In the first intermission of the Laval Rocket’s 2-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies on Saturday afternoon at Place Bell, the Rocket were already down 2-0 on the scoreboard and being outshot 12-2. Head coach Joël Bouchard was looking for a spark.
That spark was playing defenceman Xavier Ouellet at left wing on the team’s top line with Jake Evans and Byron Froese.
“It’s been a long time [since I played forward],” Ouellet said after the game. “Probably since I was 10 or 11 years old.”
What was Ouellet’s reaction to the coach’s decision?
“Where do I go?,” he laughed.
“I wanted to change the vibe a bit,” said Bouchard. “The game was weighing on the team. We had seven defencemen and I knew it was an option I knew I could go to at left wing.”
Ouellet actually played well on the line, creating some offence with two of the Rocket’s best forwards this season. Ouellet ended the game with four shots, Evans had three, and Froese had five representing 12 of the Rocket’s 19 shots in the game.
“They put me there to change things, to bring energy and that’s what I tried to do,” Ouellet said.
The Marlies and Rocket played their second game just 15 hours after the first one ended, which isn’t unusual in the AHL, but for a young Rocket team, it was apparent they struggled to find their legs.
“I think it’s harder for the younger guys,” said Froese. “I’ve been through it quite a bit so for me I’m kind of used to it but you have to make sure you take care of your bodies and I think the guys did but it just wasn’t enough in the first.”
The first period was slow, and the experienced Marlies jumped on the opportunity.
“Fatigue is for both teams,” said Bouchard. “Toronto played last night too. We have a lot of young guys that we push a lot and for us that quick turnaround, I wish we were just a little better in the beginning so we’ll learn from that, we’ll grow from that.”
“The guys competed,” Bouchard continued. “You have to hand it to them. I’m mad at them, I’m not happy. I want them to be perfect every night but they’re not going to be. But I cannot say they didn’t compete.”
“There’s no one in the room who sat down and said ‘we’re going to have a bad start’,” Rocket goaltender Etienne Marcoux said. “We knew it was a big two points in the division and we’re in the hunt for a playoff spot. Maybe we had our minds thinking about the holiday break already, I don’t know... but in the second and third we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Trevor Moore opened the scoring for the Marlies on the power play 12:33 into the first period sniping a shot from the slot past Marcoux, making his third start of the season.
Laval looked to go into the first intermission down 1-0, but with 28 seconds remaining, Vincent LoVerde was open at the top of the zone after a pair of Rocket turnovers in the defensive zone, and fired a shot off the post and in.
After the first period, the Rocket played better but could not beat Toronto goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo who made 19 saves for the shutout. Marcoux, for his part, kept the Rocket in the game making 29 saves and not allowing a goal after the first period.
“I think last game I got into the net and got the shutout and it was a big win for us, it gave me a lot of confidence coming into this game,” Marcoux said.
Prior to the game, it was revealed that Charlie Lindgren will not return before the new year but the Rocket have gotten good performances from Michael McNiven and Marcoux and the team has confidence in them for as long as Lindgren remains out.
“They’re both playing great. It’s a great tandem,” said Froese. “Marcoux played excellent today. He gave us a chance to be in the game and a chance to win with a lot of big saves. It definitely wasn’t on him tonight.”
Despite the scoreline, and the lack of results, the Rocket were a few bounces from getting back in the game. Brett Lernout and Alexandre Grenier both hit posts on key scoring chances, and Alex Belzile and Ouellet had breakaways.
Their best scoring chance may have come on a power play midway through the second period, when the Rocket came within inches of getting on the board in a scramble in front.
Right after the penalty the Rocket had what was probably their best chance of the game. pic.twitter.com/Udq0gYz0b8— Jared Book (@jaredbook) December 23, 2018
“There are a lot of plays that could have changed the game,” said Ouellet. “That was one of them... We hit two or three posts.. [Froese] broke his stick on a one timer... The breakaway... Either way, there were a lot of opportunities and we have to find a way to capitalize.”
“We get a couple of bounces and the game is 2-2,” Bouchard said. “I don’t think we dominated the game, but I feel the guys gave themselves a chance to win.”
Thoughts and Notes
- Xavier Ouellet didn’t look out of place at forward. He was dynamic and he has a bunch of skill. I’m not sure if Joël Bouchard planned on keeping him there the rest of the game, but his play made him hard to switch back.
- Toronto’s Mason Marchment took a slashing penalty in the second period for slashing a Rocket player on the ground and then got a game misconduct for abuse of officials when going towards the box.
Mason Marchment was given a minor for this slash on Michael McCarron and then a game misconduct for abuse of the official afterwards. pic.twitter.com/0XWSfHEQzT— Jared Book (@jaredbook) December 23, 2018
- Moore’s power play goal in the first period was the first goal the Rocket allowed on the penalty kill in four games.
- The Rocket played seven defencemen and 11 forwards, but released Simon Després from his professional try out so he could go to the Spengler Cup in Switzerland representing Canada. David Sklenička took his spot in the lineup.