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Rocket vs. Phantoms recap & highlights: The woeful power play costs Laval another game

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Victor Mete gets one shot on goal, while Karl Alzner adds an assist, but Rocket can’t convert when it matters most.

Sorel native Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored the overtime winner 48 seconds in to give the Lehigh Valley Phantoms a 3-2 overtime victory over the Laval Rocket at Place Bell Friday night. Laval’s latest loss is their fifth in their last six games. Phantoms forward Phil Varone also scored twice for the visiting team.

The Rocket’s power-play struggles continued Friday night. The team hasn’t scored a goal on the man advantage in six games, going 0-for-24 in that span.

“There’s guys that know they should be scoring and they’re not,” Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said post-game. “I think it’s putting more pressure on everybody. I think it becomes a bit of the elephant in the room. I don’t use it. For me, I don’t need the power play to win a game. It’d be nice, and at one point it’s going to click.”

The game also served as the American Hockey League debut for defenceman Victor Mete, who was sent down by the Canadiens mid-week. Mete began the game skating alongside Brett Lernout, who served as the defence partner of Karl Alzner on Wednesday night in the veteran’s Rocket debut. Mete got some power play time, and also started both the game and the overtime period for Laval.

“We got to shoot the puck more,” Mete said. “We need to just shoot. Get more shots on net. They’re not going to score if we don’t shoot.”

Following a scoreless first period, the Rocket got their first of the night in the second period. Captain Byron Froese scored his eighth goal of the season shortly after his team killed off a penalty.

Minutes later, the Phantoms equalized thanks to a power-play goal from Varone. Laval’s Alex Belzile took a penalty for hooking, and the Phantoms’ goal-scorer tied the game 10 seconds afterward.

The penalty-filled period gave the Rocket ample opportunities to score, but they bore no fruit. The Rocket haven’t scored a power play goal since Nov. 17 in a 6-4 loss to the Syracuse Crunch. Defenceman Ryan Sproul, who was recently let go from his professional tryout, scored the last man-advantage marker for the Rocket in the game. Laval ended the game 0-for-7.

“I think 5-on-5 we were by far the better team,” Froese said. “When our power play has — how many chances? — especially 5-on-3s and 4-on-3s, we got to make sure we bury them.”

Michael Pezzetta made it 2-1 for the home team with his second goal of the season. The forward, while screening goaltender Carter Hart, tipped in a point shot from teammate Karl Alzner. Alzner now has two points in two games since joining the Rocket this week.

Lukas Vejdemo took a penalty with less than three minutes to play and the Rocket spent most of the final moments trying to kill it off. But it wasn’t meant to be. The Phantoms equalized again, this time with 55.2 seconds left, on a power-play goal from Varone. It was the forward’s second of the night.

The Phantoms and Rocket got chippy in the three-on-three overtime period. Moments before the overtime winner was scored, Phantoms defenceman T.J Brennan pushed Rocket goaltender Charlie Lindgren. The referees, however, decided to not award a penalty.

“Normally it’s a call,” Froese said. “But [in 3-on-3 overtime] I guess they didn’t want to call it.”

In overtime, Aube-Kubel needed less than a minute to score the winner. The forward sped past defenceman Maxim Lamarche before wiring home a shot past Lindgren for his fifth goal of the season.

Laval’s next game is Saturday against fellow division opponent Utica at Place Bell. The Rocket then get six days off before playing back-to-back road games against the Belleville Senators and the Toronto Marlies on December 7 and 8.

Three Stars

  1. Phil Varone (2G, GTG )
  2. Nicolas Aube-Kubel (1G, OT winner )
  3. Byron Froese (1G)