Michael McCarron had four assists and Victor Mete scored his first professional goal, but it wasn’t enough as the Laval Rocket fell to the Utica Comets 5-4 at Place Bell on Saturday afternoon.
Not even 24 hours after letting a late lead slip away in an overtime loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Laval Rocket were back on the ice once again. Their opponent, North Division rival Utica, was a familiar one, the two teams having played multiple times in the previous month.
Charlie Lindgren got the start once again after a strong showing against the Phantoms, while Richard Bachman started for the Comets. Outside of Adam Plant sitting in favour of Ryan Culkin, the lineup remained the same after a solid effort the night before. It was also a special day, as it was the annual Teddy Bear Toss game, giving fans a chance to take part in one of hockey’s most fun traditions.
It was not the kind of start the Rocket were looking for after last night, as a continuing discipline problem cropped up once again. An early penalty by Lukas Vejdemo put the Rocket on the penalty kill just two minutes into the game, and after killing that penalty off, Michael Pezzetta put them down a man with an interference penalty. This time the Comets capitalized, with Tanner Kero potting the goal, and continuing to be a massive nuisance for the Rocket this year.
Timely goaltending by both Lindgren and Bachman kept it a one-goal game as the period wound down. Another Rocket penalty, this time by Daniel Audette gave Utica a power play with 1:45 left in the opening period, and a chance to further their lead. Laval dispatched the Utica man advantage as the first period came to an end, heading to the locker room trailing by a goal.
After finishing off the abbreviated power play to start the second period, the Rocket found ignition. It was Alex Belzile who sent the teddy bears flying at Place Bell with his third goal of the year, with Michael McCarron registering the first of his four assists on the play.
Alex Belzile makes it rain teddy bears with his third goal of the year, what a set up pass by Michael McCarron. pic.twitter.com/rs9txly5eu— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 2, 2018
Laval’s lead would only last about seven minutes as their penalty kill and lack of discipline led to a second power-play goal for the Comets. With Pezzetta sitting for boarding, Utica struck again with Darren Archibald tallying his fifth goal of the year to put his team on top.
It was then the Rocket’s turn to coming roaring back not long after that, with Ryan Culkin notching his first goal of the year. McCarron circled the net, then threw a backhand pass into the slot, Byron Froese fanned his shot, but Culkin jumped on the puck and flicked it past Bachman to tie the game.
Michael McCarron works around the net, and gets the puck to the front where Ryan Culkin scores his first of the year. pic.twitter.com/s9TNxHaxmX— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 2, 2018
A shot off the post just over a minute later nearly gave the Rocket the lead, but it skittered just wide of the net, and left the score tied. The Comets added another goal with 35 seconds left in the period, as Zack MacEwen tallied his 10th of the year, once again sending Laval to the locker room trailing by a goal, but on a power play to start the third period
Much like the second period, the Rocket grabbed an early goal. Hunter Shinkaruk finally broke his goal drought with his second of the season. Belzile fed the puck to McCarron in the slot, and the behemoth forward let a laser of a shot fly, but it was Shinkaruk who got a stick on it to direct it into the net.
Hunter Shinkaruk re-directs a wicked shot by Michael McCarron for his second goal of the year, and McCarron's third assist of the game. pic.twitter.com/BxL6LWBR9o— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 2, 2018
Then, just like the night before, poor discipline at a bad time struck again, with Nikita Jevpalovs being given four minutes for high-sticking. It took Evan McEneny a little over a minute to score the third Utica power-play goal of the afternoon. As the Rocket attempted to kill off the rest of Jevpalovs’ double minor, the Comets got another goal, this time from Brendan Gaunce.
Fitting with the back-and-forth theme of the game, Laval battled back after Gaunce’s goal. Again it was McCarron making things happen, and this time it was him grabbing another primary assist, by setting up Victor Mete’s first professional goal.
A great move to the net by Alexandre Alain forced Bachman into a sprawling save, and the puck bounced off of McCarron’s skate as well. Victor Mete jumped in from his spot on the blue line, and fired the puck home for his first goal of his professional career, pulling his team within a goal late.
Victor Mete gets his first professional goal, he crashes the net from the point and fires the puck over Bachman, McCarron gets his fourth helper of the day.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 2, 2018
Congrats @vmete98! pic.twitter.com/Mv7MPpxpgo
Despite trading chances, the Rocket could not find another goal in the final minutes, and dropped their second straight game this weekend.
The Rocket now have a week off before they head down the 401 to Belleville and Toronto for a pair of games next Friday and Saturday. The team offence is beginning to click into place, now it’s time for their special teams to follow suit. A pair of divisional games is a great way to start a new winning streak.
1. Richard Bachman (29 Saves, Win)
2. Michael McCarron (4 Assists)
3. Reid Boucher (1 Assist)