What has already been a tough season injury-wise has not gotten any easier as the Laval Rocket headed down the 401 into Ontario for a two-game road trip. They did so without starting goaltender Charlie Lindgren, who remained in Laval to have a lower-body injury looked at by the medical staff. In his place stood the tandem of Etienne Marcoux and Michael McNiven, with Marcoux making the start against the Belleville Senators.
Much like their parent clubs, these two sides met not long ago in what was Karl Alzner’s Rocket debut, when Laval came away with a narrow 2-1 victory at home. The Rocket are now also bolstered by the addition of Victor Mete and Simon Despres on the defensive side of the puck. Michael McCarron was looking to keep a strong offensive performance going, as he had tallied four points in his last game.
Laval clearly took some motivation from their NHL counterparts, as they came out in the first period and locked the Senators’ offence down. Belleville managed just two shots in the first 20 minutes, while Laval piled up nine.
The strong start by Laval yielded the first goal of the game thanks to some smart play by Nikita Jevpalovs. The Latvian forward circled the Senators’ net, and then picked out Jake Evans crashing toward Marcus Hogberg. A laser of a pass was directed home by Evans for his seventh goal of the year, and an early Laval lead.
Nikita Jevpalovs sets up Jake Evans for his seventh goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/L51TBpUhGy— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 8, 2018
Life isn’t always fair though, and for Evans he then had to sit for two minutes for a faceoff violation penalty just six seconds after his goal. Twenty-five seconds later, Rudolfs Balcers tied the game up on the power play, as the Rocket special teams continued to struggle.
From that goal against, the Rocket didn’t allow another shot on Marcoux until the very end of the first period, while launching plenty of their own and nearly taking a lead back close to intermission.
After a dominant first period, the Rocket suffered a horrendous start to the second, with Stefan Elliott and Paul Carey scoring on the Senators’ third and fourth shots of the game. The third goal resulted in the hook for Marcoux, as McNiven took over in relief to try to spur his team to a comeback.
Things would not improve from there for the Rocket netminders, Daniel Ciampini, Jack Rodewald, and a second Balcers goal made it a 6-1 affair for the Senators, on just 10 total shots. Heading into the second intermission, the Rocket needed to salvage any sort of positives they could from this disaster of a game.
Joël Bouchard started the third period with Marcoux in net once again, and a listless power play came to an end as McCarron and Joseph LaBate fought just outside the offensive zone. The Rocket did make a small dent in the Belleville lead, with Evans feeding a pass into the slot and Jevpalovs finishing it with a beautiful one-timer.
Nikita Jevpalovs puts a small dent in the Senators lead, he finishes off a Jake Evans pass for his fourth of the year. pic.twitter.com/RkbQ0Wd84V— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 8, 2018
The joy was short-lived, as it took the Senators not even two minutes to find another goal, this time off the stick of Logan Brown who tallied his fourth point of the night.
Even a late power play couldn’t spark any push-back for Laval in the third period. Despite the goal differential, the Rocket managed to end the period out-shot, and looking thoroughly beaten as the clock wound down.
Allowing seven goals on just 18 shots is unacceptable for the two goalies involved, and part of the blame is on their shoulders. At the same time, the Rocket’s defensive-zone coverage and play was equally bad on the rare occasions the Senators got offensive looks, despite running with almost the same corps as their games last week when they were much better around their net.
Laval now heads to Toronto for a meeting with the Marlies, and they’ll be looking to avoid another disastrous performance like the one last night.
1. Rudolfs Balcers (2 Goals, 2 Assists)
2. Logan Brown (1 Goal, 3 Assists)
3. Paul Carey (1 Goal, 1 Assist)