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Laval vs. Toronto recap and highlights: Rocket go out with a whimper at home

Fresh bodies weren’t enough to overcome the Rocket’s boogeyman on Friday night.

Club de Hockey Canadien Inc.

The Laval Rocket took the ice at Place Bell one last time in their inaugural season, facing off against them was none other than their biggest tormentor this year in the Toronto Marlies on Friday night.

The Rocket got a major boost in the form of Kerby Rychel and Brett Lernout returning to the team after spending the end of the year in Montreal with the Canadiens. Also drawing back into the lineup was Eric Gelinas who had sat out the previous games to allow the team to evaluate the try out players. It wasn’t enough as the Rocket lost their home finale 4-1.

For the Marlies, Carl Grundstrom joined them after his SHL season wrapped up, and with Toronto a serious contender for the Calder Cup, Grundstrom is just another big piece for them. In nets would be Garrett Sparks for Toronto, and Charlie Lindgren for Laval.

Through the opening five minutes the ice was tilted firmly in the Marlies favour, they piled up zone time around Lindgren and despite not managing any high danger chances, they still had the Rocket skating in circles. The pressure did not cease throughout the period, even with the Rocket getting a decent look thanks to the work of Jeremiah Addison in the offensive zone. Chris Mueller nearly opened the scoring for Toronto, breaking in with speed and nearly wrapping the puck around, but a timely pad save from Lindgren denied the Marlies forward.

The Rocket nearly struck late in the period, thanks in part to Adam Plant’s smart play with the puck. A timely pinch lead to a mad scramble around the net, but Sparks put the kibosh on it before too long and saw out the end of a scoreless first period.

The second period started much the same as the first, with the Marlies refusing to be separated from the puck. Even with Lindgren playing at the peak of his game, Toronto would strike first, due in part to a mad scramble around the net. Trevor Moore’s shot was stopped by Lindgren, but the puck found it’s way onto the stick of Carl Grundstrom, and he calmly deposited the rebound in for the opening goal of the game.

Toronto nearly doubled their lead with almost nine minutes gone, Mason Marchment threaded a perfect pass to Jeremy Bracco across the Rocket zone. As Bracco let the shot fly, and it looked like a surefire goal, Charlie Lindgren sprawled across and robbed the Marlies forward with the glove to keep it a 1-0 game.

A too many men on the ice penalty would send the Rocket to a penalty kill for the first time in the game, and in typical fashion, the Marlies cashed in shortly thereafter. It took just 18 seconds from the start of the man advantage for Calle Rosen to uncork a shot from the point and beat Lindgren for his fourth goal of the year.

After Matt Taormina ripped a shot off the crossbar, and the Rocket missed a tap in goal by mere inches, they managed to draw a hooking call and head to their first power play of the night. The Marlies top rated penalty kill kept the Rocket from setting up much of anything, and kept the AHL’s leading scorer Chris Terry in check during it. The Rocket would get one more prime scoring chance thanks to a 2-on-0 chance, but a flubbed shot and Sparks’ pads prevented Laval from breaking their goose egg before the period ended.

The third period was, as it had been so many times before, where the wheels fell off the bus entirely for Laval. Chris Mueller scored just over two minutes into the period to drive the deficit to three goals, and seemingly put the game out of reach. For a bit of insurance Mueller would add another goal three minutes later to truly seal the deal.

Then the Marlies did what they do best. They smothered Laval and prevented most of the dangerous shots against, and what they allowed Sparks turned away as he has done all year. There was a breakthrough late in the game that snapped Sparks’ shutout bid thanks in part to some heads up play by Jordan Boucher and Jeremy Gregoire.

With Gregoire streaking out of the zone, Boucher hit him with a perfect lob pass, and once in the Toronto end, Gregoire dropped the puck for the trailing Rocket player. That player was Rinat Valiev and he snapped a shot straight through Sparks to break his shutout bid and give the Rocket a slight moral victory.

It would be far too late for a comeback bid, and the Marlies saw out the remaining three and a half minutes without much issues, and sending Laval fans home disappointed one last time this year.

These two sides will meet one last time Saturday in Toronto for the regular season finale. For the Marlies, it’s their last tuneup before the Calder Cup playoffs. For the Rocket, they’re just looking to get a win and hopefully cement an AHL scoring title for Chris Terry above all else.

Three Stars

1. Chris Mueller (2 Goals, 1 Assist)
2. Carl Grundstrom (1 Goal)
3. Garrett Sparks (24 Saves, Win)