After a solid weekend against their rivals in the Syracuse Crunch the previous week, the Laval Rocket continued that strong play against the Toronto Marlies on Friday night with a 2-1 win. Toronto was ripe for the picking heading into the game, missing four of their regular defencemen.
Laval would come into this game without Charlie Lindgren who remains out with lower-body injury and Hayden Verbeek, who was ruled out with a concussion that he suffered against Belleville. Noah Juulsen would replace Victor Mete in the lineup after the two swapped spots.
Michael McNiven got the start for the Rocket, and opposing him would be Eamon McAdam for the Marlies.
Not even a minute in, the Marlies handed Laval a power play after Mason Marchment wiped out McNiven. While it gave the Rocket an early shot advantage, they couldn’t find the back of the net as the man advantage woes continued. Not long after the penalty was killed off, Lukas Vejdemo was sprung on a breakaway and nearly scored as the puck trickled off McAdam and sat right by the goal line before being cleared by the Marlies.
Alex Belzile would even up the penalties shortly after, taking an interference penalty of his own putting Laval’s penalty kill to an early test. A continually strong unit had no issues killing off the penalty, and did it while allowing just one shot on goal.
That would be the case for the period as a whole, with Laval limiting Toronto to just four shots on net through 20 minutes.
After a strong first period and opening few minutes of the second, it seemed that the Rocket were destined to get the game’s first goal. It was not meant to be however as former Rocket Stefan Leblanc let a wrist shot go from the point, and some deft hands by Colin Greening changed the path of the puck. It ended up past McNiven for a Marlies goal.
It wouldn’t take long for the Rocket to tie the game back up. The power play went back out on the ice and Xavier Ouellet uncorked a powerful shot from the blue line. Michael McCarron got his stick on it to angle it past McAdam. While the replays showed the shot being tipped well above the crossbar, the officials didn’t review the play further, signalling a good goal.
Xavier Ouellet lets a bomb go from the point, and Michael McCarron re-directs it home in front of the net. pic.twitter.com/Jp5bVktVLY— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 22, 2018
Toronto would take over the period from there, aided by a McCarron interference penalty. The Marlies power play helped swing the momentum back in their favour, they would pile up 14 shots in the period and put McNiven to the test but the young goalie stood tall.
The Rocket had plenty of chances to take the lead, including a Nikita Jevpalovs breakaway that the Latvian put just wide of the net.
In the third period, a Ouellet shot was knocked down before it got to the net, and caught McAdam way out of position. As he scrambled to cover his now vacated net, the Rocket put a few chances towards the net, but a Sam Jardine hooking call would give the Rocket another power play. It would be short lived, as a too many men on the ice call negated the man advantage after less than a minute.
In the ensuing four on four situation the Rocket would take the lead thanks to Cale Fleury’s second goal of the year. Byron Froese carried the puck deep into Toronto’s zone and he dropped a pass for Daniel Audette, who in turn fired a puck on McAdam. Crashing the net was Fleury who had jumped into the rush. He chipped the puck over the line for his second goal of the year, giving Laval their first lead of the game.
Cale Fleury crashes the net and gives the Rocket a 2-1 lead! pic.twitter.com/YqgSCSYCQe— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 22, 2018
The Rocket clamped down defensively from there, allowing the Marlies no space to operate in the offensive zone.
When the Marlies finally set up for long enough, McAdam made his dash for the bench with just over a minute remaining.
The game ended with a bit of controversy, with McNiven gloving a long shot from a Marlies player, and the officials allowed him to hold onto it. The final few seconds ticked off the clock to end the game. Chris Mueller and Mason Marchment were visibly upset on the ice as the Rocket celebrated, and Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe wasn’t any happier on the bench.
The two sides square off in a Saturday afternoon matinee at 1:00pm to finish the series. It is likely that Etienne Marcoux will take that start for the Rocket, and he’ll hope to keep his form going from his first career shutout last week.
1. Michael McNiven (26 Saves, Win)
2. Michael McCarron (1 Goal)
3. Byron Froese (2 Assists)