With a heavy slate of games on their plate, the Laval Rocket’s top line got off to a good start in their hopes of chasing an American Hockey League playoff spot.
The trio of Jake Evans, Daniel Audette, and Alex Belzile had a hand in all four goals scored by Laval in a 4-2 victory over the Belleville Senators Wednesday night at Place Bell. All four goals came through some form of special teams. Laval’s power play was a perfect three-for-three and they also added a shorthanded goal.
“[The line] played a good game, but they played the right way,” Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said. “When it was time to make that pass with a low risk of turnover and high chance of offence, they did so. When it was time to manage the puck, they did. When it was time to invest defensively, they did.”
Jake Evans led the way with a goal and two assists, while his linemates also added to their tallies. Audette scored a goal and an assist, while Belzile’s lone assist came on a spirited individual effort. The statistics look nice, but Evans took time to point out other little things his teammates did right.
“I think our line did a really good job of forechecking, forcing them to make some hard plays,” Evans said. “Alex and Dan are really smart players,”
Between the pipes, Connor Lacouvee made 25 saves on 27 shots in his fourth start for Laval since being signed to a professional try-out contract in December. The British Columbia native remains undefeated since, improving his record to 4-0-0. Belleville countered with goaltender Filip Gustavsson. He allowed four goals on 25 shots.
Evans scored the Rocket’s first of the night, scoring a power play goal following a Stefan Elliott tripping penalty. Audette found Evans along the side of the net and made the pass to the fellow forward, who banked the puck off Gustavsson and into the back of the net.
Their lead wouldn’t last long as Belleville’s Jack Rodewald tied the game less than two minutes later. Rodewald received a pass from teammate Tobias Lindberg, before tapping the puck past Lacouvee.
In the second period, the Rocket found themselves shorthanded within the first few minutes after Karl Alzner took a holding penalty. But being down a man was no problem for Alex Belzile. The All-Star breezed up ice with the puck, using his body to fend off a Senators defenseman before completing a one-handed pass to Froese.
“Great play,” Froese said. “I didn’t think he’d be able to get it across. I was just trying to stay open, not get too deep. Luckily I was able to get it high enough,”
But Laval’s lead was not to be. Just 51 seconds later, the Senators tied the game thanks to Jack Rodewald, again. The power play goal came off the same Alzner penalty.
Laval’s special teams went to work again not long after. Former Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Alexandre Alain fired a one-time shot past Gustavsson for his sixth of the season, giving Laval the lead for good.
The Rocket's powerplay remains perfect tonight with another PP goal. Alexandre Alain's blast gives the Rocket a 3-2 lead pic.twitter.com/RtRQ2PQfpx— Sarah Kossits (@skossits) January 17, 2019
Audette put the game out of reach with a power play goal in the third, picking up a rebound and launching the puck in an open net. The forward has back-to-back multi-point games for the first time this season and five points in his last two games.
The Rocket played the first of three matches in four nights, and are now three points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rocket have picked up at least one point in all but one game played in the month of January.
Laval will play back-to-back games against the Cleveland Monsters Friday and Saturday. Both games at Place Bell.
1. Jake Evans (1G, 2A)
2. Daniel Audette (1G, 1A)
3. Alex Belzile (1A)