindgren took the starting role, facing Filip Gustavsson.

It was a cagey start on the offensive side of the puck for both sides, taking almost six minutes for either side to register a shot on net. In fact, the only real action through the opening minutes was McCarron and Patrick Sieloff getting into a shoving contest after a hard hit along the boards.

Eventually Laval tilted the ice further in their direction, and with the shots flowing in their favour the Rocket also fiund the opening goal of the game. A heavy slapshot by McCarron created a huge rebound, and Karl Alzner jumped in from his spot at the point and rocketed a shot by Gustavsson for his first goal in a Rocket uniform.

His eventful first period would continue as well, with Francois Beauchemin sending him hard into the end boards. McCarron didn’t take too kindly to the hit, and jumped all over the Senators forward, roughing him up, then sitting for two minutes.

After killing off all but six seconds of the penaly, the Rocket surrendered the tying goal, thanks to a big shot from Logan Brown in front of Lindgren.

That was the last of the offence for the period, and Laval headed into intermission leading in shots, 6-4.

The second period got off to an uneven start as well, with the Rocket having to kill off a Ryan Culkin tripping penalty, and then the Senators going short-handed due to a Logan Brown elbowing call. Both sides were up to the task, with both penalties being killed without much issue for either goalie.

The play eventually shifted to 4-on-4 as Erik Burgdoerfer and Alex Belzile got into a wrestling match of their own, each player took a seat for roughing following the incident. The Senators came close to taking the lead, with a pass finding Filip Chlapik who fired his chance high over the net.

The chippy play continued. A Ryan Sproul high stick drew the wrath of the Senators, which in turn led to Paul Carey obliterating Evans from behind for no reason on the same play.

Just after the penalties expired the Rocket finally cashed in on their strong play in the offensive zone. Evans forced Sieloff into a turnover, and Daniel Audette grabbed the puck, but tripped, falling to his stomach. From there, Audette fed a perfect pass into the slot, and Byron Froese put the puck into the back of he net for his seventh goal of the year.

After a great reactionary save by Lindgren on Balcers, the Senators took back-to-back penalties, giving the Rocket a massive 5-on-3 opportunity and a chance to put some breathing room between themselves and the Senators. A few good looks did not yield any goals for Laval, but they still maintained their lead heading into the second intermission, despite a few nervous moments late in their own zone.

A Brett Lernout tripping penalty started the third period for the Rocket, but the aggressive penalty kill managed to generate more chances on the Senators'net, than the Belleville side had at on Lindgren's. As the Senators looked to find a tying goal, the Rocket defence was more than content to keep them to the outside, and keep shots in the low-danger areas on the ice.

Even another power play for the Senators couldn’t create any real chances for them, as Lindgren held his net well, and the Laval penalty-killers again stifled any attempts to set up in the Rocket zone.

Another scrum involving Belzile would again send the teams to 4-on-4 hockey, as Christian Wolanin drew the ire of the Rocket’s leading scorer after the whistle.

The steadfast Rocket defence held out for the rest of the game, snuffing out every Belleville attempt to generate shots in the offensive zone. Even an extra attacker couldn’t help the Senators break down the Rocket defence, and the final horn sounded with a Rocket victory on the board.

The Rocket now have a pair of back-to-back games looming this weekend with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday night, and the Utica Comets coming into Place Bell on Saturday.

Three Stars

1. Karl Alzner (1 Goal)

2. Charlie Lindgren (20 Saves, Win)

3. Lukas Vejdemo (2 Shots)