In a roller-coaster week for the Laval Rocket, they pulled into Belleville down a top-four defender in Karl Alzner, and their backup-turned-starting-goalie in Michael McNiven. Both were recalled to the Montreal Canadiens due to injuries to David Schlemko and Carey Price, respectively.
That left Etienne Marcoux as the de facto starter, and backing him up would be Kevin Bailie of Queen’s University. This was due to the fact that ECHL goalie Connor Lacouvee, who was signed to a PTO from the Maine Mariners, was not going to make it in time for the game, though he will be available for the two games this weekend.
The forward core was fully intact with a fourth line of Michael Pezzetta, Phelix Martineau and Alexandre Grenier rounding things out, while Xavier Ouellet returned to his home on defence.
A slow, tentative start to the game quickly changed as the Rocket’s fourth line and third pair spent close to two minutes inside the Belleville end. Martineau and David Sklenicka both had multiple good looks on Filip Gustavsson, but couldn’t convert.
Then things got worse, as the Senators managed to find the back of the net once they gained the Laval zone. Tobias Lindberg circled the Rocket defensive zone, then fired off a wrist shot, which found its way past Marcoux for a Sens lead.
A Christian Wolanin interference penalty sent Laval to the first power play of the game, and it didn’t take long for the Rocket to even up the score. A patient cycle saw Jake Evans feed the puck to Xavier Ouellet at the point, and the veteran defender let his shot fly. Michael McCarron working in front of Gustavsson got his stick on it, tipping it home for the tying goal.
Michael McCarron gets a stick on Xavier Ouellet's shot and scores his sixth goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/aJvosp4EeL— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 28, 2018
The Senators retook the lead just under two minutes later, as Joseph LaBate scored his third goal of the year.
It was also a shortlived lead. Thanks to a Drake Batherson slashing penalty, the Rocket went to their second power play of the night. Quick movement with the puck allowed Daniel Audette plenty of space to operate inside the faceoff circle, and from there Alexandre Grenier slipped by his man and was wide open for a perfect backdoor pass from Audette. The veteran forward made no mistake, burying his fifth goal of the year, knotting the game at two goals apiece.
A perfect backdoor play nets Alexandre Grenier his fifth goal of the year and second Rocket power play goal tonight. pic.twitter.com/sZ8ughNtCn— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 28, 2018
With under a minute left to play in the period the Senators took the lead back once more, this time on a fluke goal by Logan Brown. A shot off the end boards trickled inside Marcoux’s pad, and Brown jumped on the loose puck between the Rocket goaltender’s legs.
Trailing by a goal, and down by much more on the shot counter, Laval was in search of some kind of spark to counteract the rough ending to the first period. It was slow going, with the Senators jumping out to another lopsided shot advantage, but Marcoux shut the door for Laval.
As the period began to wind down, it was the Rocket who took over the control, and they’d be rewarded for their efforts. Evans passed the puck to Maxim Lamarche at the point, Lamarche in turn put the puck on a platter for Cale Fleury, who blasted it on net. Gustavsson managed to block just part of the shot, and the power behind it carried it just over the line, and tying the game on Fleury’s third of the year.
Cale Fleury shows off his big shot, squeaks one by Gustavsson to tie the game for the Rocket. pic.twitter.com/cBkT8jJJP5— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 28, 2018
All the hard work to tie the game up in the second period was undone instantly in the third period. A series of events led to Jack Rodewald taking off on a breakaway, and Rodewald had no issue rifling the puck past Marcoux for another Senators lead.
Laval was given another chance on their suddenly red-hot power play, with Labate being caught tripping up Lukas Vejdemo in the neutral zone. The Rocket man advantage was all over the offensive zone, with McCarron and Fleury both having great looks on net, but weren’t able to solve Gustavsson.
Another Rodewald breakaway resulted in a brilliant glove save from Marcoux on the shot, but in a head-scratching decision the Senators forward was awarded a penalty shot on the play. Rodewald made no mistake this time, adding to the Belleville lead thanks to some questionable officiating.
Alexandre Alain didn’t help matters when he was called for tripping up a Senator, giving Belleville their first power play of the night. The Senators were all over Marcoux and the Rocket during their man advantage, forcing the Rocket netminder left and right in his net for the full two minutes. He held strong though, keeping the deficit at two goals late in the final period.
Laval continued a late implosion with a too many men penalty after killing off Alain’s minor, and put themselves even further in the hole. A quick pad from Marcoux denied Rodewald his hat trick, and the Rocket caught another break when Jordan Murray was called for slashing.
With their net empty, the Rocket pushed hard to try and erase their two-goal deficit, and after Rodewald flubbed his chance at the empty net they nearly did.
A number of chances squeaked just wide of the net with Gustavsson lunging all over to try and close down the gaps. The Rocket finally found the goal they were seeking, when Fleury patiently waited for a shooting lane at the point, but opted to pass off to Alex Belzile, who acted as the triggerman. Belzile let his shot go, and it was the slick hands of McCaron in front of the net that tipped home his second goal of the night, getting his team within a goal.
Michael McCarron in front of the net again, his second goal of the night. pic.twitter.com/et6M5DzauJ— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 28, 2018
It was too little, too late however, as Drake Batherson tacked on the empty-net goal to seal the win for Belleville.
Final Score: Belleville 6, Laval 4.
Laval now heads home to finish out their busy weekend when they welcome the Charlotte Checkers for a two-game stint at Place Bell.
1. Jack Rodewald (2 Goals, 1 Assist)
2. Michael McCarron (2 Goals)
3. Max McCormick (1 Goal, 1 Assist)