After their afternoon meeting on Monday, the Laval Rocket and Toronto Marlies clashed once again in Toronto, at Ricoh Coliseum. Toronto came away with the 4-1 victory in the previous meeting, using their depth and discipline to outlast a scrappy but overmatched Laval side. Zachary Fucale held the fort as well as he could against an AHL-leading Marlies side, but ultimately couldn’t stop the onslaught.
Michael McNiven was between the pipes for Wednesday’s rematch, looking to rebound after a run of bad starts in the past two weeks. Opposing him would be the AHL’s best between the pipes: Garret Sparks.
Newly signed tryout Matt Hamilton made his way into the Rocket lineup alongside Willie Corrin, while Etienne Boutet sat as the spare skater. Also making a return to the lineup was Yannick Veilleux, who had been sidelined with a nagging injury.
Things did not get off to the start Laval needed in a game that was entirely about pride, as the Marlies needed just 16 seconds to find the back of the net first. A seemingly harmless shot on McNiven pinballed around, and while the rookie netminder struggled to get back into position, Colin Greening chipped it home to put Toronto in front with next to no effort.
Things didn’t get much better from there, as in the next few minutes a hard shot by a Marlies player drilled Tom Parisi and dropped him to the ice in a heap. He needed plenty of help getting to the bench, but would thankfully return to the game later.
A pair of back-to-back penalties put the Rocket on the penalty kill for nearly the remainder of the first period, and given the Marlies’ previous successes on the man advantage, Laval was lucky to escape unscathed. More impressive was that they did so with the lead on the shot counter when the horn blew to end the period.
Discipline continued to be an ongoing issue in the second period ,with David Broll jumping all over Andreas Borgman after the Swede shoved Jeremy Grégoire. As Broll’s penalty expired, Chris Terry caught Vincent LoVerde up high with an errant stick, giving the Marlies another chance on the man advantage. Thanks to the strong play of McNiven, and a bit of luck from the goal posts, the Marlies couldn’t find another goal in the period.
Michael McNiven is doing his best to keep the Rocket in this game, but he has been under siege this period. pic.twitter.com/mSKe1zhgq0— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 15, 2018
Toronto handed Laval not one, but two prime chances to tie the game in the middle frame. First was Martin Marincin going off for holding Terry behind the net, and despite taking a few moments to find their setup, the Rocket turned the Marlies zone into a shooting gallery as they peppered Sparks with a number of good chances. The best among them fell to Michael McCarron who was the recipient of a tic-tac-toe passing play, but just put the shot a bit too high and over the net.
In the last few minutes of the period after the Marlies missed a prime chance to double their lead, Andrew Nielsen tripped up Kerby Rychel, giving Laval a late chance to find a tying goal. Some good pressure by Frederik Gauthier and the Toronto defence denied the Rocket once again, sending the two teams to the dressing room with the Marlies still leading 1-0.
Even with the lead Toronto came out like a house of fire to start the third period, keeping Laval hemmed in their own end. Just over two minutes into the period they found their second goal. LoVerde collected a puck at the blue line and rifled a shot on net, and it beat McNiven clean to double the lead.
Vincent LoVerde lets a shot fly from the point and the Marlies lead 2-0. pic.twitter.com/8WonkcHyl8— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 15, 2018
The Rocket looked for any breakthrough they could find, but Sparks turned away everything with little difficulty as the Marlies’ defence kept the shots to low-danger areas.
With half the period gone, Toronto struck again. Justin Holl got in deep on a puck, and Rich Clune was left wide open in front of the net, and a simple pass added another goal to the Marlies lead to put the final nail in the coffin.
3-0 Marlies, Rich Clune with the dagger. pic.twitter.com/ht032gVx4I— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 15, 2018
Yet, for good measure LoVerde grabbed his second goal of the game on a late power play, after Jordan Boucher was whistled for high-sticking. The Marlies came away with another victory over the Rocket, their eighth in a row, claiming the 4-0 shutout win.
Laval now heads out on the road to Central New York for a showdown with the Utica Comets on Friday night, and then what will likely be a heated affair with the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night at the OnCenter.
1. Garret Sparks (31 Saves, Shutout)
2. Vincent LoVerde (2 Goals)
3. Mason Marchment (2 Assists)