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Rocket @ Senators recap & highlights: Slow start trips up Laval in Belleville

A furious comeback wasn’t enough to overcome early mistakes as the Rocket lose 3-2.

Club de Hockey Canadien

In the previous week, the Laval Rocket were seeking a way to overcome their 0-3-0 start, and responded with a 3-1-0 record. Last night, the team was following up a loss to the Hershey Bears, as well as the two-game suspension handed down to Michael McCarron after his carelessness on the ice resulted in a concussion and broken nose for Brendan Gaunce.

Standing in their way on Wednesday night were their North Division rivals, the Belleville Senators, who had struggled to start their season, posting a paltry 1-4-0 record coming into Wednesday. Despite the poor start, players like Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton still presented a major test for the Rocket defence, which thankfully would not have to deal with Logan Brown thanks to an NHL recall. The Rocket turned back to star rookie Cayden Primeau in net, while Marcus Hogberg got the call for the Senators.

Despite missing Brown, Belleville had no issue jumping out to the early lead with a turnover behind the net allowing Vitaly Abramov to set up Josh Norris just over a minute in. Primeau had to come up big just a minute later, spreading as far as he could to keep the puck out of his net.

At the next break in play, Joël Bouchard used his timeout, clearly unhappy with the play of his lineup. The lecture did little to help, with the Senators continuing to pound the Rocket in their own zone before a two-on-one rush resulted in a Parker Kelly goal to make it 2-0.

A pair of back to back penalties from Nikita Jevpalovs and Jake Evans forced Laval into successive penalty kills just past the halfway point of the first period. Surprisingly, that brought about the first signs of life, with the aggressive penalty-killing units keeping the Belleville lead from expanding while also giving the Rocket some chance to climb back into the game.

With a fifth player on the ice once again, the struggles continued as the offence impotently tried to click into gear, but it was several minutes between their first shots of the game and their next attempts.

Morgan Klimchuk sat for interference with a little over a minute left to play, giving Laval their best chance of the game to get on the scoreboard. The late man advantage carried over to the second period, and the Rocket failed to make anything of it before continuing their less-than-stellar efforts defending in their own zone.

Out of the box, Klimchuk broke into the zone and left the puck for Filip Chlapik, and no one on the Rocket came close to covering him as he ripped a shot by Primeau to run the Belleville lead to three goals.

The Rocket began to find a footing in the game in their attempt to break Hogberg’s shutout, but even with their best chances they found iron behind him. Josh Brook had the best opportunity for the Rocket, taking a pass with speed out of his own zone, weaving through the Senators’, and rifling a shot in close off the crossbar and out.

While Laval was finally making up the shot disparity, the Senators took a pair of back-to-back penalties of their own. First Jordan Murray sat for cross-checking, then Hogberg deflected a puck up out of play for delay of game, sending Laval to a massive five-on-three power play.

They took full advantage of the situation, pounding home a pair of goals just 42 seconds apart to flip the script in the game in the second period.

A little pick play from Alex Belzile gave Xavier Ouellet all the space he needed to bomb a shot by Hogberg for his first goal of the season and break the goose egg.

Then it was Lukas Vejdemo who added another marker in the following minute, with the Swede cashing in around the crease. Charles Hudon started the cycle with a cross-ice feed to Riley Barber, who in turn teed up Gustav Olofsson’s one-timer. The heavy shot kicked off of Hogberg’s pads and Vejdemo poked home the rebound to bring Laval back within a goal.

A hooking call to Brook brought the Senators’ offence roaring back to life on a late power play, but a steadfast Primeau and the skaters in front of him kept the deficit to just one goal as the second period entered its final minutes.

With the Rocket man advantage clicking, Batherson took an ill-advised roughing penalty, handing Laval a major chance to knot the score up in the third period. The special-teams unit couldn’t come through this time, and an errant high stick during the advantage forced Ryan Poehling out of the game, putting the Rocket further behind the eight ball.

Belleville continued to hand the Rocket chances, with Jonathan Aspirot taking a seat for holding shortly after the Senators killed off Batherson’s minor. The Rocket threw everything they had at Hogberg on the ensuing power play, but failed to cash in on their prime chances, and as play returned to five on five they still needed to find their tying goal.

The Rocket ran their shot advantage up to 14 chances to Belleville’s one in the third, but some big saves from Hogberg kept them from finding their third goal. A poorly timed boarding penalty from Dale Weise sent Laval back to the penalty kill with under six minutes left to play, but they got through with another clean slate.

The Rocket emptied the tank with Primeau on the bench for the extra attacker, but the Senators stood firm to cling to their one-goal lead and claim the victory. Laval played winning hockey in the second half of the game, but a slow start cost them the two points.

The team now heads to Hartford for a Friday night showdown with the Wolf Pack, and then travels to Providence on Saturday for another meeting with the Bruins.

Three Stars

1. Marcus Hogberg (39 Saves, Win)

2. Filip Chlapik (1 Goal)

3. Riley Barber (2 Assists)