The Laval Rocket are rolling right now, and the dominant play from Daniel Audette and his linemates is a huge part of that. The strong play in net from Michael McNiven and Connor LaCouvee while Charlie Lindgren works on getting back into form cannot be understated as well.
Less than a day after McNiven stole two points with a 38-save shutout performance, the Rocket clashed with the Cleveland Monsters again at Place Bell. A shutout wasn’t in the cards this time, but Daniel Audette’s strong play helped guide his team to one point in the shootout loss.
It was not the start the Rocket needed, as just 1:37 in, the Monsters found the back of the net. Kole Sherwoods cleaned up a trickling puck that had hit LaCouvee’s arm and found its way through.
The Rocket didn’t help their early deficit by heading to a penalty kill a minute after Sherwood’s goal, with Alexandre Grenier being whistled for boarding. His penalty was the first of many from the Rocket, as discipline was an issue on Saturday afternoon. The Rocket killed off Grenier’s minor, then tied the game shortly after off of Alex Belzile’s 10th goal of the year.
Rocket gif thread!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 20, 2019
Alex Belzile's 10th goal of the year ties things up early for Laval. pic.twitter.com/3STF7UEm2J
As the period wound down, the Rocket’s penalty issues cropped up, with Brett Lernout, Grenier, and Belzile all taking penalties in rapid succession. With Lernout sitting for delay of game, the Monsters’ power play converted, as Mark Letestu barreled into a pile-up in front of LaCouvee and poked the puck home.
With Grenier sitting for holding, things came unglued to end the first period. Byron Froese hit Alex Broadhurst from behind to kick off a scrum, which resulted in Belzile collecting 12 penalty minutes for mixing things up with Justin Scott.
After a quiet first period in which the Rocket were leaning heavily on LaCouvee to keep them in the game, the Laval offence found some footing in the second. They fired 18 shots at J.-F. Berube, but managed just a single goal. While the Rocket had their penalty issues in the first period, the Monsters mimicked that, with Vitaly Abramov taking an early penalty, and Brett Gallant mixing it up with Michal Moravcik, which sent the game to a 4-on-4 situation.
In that 4-on-4 play, the Rocket would find their goal: a long overdue tally for Xavier Ouellet, who has quietly become a go-to option in all situations for Joël Bouchard. Audette took an Antoine Waked pass in stride, and as he blew by the Cleveland defenders, Audette fed the pass across the zone to Ouellet, who had no problems burying his first goal in a Laval sweater.
Xavier Ouellet gets his first as a Rocket, great passing from Daniel Audette to set the goal up. pic.twitter.com/azxSN6F5ST— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 20, 2019
The game did not remain tied for long, with Abramov making up for his early penalty by tapping home a Maxim Fortier pass right on the goal line, LaCouvee, despite his best lunging effort, had no chance at stopping the puck. That goal was the difference as the teams headed to the intermission.
Tempers finally boiled over early in the third period, with Alex Kile and Gallant settling their differences with a fight, when Gallant appeared to get the better of Kile. Then the Monsters, who were nervously holding onto their one-goal lead, got into penalty trouble again. First was Fortier, then after killing that off, Matthew Prapavessis sat for high-sticking.
On the ensuing power play, Audette capped off an incredible day with his eighth goal of the year. A Ouellet shot came off of Berube, and Audette jumped on the loose puck, lifting it past the Cleveland netminder and tying the game once more.
Audette's 8th of the year, and third point of the night. pic.twitter.com/fqtVivZKjr— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 20, 2019
Then the Rocket jumped ahead as Grenier found a small opening and squeaked a wrist shot through Berube for a late lead. As things had gone all game, it wouldn’t last long, as Ryan Collins snuck a shot in from the point that LaCouvee never saw, and forced the game into extra time.
Overtime solved nothing, so a shootout would, with Zac Dalpe and Alex Broadhurst scoring for the Monsters, and Alex Belzile being the only Rocket player to score, resulting in a 5-4 win for Cleveland.
The loss still leaves LaCouvee undefeated in regulation for the Rocket, and caps off a great week where Laval collected five out of a possible six points.
There isn’t much rest for the Rocket, as they’ll head out through this winter storm to meet the Springfield Thunderbirds on Martin Luther King day. It’s a 1:05 PM start, which may be pushed back depending the inclement weather in the northeastern United States.
1st Star: Vitaly Ambramov (1G, 1A)
2nd Star: J.-F. Berube (36 Saves, Win)
3rd Star: Xavier Ouellet (1G, 2A)