After allowing the Binghamton Devils to claw their way to a third-period victory the previous night, the Laval Rocket headed on the road to Hershey to square off with one of the AHL’s oldest franchises. Due to a combination of injuries and the call-up of Kerby Rychel, the Rocket dressed eight total defenders for the game against the Bears with Matt Petgrave serving as a forward on the fourth line with Anthony Beauregard. Pheonix Copley got the start for Hershey while Charlie Lindgren took the crease for Laval.
Things did not get off on the right foot for the Rocket, as just 36 seconds into the game Antoine Waked sent them to the penalty kill. Hershey used this to begin running away with the period, despite not being able to find a goal on the man advantage.
They found the first goal before the halfway point of the period. Some nifty passing between Travis Boyd and Chris Bourque moved the puck to a wide-open Mattias Bau at the side of the net for an easy tap-in goal, Bau’s first since December, to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Then, even with Hershey holding a lopsided 14-4 shot advantage, the Rocket found a goal courtesy of Nikita Korostelev. Lindgren was called upon to make a big save on Bau once again, and the rebound kicked out to Jordan Boucher. Boucher kept his head up and picked out a streaking Korostelev up the ice with a perfect pass. Korostelev finished in the upper half of the net with ease for his first professional goal to tie the game up.
What a snipe by Nikia Korostelev for his first professional goal. pic.twitter.com/atkwzxXuaL— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 1, 2018
The tie would last for just over 30 seconds, with Garrett Mitchell snapping home the tying marker from Aaron Ness just above the faceoff dot.
The beleaguered Rocket team didn’t go quietly in the first period though, as their top line used the power play to draw level once more in the opening 20 minutes. A smooth pass from Matt Taormina to Éric Gélinas set up a big shot on Copley, and with the puck loose in front of the net, Adam Cracknell pounced on the rebound and lifted home his 27th goal of the year.
Some late AHL highlights, including Adam Cracknell's 27th of the year. pic.twitter.com/Zr77Nydx5H— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 1, 2018
That would be the end of good luck for the Rocket, as the Bears chipped in two early second-period goals to take a commanding lead.
First was Dustin Gazley converting a Jeremy Langlois feed in the Rocket zone for the 3-2 goal. The goal came with an ill-advised pinch in the neutral zone, leaving Trevor Owens all by his lonesome in the Rocket end, and Langlois found Gazley streaking to the net for an easy tap-in.
Just over two minutes later, a bad turnover by Taormina led to an odd-man rush once again for the Bears, and Gazley centred a perfect pass on the rush to Wayne Simpson, who beat a lunging Lindgren for a 4-2 lead.
Antoine Waked attempted to draw the Rocket back into the game, as he capitalized on Jonas Siegenthaler misplaying a puck. With the Hershey defender out of position, Waked jumped on the loose puck and turned the play into a breakaway where he beat Copley over the blocker side.
Antoine Waked with the timely steal and great finish on a breakaway for his sixth of the year. pic.twitter.com/iaXqGaNVaA— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 1, 2018
That was it for the Rocket offence as their penalty kill surrendered an early goal to Bau in the third period to fully put the game out of reach. The team gave up 15 shots to the four they managed while trailing in the game.
For good measure, Hampus Gustafsson added a sixth Hershey goal with under seven minutes left to finish Laval off for good at the Giant Center.
For Laval, their run of terrible form continues, having lost 13 of their last 15 games now, and their bad luck seemingly unlikely to end anytime soon. They’re lacking their star players, but old issues continue to plague the team, and they’ll be looking for any bit of positive news heading into their last five games of the year.
The Rocket are now off until April 4, when they’ll welcome the Rochester Americans to Place Bell.
1. Mattias Bau (2 Goals)
2. Dustin Gazley (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
3. Wayne Simpson (1 Goal, 1 Assist)