After an impressive showing in Utica on Friday night, the Rocket packed up and headed further down I-90 to Syracuse to face the Crunch. With Zachary Fucale getting the win the previous night, it would be another chance for Michael McNiven between the pipes as he looked to end his skid of poor starts. Opposing McNiven was fellow rookie Connor Ingram for the Crunch.
As with all games against Syracuse, it was physical, filled with penalties, and unfortunately for the Rocket, it was also a loss.
It was a relatively quiet start for the Rocket with McNiven being called on to make a handful of big saves. In an ongoing trend, the Rocket surrendered an early power-play when Markus Eisenschmid was called for interference, but the penalty-killing unit was up to the task, denying Syracuse an opening goal.
The Rocket also had a chance on the man advantage just past the halfway point of the period after Matthew Peca was called for tripping up a Laval player. Despite burying a top-ranked Utica penalty kill in the previous game, the Rocket couldn’t find any finish on their opening chance.
Everything came unraveled for the visitors when David Broll lost control of his temper and took a double minor, one for roughing and one for interference. The Crunch took advantage of the power play to swing momentum, even if they didn’t score on the four minutes in penalties. Syracuse potted two goals in under 30 seconds following the end of the power play to put the Rocket in a deep hole in the dying moments of the first.
Luckily for the Rocket, their second period got started in much better fashion than the first one ended. Former IceCap Gabriel Dumont took a slashing penalty just 42 seconds into the period sending Laval to an early power play. They found their breakthrough with just two minutes gone.
Jordan Boucher started the play with a short pass to Chris Terry, who in turn threaded a perfect pass across the crease to Niki Petti, who directed the puck home to cut the lead in half.
Not a ton in highlights tonight from the Rocket, but Chris Terry continues to close the gap on the AHL scoring leader with this assist on Niki Petti's goal. pic.twitter.com/xWLKlVCxPB— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 18, 2018
The Crunch restored their two-goal lead at 8:19 of the period, and it came courtesy of the Rocket taking another penalty and giving up a man-advantage situation once again. Mat Bodie took a Dumont pass and blasted a goal in the upper part of the net, and the Crunch took their two-goal lead back.
A late penalty by Eisenschmid guaranteed that the Rocket would start the final period on the penalty kill once again, but before the final whistle could blow things took a turned ugly. Éric Gélinas hacked down a Crunch forward, and in response Michael Bournival got tied up with Adam Cracknell, and the duo paired off in a lopsided fight which saw Bournival left with his jersey over his head and defenceless.
With Syracuse now on a two-man advantage to start the final period, they piled on another goal with Olivier Archambault notching his second of the game just under 90 seconds in. The unfortunate part to this was that just prior to the goal, McNiven had made a pair of highlight-worthy glove saves on Mathieu Joseph and Peca.
While it seemed like tempers had cooled a bit after the fracas to end the second period, they’d come back with a vengeance with nine minutes gone in the final period. Daniel Walcott, who had been barking at Rocket players all night, drew the ire of Terry, and the pair both collected double minors for roughing.
Despite the penalties, it stayed at five-on-five hockey, and then the Rocket drew back another goal thanks to the efforts of Petti once again, who grabbed his third goal in two games for Laval. Simon Bourque skied a pass to the neutral for Yannick Veilleux, who passed off to Petti. He then cruised into the Crunch zone, beat his only defender with a great power move, and backhanded home his seventh goal of the year.
Okay this is pretty impressive, Simon Bourque with the alley-oop pass to Yannick Veilleux, and Niki Petti beats the defense with a great power move. pic.twitter.com/StXv2SswHX— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 18, 2018
That was the end of the Rocket’s comeback attempt in Syracuse however, as Dumont sealed the game with an empty-net goal with less than three minutes remaining on the clock.
Even with things out of reach, the Rocket weren’t quite done with the physical aspect of the game. Veilleux, who had been involved with an unfortunate knee injury to Bournival earlier, got into a scrap with Craig Wyszomirski in the final minute of the game. After a brutal back-and-forth exchange, both players headed to the dressing room and the game ended without further ado.
For the Rocket, another tough test awaits them this week when the Charlotte Checkers roll into Place Bell for a two-game series on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, the Senators come into town to renew hostilities once again.
1. Olivier Archambault (2 Goals)
2. Mathieu Joseph (3 Assists)
3. Daniel Walcott (1 Assist)