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Laval vs. Belleville recap & highlights: The penalty kill propels Rocket to victory

A pair of short-handed goals buoyed the Rocket in a divisional matchup

Club de Hockey Canadien Inc.

Coming off a tough week in Central New York, the Rocket returned home for a showdown with another North Division foe, the Belleville Senators. Minus a handful of their top stars, the Rocket managed a 1-1-1 record overall, losing to Utica in overtime, Syracuse in regulation, and toppling Binghamton in their lone win.

Charlie Lindgren was back between the pipes after splitting time with Zachary Fucale on the road trip last week. For the Senators, Danny Taylor was in net. Also of note was that Markus Eisenschmid and Tom Parisi both suited up for their 100th career AHL games.

Much like their games in the previous week, Laval jumped out to an early shot advantage. Led by the rookie Jordan Boucher and defenceman Parisi, the Rocket tested Taylor several times within the games opening minutes.

The Senators weathered the early push, and then David Broll clipped an opponent with a high stick, sending Belleville to a power play. The Laval penalty-killers kept the Senators off the scoreboard, then managed to draw a penalty of their own, which would be cancelled out by an ill-timed crosscheck by Michael McCarron. Despite killing off the abbreviated power play, the momentum was on the Senators’ side, as Jordan Murray found a lane to the net, then let a shot fly that was redirected by Jack Rodewald.

In response, the Rocket took another poorly timed penalty with under three minutes left to play, but they turned their disadvantage into a tying goal. A loose puck came hard around the point in the Laval defensive zone, and Jeremy Grégoire scooped it up, turning it into a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Gregoire slowed up and sniped his seventh goal of the year to knot the game up.

Laval used the momentum from a crucial penalty kill and carried it into the middle period, striking early on to take their first lead of the night. Luc-Olivier Blain started a rush into the Senators’ zone, feeding the puck to Antoine Waked. The rookie forward fired a slick pass across the zone and Kyle Baun fired a one-timed shot past Taylor for his fourth goal of the year.

Discipline continued to be a major issue for the Rocket, having trouble staying out of the box even with the lead. Yet the penalty-killing unit doubled the Rocket advantage with their second short-handed rush of the game; fairly shocking when factoring in that Laval’s penalty kill is among the worst in the AHL.

The rookie Noah Juulsen led an odd-man sojourn to the Belleville end, dishing off to Adam Cracknell. Cracknell picked out a streaking Daniel Audette, who wired home his 11th goal of the year, giving the Rocket a 3-1 lead.

It wasn’t the penalties that caught up with the team before the end of the period though, it was a bit of lackadaisical play that led to the Senators’ second goal. McCarron picked up a puck behind the Rocket net, and tried to make his way around the net and out of the zone. Gabriel Gagne barged in, picked the puck off his stick, and snapped home his 16th goal of the year to put the Senators within one. If not for some stellar goaltending from Lindgren on yet another penalty kill to end the period, the Rocket likely would have seen their two-goal lead evaporate as quickly as it came.

Clinging to a one-goal lead, the Rocket headed to an early power play with Filip Chlapik headed to the box for high-sticking. For as effective as the penalty kill was, the man advantage for Laval was equally as ineffective, failing to capitalize on a chance to earn an insurance marker early in the final period.

In a strangely familiar moment, the Rocket headed back to the penalty kill with Antoine Waked sitting for two minutes. Again the Senators didn’t have a ton of good looks as they attempted to tie the game, surrendering another short-handed break to the Rocket penalty-killers. The Senators threatened just once more as the game wound down, ringing a shot off the crossbar behind Lindgren, but failing to make anything happen during a pair of four-on-four situations late in the game.

The story of the game belongs to the Laval penalty-killing unit, which was six-for-six on the night, and notched a pair of short-handed goals in the victory. The group as a whole has struggled to find consistency, ranking at the bottom of the AHL in overall efficiency. Having a game like this is a huge confidence booster, especially when two of the featured players are rookie defenders in Simon Bourque and Noah Juulsen.

Laval is now off until Friday and Saturday when they welcome the Hershey Bears to Place Bell, and will look to avenge a 7-1 loss to the Toronto Marlies the following day.

Three Stars

1. Charlie Lindgren (Win, 25 Saves)

2. Daniel Audette (1 goal)

3. Gabriel Gagne (1 goal)