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Rocket vs. Americans game recap: Laval does just enough to beat Rochester as Connor LaCouvee remains undefeated

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Grenier scores game-winner, LaCouvee saves 28 in win over Americans.

Club de hockey Canadien, inc.

Alexandre Grenier scored the game-winning goal, while Connor LaCouvee made 28 saves on 29 shots as the Rocket beat the Rochester Americans 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at Place Bell. The Rocket earned three out of a possible four points in a weekend series with the Americans.

“Very happy with the way the guys competed,” Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said. “I think we were, a lot of times, better than we were last night.”

Rochester defeated Laval 3-2 in a shootout Friday night, and both sides played a tight game Saturday afternoon. The Rocket still have a way to go if they want to qualify for the 2018-19 American Hockey League playoffs, but they’ve secured eight out of a possible 10 points in their last five games, including their recent performance against the North Division leaders.

LaCouvee has been perfect for the Rocket since he was signed to a professional tryout contract December 27. The British Columbia native is now 3-0-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage as a member of the Rocket.

“I’m pretty confident in myself,” LaCouvee said. “I’ve never tried to be arrogant but always had a healthy level of confidence in my ability on the ice and off the ice.”

LaCouvee, however, found himself playing from behind after Rochester scored the first goal of the game, thanks to Zach Redmond. The former Montreal Canadiens defenceman, and American Hockey League MVP candidate, now has five points in his last five contests. One of the few bright spots of the period was forward Lukas Vejdemo, who created a number of turnovers for his team.

“Those back-to-backs for European players are quite hard to adjust for them,” Bouchard said about Vejdemo. “I felt that’s probably his best back-to-back game I’ve seen.”

Laval’s closest opportunity came in the dying seconds of the first period as the Rocket had a power play, but Amerks goaltender Adam Wilcox held down the fort. Byron Froese fed Jake Evans with a pass in the slot, but Wilcox stoned him. A goalmouth scramble ensued, but the Rocket could not cash in.

Laval tied the game in the second period after Daniel Audette banged away at the puck in the crease. Phelix Martineau passed it to Audette, who was surrounded by two Americans in the slot. Despite the cluster of players, Audette jammed the puck past Wilcox for his fourth of the season.

Moments after, a dangerous hit from Matt Tennyson on Michael Pezzetta sparked a scrum between the two sides. Pezzetta skated along the wing with his head down, only for Tennyson to hit him. Adam Plant tried to stick up for his teammate and he was assessed a four-minute minor for roughing. Moments later, the Rocket got into more penalty trouble with Alex Belzile getting called for high-sticking. Both teams ended the period tied at one goal apiece.

Grenier’s game-winner came with 13:10 left in the third period. He fired a shot on net and it went behind a screened Wilcox, who couldn’t see past defenceman Matt Tennyson and Rocket forward Nikita Jevpalovs parked in front of him.

“Guys are starting to understand what the game plan is, what we need to do,” Grenier said.

Laval’s next games are January 10 and 11, both against the Manitoba Moose at the MTS Place in Winnipeg.

Three Stars

  1. Connor LaCouvee (28 saves)
  2. Alexandre Grenier (GWG)
  3. Daniel Audette (1G)