Saturday afternoon starts can be a little tough for some players. But the Laval Rocket made sure to make life easier for their starting goaltender Etienne Marcoux in their most recent tilt.
Laval scored four goals, while Marcoux made just 12 saves in a 4-0 shutout win over the Syracuse Crunch at Place Bell. It was the second of back-to-back contests against their fellow North Division opponents. Alex Belzile, Byron Froese, Nikita Jevpalovs, and Brett Lernout were the goal-scorers for Laval in the victory.
Marcoux’s 12-save performance came in his first appearance for Laval since a 7-2 blowout loss to the Belleville Senators nearly 10 days earlier. The netminder allowed four goals on eight shots in that game.
“It was a tough start, tough game for the whole team,” Marcoux said. “I wanted to get back on the ice as quick as possible, just [to] forget that one and give a chance to the team to win.”
“That one wasn’t his fault,” Rocket captain Byron Froese said. “He had a good start and we kind of let him down. For our team to respond like that for him, I think that’s huge.”
Following a shootout loss to the Crunch Friday night, the Rocket rebounded to capture three out of a possible four points during their weekend split. Adding to their list of positives, the Rocket were a perfect seven-for-seven against Syracuse on the penalty kill throughout the weekend.
“It starts with our D cutting guys off before they can even get in the zone,” Froese said. “I don’t think they really entered the zone with the puck that much.”
“It’s the best game of the year for me,” Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said post-game. “It was total buy-in from everyone; the players all bought in to our plan,”
The game also marked the return of David Sklenicka and Cale Fleury to the lineup. Sklenicka was a scratch for the last two games, but picked up an assist Saturday. Fleury, meanwhile, had been sidelined since mid-November due to injury. The youngster had one shot on goal and was +1 in his return.
“The biggest thing for me was just trying to get my stamina back,” Fleury said. “It’s the toughest thing to do when you miss a month like that.”
In the opening period, Laval scored twice on the Crunch. Forward Phélix Martineau’s forecheck kept the puck in the offensive zone for Laval. Once defenceman Victor Mete got the puck, he found a wide-open Alex Belzile, who then wired home a one-timer past Crunch goalie Connor Ingram.
Victor Mete with the perfect cross-ice pass and Alex Belzile one-times his fifth goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/hAtmEtOzQZ— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 15, 2018
“It was an unbelievable pass,” Belzile said. “I know he’s a really nice disher. Every time I know he’s on the ice, I try to be in an open spot.”
Froese scored the second goal for Laval, his 10th of the year, coming from behind the net. The net was slightly up, but not off its moorings, resulting in a good goal for the Rocket. Michael McCarron also picked up an assist, his fourth point in four games.
Michael McCarron battles against multiple Crunch defenders, feeds the puck to Byron Froese for the captain's 10th of the year. pic.twitter.com/kVu3gJ8CE0— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 15, 2018
The Rocket and Crunch didn’t score in the second, but Laval continued to control the contest with their play. Through 40 minutes, the visitors had seven shots on net.
In the third period, Laval added an insurance marker from Nikita Jevpalovs. Sklenicka, who drew back into the lineup with an injury to Simon Després, fired a shot on goal and Jevpalovs was there for the rebound.
David Sklenicka with the shot, and Nikita Jevpalovs is all over the rebound for his sixth goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/fSV9xQ1Veu— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 15, 2018
In the game’s waning moments, the Crunch were given the man advantage, and gave themselves an extra attacker to mount a comeback. However, defenceman Brett Lernout iced the game with a long empty-netter.
Brett Lernout with the shorthanded, empty net goal for his first of the year.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 16, 2018
His coaches are just as excited as he is! pic.twitter.com/1m1WuzIMdY
Laval returns to action Dec. 21 where they will host the Toronto Marlies at Place Bell in back-to-back contests.
- Alex Belzile, 1G, GWG
- Nikita Jevpalovs, 1G, +2
- Etienne Marcoux, 11 saves, SO, W