Less than 24 hours before the Laval Rocket and Rochester Americans took to the ice on Saturday for their second game of their back-to-back series at Place Bell, Joël Bouchard was proud of his team, pointing out that the team can skate with everybody and is rarely outplayed.
After a 5-0 loss on Saturday evening, he did the equivalent of a shrug. Bouchard’s team is decimated with injuries and that’s before you consider the Montreal Canadiens injuries and subsequent call ups.
The result was a Rocket team without (deep breath) William Pelletier, Phil Varone, Ryan Poehling, Riley Barber, Alex Belzile, Dale Weise, Otto Leskinen, and Noah Juulsen. That doesn’t include Joel Teasdale, who has been out since the summer. Weise had played Friday but was unable to go on Saturday with an upper-body injury. Charles Hudon has been walking on crutches, and Michael McCarron, who had been out a week, met the media after the game with a bag of ice wrapped around his body.
(Note: Last night Lukas Vejdemo was recalled by the Canadiens and Otto Leskinen was sent back to Laval.)
Former Canadien Zach Redmond opened the scoring for Rochester on a power play when he fired a shot that snuck through Primeau, sent down earlier in the day. In the second period, Rochester doubled their lead when John Gilmour walked into the zone and beat Primeau with a seeing-eye shot.
Down 2-0 after two periods, the Rocket could feel that they were within a bounce of making it a game despite being outshot 23-13. The tide quickly turned. Fourteen seconds into the third period Jean-Sebastien Dea beat Primeau with a wrap around to make it 3-0. C.J. Smith and Brandon Hickey added goals to make it 5-0.
There was no shortage of responsibility taken in the Rocket dressing room afterwards. Xavier Ouellet on behalf of the skaters, and Primeau for allowing that early goal in the third period,
“I feel bad for the goaltender,” Ouellet said. “We didn’t help him. We had a bad start, we can’t do that against good teams, and after that it was playing catch up. They were ready and we were not. The game was decided in the first period.”
“We were only down 2-0 going into the third and that third goal is a huge difference,” Primeau said. “Once that went in, you could see momentum swing their way.”
For his part, Bouchard was facing the reality his team is in. Some forwards, according to Bouchard had 22-23 minutes of ice time on Friday night because the game was within reach. He couldn’t blame them for having nothing left in the tank.
“We had to be a little bit better to put us in the game, and even then I don’t know if that would have been enough,” said Bouchard. “It wasn’t fun for me, but I’m with the guys it wasn’t fun for them either. I have to be with the players. I can’t turn against them.”
The Rocket have two more games before the Christmas break, at home against the Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday night, and at the Utica Comets on Friday.
McCarron fighting through
After Friday’s game Bouchard talked about Charles Hudon’s injury and the difference between being hurt when you can play through something and being injured and not being able to go. On Saturday, McCarron insisted he was good to go and the team, hesitant, made him a game-time decision before putting him back in the lineup.
The biggest issue on Friday was that he couldn’t get out of stops when skating in the morning.
“[Saturday] morning, with the extra day of recovery I was able to give it a push and the training staff is really good here to get me back after a week,” McCarron said about the injury to his hip. “It’s painful, I can play through it. It’s not one of those injuries where I can re-injure it. There’s no structural damage, just one of those things you have to push through.”
“He wants to play,” Bouchard said. “Mac’s coming in to give what he can without skating this week because he wants to be a part of it, he wants to help the boys.”