The Laval Rocket took on the Toronto Marlies on Monday afternoon in a special March Break game at the Air Canada Centre in front of a mostly young crowd of kids and fell by a score of 4-1.
The Rocket had a couple of receipts to cash-in for the game. The first was to avenge their last game in Toronto, which was a brutal 7-1 beatdown. The second was to make-up for their disconcerting loss on Saturday where the team just appeared to stop playing, allowing the last place Belleville Senators to come back from a three-goal deficit to beat the Rocket in regulation.
The Marlies started the game swarming the Rocket, and hit the post twice within the first four minutes, but once the Rocket settled down it became a much more balanced game. The Rocket were able to establish their gameplan, keeping the Marlies away from any dangerous areas on the ice.
The Rocket cannot compete with the Marlies on a talent basis, so their most likely path to success, besides hoping for luck, is to play a defensively tight game, avoiding any glaring mistakes, and be relentless in puck pursuit. However on two occasions the Rocket did break down defensively in the first, and on both occasions the Marlies were able to puck the past Zachary Fucale.
On the first goal by the Marlies it was former Rocket Kyle Baun who fed a perfect centering pass to Trevor Moore on a three-on-one to give Toronto a goal lead. In the final minute of the first, Colin Greening beat Fucale glove side on another clean shot off of a turnover rush into the Rocket zone.
The Rocket were able to quickly erase the first Marlies lead when Matt Taormina connected with a streaking Adam Cracknell who was able to beat Sparks with a clean shot, but the Marlies would be ahead by one at the end of the first with the shots 11-6 in favour of the Marlies.
Adam Cracknell scores his 23rd of the year with a nice wrist shot on Sparks. pic.twitter.com/biughUtV8z— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 12, 2018
The second period began with a penalty parade; four penalties in the first five minutes. First the Rocket did a good job out-hustling the Marlies to eliminate a Marlies powerplay by drawing a penalty, but then Niki Petti took a bad tripping call to eliminate the man advantage. These penalties disrupted the flow to the game, which was in fact to the Rocket’s benefit, as the Marlies were not able to establish any pace to exploit their skilled players.
Michael McCarron had the Rocket’s two best chances of the second period, once deflecting a Taormina shot that was blocked by Sparks, and another chance on a wrap around where Sparks was just able to stick the pad out to keep the puck out on the initial shot and ensuing scrum. Shots were 23-13 after two periods for the Marlies.
A powerplay goal for the Marlies early into the third put the game all but out of reach for the Rocket, after Jordan Boucher was penalized for closing his hand on the puck while at the bottom of a pile-up battling along the boards.
Fucale continued to be solid for the Rocket all throughout the game, ending up with 26 saves on 29 shots, and the Rocket really turned on the heat in the final period, But they were unable to will the puck behind Sparks. Chris Terry, just five points shy of the AHL point lead, came closest by agonizingly hitting the post.
An empty net goal sealed it for Marlies who won the game by a final score of 4-1. Final shots were 30-21 in favour of the Marlies.
- The Rocket are hardly rolling four lines as Luc-Olivier Blain saw little ice time, as did the third defensive pairing of Willie Corrin and Etienne Boutet.
- Having lost his defensive partner Stefan Leblanc to injury, Simon Bourque was weak at times, as was his partner Eric Gelinas who flubbed the puck on numerous occasions.
- With Leblanc’s injury potentially serious, look to the Rocket to sign another player on a tryout real soon.
- Adam Cracknell has 21 goals in 40 games since he was traded to the Rocket. He had two goals in 15 games prior.
- Matt Taormina is fourth in the league for assists, first for defencemen, with 38.
- Although they made the trip, Jeremiah Addison and Yannick Veilleux did not join their teammates on the ice. Daniel Audette did not make the trip to Toronto.
- Antoine Waked was injured towards the end of the game, being on the receiving end of an errand elbow to the face. He will not play in Wednesday’s game.
- Zachary Fucale is starting to put up some convincing performances together, however there is still signs of a nervous player who is susceptible to moments of panic.