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Laval Rocket vs. Toronto Marlies game recap: Rout at Ricoh

Not every David vs. Goliath story ends with the underdog winning. This is one of those stories.

Christian Bonin/TSGphoto.com

The Laval Rocket were back in action on Saturday afternoon after the American Hockey League’s All-Star Classic break, with the players returning rested from various trips away from the difficult reality that they face. Any peace and tranquillity they may have taken into game quickly evaporated, as the the AHL-leading Toronto Marlies easily disposed of the Rocket by a score of 7-1 at Ricoh Coliseum.

Going into the game, the Rocket were playing with a decimated roster, with Nikita Scherbak recalled to Montreal, and Matt Taormina and Yannick Veilleux nursing lower-body injuries. Veilleux was injured during the Rocket’s final game before the All-Star Classic, and Taormina was injured on Friday during the Rocket’s practice. As a result, the only healthy scratch was third-string goaltender Zachary Fucale, with the team down to the minimum number of skaters on their roster.

The pace was set early into the first period as the Marlies came out strong, immediately overloading the Rocket from the get-go, and they would not relent for the entirety of the first 20 minutes.

Seven minutes in, the Marlies got on the board when tired Rocket players tried to change, but they failed to properly clear the puck deep enough. The Marlies rushed back and scored on Charlie Lindgren on a play where the fresh Rocket players had no chance to establish zone positioning to defend. Truly a fine example of how misleading the plus/minus statistic can be.

The second goal at the halfway point of the first was more clear-cut. The Rocket’s fourth line could do absolutely nothing against the Marlies’ top line, which dictated the pace and chose a precise, blocker-side shot to make it 2-0.

It quickly became apparent that the Rocket were just not in the same league as the Marlies. Not even Laval’s top line could do anything but watch as the Marlies passed the puck at will to score their third goal a few minutes later.

They added a fourth tally right off the faceoff on a slapshot from a won draw that fooled Lindgren. This was still the first period.

In an attempt to wake his side up, Michael McCarron traded knuckles with Andrew Nielsen in a heavyweight tilt that led to a few punches, with McCarron ultimately falling on top of the Marlies defender.

The first period ended with Toronto dominating in shots 14-7, with a fairly convincing lead of 4-0.

If the Rocket were hoping to start the second with any momentum, they quickly gave up that idea when Jeremy Grégoire took a slashing penalty within the first minute. The Marlies of course converted to take a 5-0 lead.

Whether the Marlies took their foot of the gas pedal at this point or whether the Rocket decided that enough was enough, the second period turned in the Rocket’s favour. They managed to create some sustained zone presence in the Marlies end, even drawing a couple of penalties that led to a few opportunities. There was certainly a lot more jump to their game, and they managed to get several shots that tested Marlies starter Calvin Pickard.

Unfortunately, the Rocket were not able to score, but at least they limited any further damage, and even managed to outshoot the Marlies in that period, with total shots barely tipping in the Marlies’ favour, 25-23.

The third period brought renewed momentum to the host team, scoring two more goals in the frame, including one where Andreas Johnsson carried Rocket defender Stefan Leblanc literally on his back for several strides and sniped a shot past Lindgren.

Eventually the Rocket would get a single reply, when Jordan Boucher and Markus Eisenschmid combined to steal the puck from a Marlies defender, and slipped it through Pickard’s pads to bring the score to 7-1, where it would remain.

One important thing to note is that a majority of the goals scored on Lindgren went blocker side. One has to wonder whether a weakness has been found in the young goaltender, or whether this is merely a coincidence.

The game was a rout as the best team in the AHL had its way with one of the worst. The depth of the Marlies’ lineup was frightening, a product of years of high draft picks and shrewd transactions.

Laval’s next game is on Wednesday, visiting the worst team in the AHL — the Binghamton Devils — followed by two other divisional match.ups. Friday they go up against the Utica Comets, and Saturday against the Syracuse Crunch.

The Rocket would do best to quickly forget this game and move on.