They say hockey is a game of bounces at times, and for the Laval Rocket (9-6-2), too many bounces led to a lopsided 5-2 loss against the Milwaukee Admirals (10-3-3) on Friday night at Place Bell.
That isn’t to say that the Rocket played great, or that the Admirals didn’t play well — both of those things aren’t true. It’s just that the mistakes turned into goals against for the Rocket.
“Honestly we just made big mistakes,” said Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard. “We had a lot of gaffes, it’s probably the game where we made the most gaffes and it cost us because they’re a good team.”
In the game’s opening minute, Yakov Trenin got behind the Rocket defence and his shot went up and over Charlie Lindgren just 59 seconds in.
“It’s not the game that we wanted, it started off badly,” Bouchard said before adding that it seemingly snowballed from there. “Even guys who didn’t have terrible games made mistakes.”
A few minutes later, Michael McCarron and Tanner Jeannot got tangled up after a whistle, and the two exchanged punches. Finally Jeannot dropped his gloves and McCarron followed suit. McCarron earned the knockdown, but it did little to fire up the Rocket.
Michael McCarron really didn't seem interested in fighting Tanner Jeannot, but wasn't given much choice.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 16, 2019
So McCarron beat him up. pic.twitter.com/EQaQrcHO87
Just over halfway into the second period, six seconds after an Alex Belzile penalty expired, Matt Donovan fired a backhand shot from the left circle that beat Lindgren to make it 2-0.
The Rocket would have chances to cut the lead, and their best was when Matthew Peca split the Milwaukee defence and fed Riley Barber on a mini two-on-one but Barber fired it wide.
The second period was more of the same for both teams. Just 3:37 into the frame, a wild sequence of events epitomized what the game was going to be like. On a Rocket penalty kill, Alexandre Alain broke in the zone, and may have been hauled down while shooting on Troy Grosenick. The puck got to David Sklenicka, who bobbled it and it turned into a two-on-one going the other way. The puck hit off of Noah Juulsen and bounced right to Anthony Richard who made no mistake.
Less than two minutes later, on another Admirals power play (Sklenicka was called for a hook on the rush that ended with a goal), a cross ice feed from Colin Blackwell to Daniel Carr was perfect and Carr one-timed it into the net to make it 4-0. It was the former Canadiens’ eighth goal of the year in his 12th game.
The Rocket would get on the board on a power play of their own midway through the second period when a Barber shot hit off the crossbar and was batted in at the side of the net by Lukas Vejdemo for his fifth goal of the year.
Power play goal for Lukas Vejdemo, the young Swede is absolutely on fire for the Rocket right now. pic.twitter.com/CdH30JsTeS— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 16, 2019
Rem Pitlick, whose brother Rhett is in the Canadiens organization, made it 5-1 when he put home a rebound with less than five minutes remaining in the second period.
The Rocket came out with a better third period, and outshot the Admirals 15-6 in the final 20 minutes albeit with the game seemingly out of reach. The period was physical with two instances of scuffles ending with both players being sent off for minors.
“There were some points of the game where we were in it, but the score was so lopsided that it wasn’t easy,” Bouchard said.
Laval scored the only goal of the period on the power play when Peca fed Hudon who wired one past Grosenick to make it 5-2. It was Hudon’s ninth goal of the season, and sixth in his last five games.
Here's Charles Hudon's ninth goal of the season on a nice pass by Matthew Peca. pic.twitter.com/1tizSRmau5— Jared Book (@jaredbook) November 16, 2019
Notes & Thoughts
- The Rocket played their first full game without their captain Xavier Ouellet, who left their game on Wednesday with a lower body injury. He is expected to be out a minimum of two weeks. “It made a difference that Xavier was not playing but we’ll have to adjust it will be a couple of weeks [until he gets back to the lineup],” Bouchard said.
- When asked if there will be changes before Saturday’s game against Bridgeport, the coach let his intentions known. “100%,” Bouchard said. Cayden Primeau will be one of those changes and is expected to start in goal as the team’s rotation system continues.
- It was a struggle for Jake Evans the last few games, culminating in him being dropped down the lineup. Bouchard wants to see more from his sophomore, who is dealing with some of his first troubles in his professional career. “Jake was playing so well, even though he wasn’t scoring. He was getting so many scoring chances and I think it got to his head [when they weren’t going in]. We’re trying to help him out but he’s the one holding the stick. I think he’s affected by his results, it’s part of being a pro, it’s a long season,” Bouchard said. “You get confidence by doing the right things and I think now he’s doing less of them and I think Jake would be the first to admit that. It’s not a lack of desire, he’s just affected by his record.”
- David Sklenicka entered the lineup for the first time in six games. He didn’t have a great night, and at the end of the game was playing on a pairing with Josh Brook. “It was a tough night. It’s not easy, but we’re in pro hockey,” Bouchard said. “I like David. I like David a lot, we’re not going to blame it on David. It’s not easy, if it were easy everyone would be playing pro hockey.”
- Matthew Peca has been one of the best forwards on the team over the last few games despite not having much to show for it. He was the best forward on the team on Friday night.
- The Admirals had six Quebec-born players in their lineup, and the cheering section for their only game in Quebec this season was substantial. Milwaukee started five of their local talents for the opening face-off.