Jake Evans was not even supposed to play in the Laval Rocket’s 3-0 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday afternoon at Place Bell.
The young centre, who had yet to score a goal in his first 18 games this season, was told that he would be sitting out the game. He skated 45 minutes in the morning with Alexandre Burrows like most scratched players would do on game day.
In those 45 minutes, the Rocket got a call from the Montreal Canadiens that Charles Hudon would be needed at the Bell Centre that night. So Evans came off the ice, and Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard told him that he would be playing after all.
“He came off the ice, and said ‘I’m ready coach!’,” Bouchard said.
The goal Evans scored — his first of the season — was the second empty net goal in a 3-0 win, but when he launched the shot from the Rocket blue line ice and it veered into the net, the Rocket bench exploded with joy.
The Rocket bench is absolutely loving it for Jake Evans' first goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/a7rb4QfomB— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 16, 2019
Bouchard was the first person to greet him at the bench for a quick hug, and when Evans sat down, he made sure to go back to him.
Not only was Joël Bouchard the first person to greet Jake Evans at the bench after his first goal of the season, he also made sure to do this when he sat down. pic.twitter.com/bVH1FhlrIz— Jared Book (@jaredbook) November 17, 2019
“He was very good at the beginning of the season, but he just wasn’t scoring,” Bouchard said, adding that he and Evans had a 25 minute talk in the morning before he went off on the skate. “I told him that he’s going to have a great story to tell his players if he goes into coaching. I told Alex Belzile that we were going to put Evans out there for the faceoff, and he said ‘Yes!’ Everyone started screaming ‘Jake’ on the bench and I think it was a good story for the team, not only the player.”
“I wasn’t even supposed to be playing but then Hudon got called up so that’s partially it,” Evans said about his coach’s reaction. “We’ve been working hard together and he’s been such a great influence on me.”
“Jake’s been through a lot of tough things this year, it definitely hasn’t gone his way,” said Michael McCarron whose game winning goal may have been overshadowed. “Coach has been hard on him. He’s taking the good with the bad and he’s definitely happy to see his players do well and we love that as a group.”
Bouchard wanted a better performance from his team after allowing 10 goals in their previous two games. He got that, as they allowed only 20 shots and Cayden Primeau earned his first professional shutout. Primeau allowed five goals in a 5-4 overtime loss in his last start on Wednesday.
“[I didn’t change anything]. You have to go into every game the same way,” Primeau said. “Some nights you’re not feeling the best about the way you played but you have to put it behind you and try to stay even keel.”
“[Primeau’s] one of the best I’ve seen [at this level],” said Rocket forward and AHL veteran Riley Barber. “Even in practice, it’s hard to score on him. A couple of those two-on-ones it’s almost like the guy had no net to shoot at. I’ve seen a lot of good goalies but none like him.”
The game was 0-0 through the first 53 minutes of the game, but it was not without its scoring chances for both teams. The two teams combined to go 0/11 on the power play with Laval bouncing back with a 7/7 on the penalty kill.
McCarron, who had been getting chances throughout the game was the one to break the deadlock. Belzile started the play, getting the puck from the corner to Barber. Barber fired a wrist shot (one of his nine shots on the night) that was stopped by Jared Coreau but McCarron put home the rebound.
Michael McCarron opens the scoring with the rebound after great passing from Alex Belzile and a Riley Barber shot. 1-0 Rocket. pic.twitter.com/PwNIY7J2nO— Jared Book (@jaredbook) November 16, 2019
Lukas Vejdemo would add an empty net goal for his sixth of the season to make to 2-0 and extend his point streak to six straight games.
Ryan Poehling left the game with over 10 minutes remaining in the third period and did not return. The team said he will need to undergo further testing and evaluation and should know more early next week.
The Rocket’s next game is Wednesday in Toronto to take on the division-leading Marlies before hosting the Utica Comets for two games on Friday and Saturday.