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Laval vs. Rockford recap and highlights: Depleted Rocket fall flat in shootout loss

A fast start wasn’t enough to earn both points on Tuesday night.

Shanna Martin

After a stumbling finish to the previous week the Laval Rocket were back to square one as they attempted to keep pace in the ridiculously competitive North Division. Mounting injuries to many of their star players forced the hand of Joël Bouchard, creating a lineup with multiple ECHL call ups and players on tryout deals. He was once again dealt another blow when Lukas Vejdemo was recalled to the NHL, leaving him with suddenly barren options at centre. Furthering that, Bouchard also had to deploy five left shooting defenders.

Cayden Primeau did not start, after taking a heavy loss at the hands of the Rochester Americans last Saturday, and Keith Kinkaid had the chance to re-establish himself. Kinkaid won his last game, where he came in for an injured Charlie Lindgren in a comeback victory over Springfield.

Needing a quick start was of the utmost importance to the Rocket who had struggled in recent games to jump out of the gate with any sort of urgency. The Rocket were helped along thanks to a Philipp Kurashev tripping penalty just 45 seconds into the period. A re-tooled power play took the ice, but it was a familiar face doing the damage once again. Charles Hudon took a pass from Xavier Ouellet along the blue line and walked into the right face-off circle where he fired a rising wrist shot that beat Collin Delia to make it 1-0 Rocket.

Another penalty to Chad Krys did little to relieve the early onslaught for Rockford, and a second Laval power play piled on the shots, but could not get another puck by Delia. In the opening seven minutes the Rocket put up 11 shots on the IceHogs before they surrendered one on Keith Kinkaid, a dominant start to the game.

Reese Johnson did little to help Rockford out, running over Kinkaid behind Laval’s net and sending the Rocket to a third straight power play barely past the halfway point of the period. While Jake Evans cancelled out the advantage with a hooking penalty, the Rocket still found another goal, this time of the shorthanded variety. With Johnson out of the box the IceHogs had a power play of their own, but Josh Brook pushed the puck out of the defensive zone and drew in two opponents in Rockford’s end. As they honed in on him, Brook fed a pass across to Alexandre Alain who fired past Delia for his sixth goal of the year.

After Joseph Cramarossa threw a high hit on William Pelletier, Xavier Ouellet stepped in and threw fists with the Rockford tough guy, and while Ouellet was clearly outmatched, Pelletier skated by the box for a stick tap to the captain as the period ended.

Early period penalties continued to be a theme, with Kevin Lynch taking a seat just 36 seconds into the middle period. Kinkaid and the Rocket penalty kill stood tall, and with Lynch out of the box Laval went right back to the kill as Nikita Jevpalovs tried to jump around Delia, but instead crushed the Rockford netminder. They then killed that penalty, and immediately took another. As they killed off that minor, the Rocket took a fourth straight minor penalty in first ten minutes of the period. Again, they killed it off and continued to keep the IceHogs at bay while drawing a power play of their own once again.

The power play did what the penalty kill did not, and that was give up a goal as Cramarossa broke free with an intercepted pass, coolly sliding it between Kinkaid’s legs for a shorthanded goal. The Rocket could not match the goal they gave up, but a strong drive around the net from Charles Hudon in the final minutes of the period gave Laval a second straight man advantage to restore their two goal lead. They failed to tally another goal as the horn sounded, but headed into the intermission still leading by a goal.

The third period started and it was very clear that the Rocket team from the opening 40 minutes had trouble finding their legs with the game wearing on. Keith Kinkaid after two mostly quiet periods was tested fairly heavily as the Rocket’s legs seemed to fail them in the third, and the veteran goalie did well to fend off the Chicago attack.

With just over half of the period gone the IceHogs found their tying goal, with a Dmitry Osipov shot trickling through traffic in front of Kinkaid, and just sliding through five hole to tie the game at two goals each. Kinkaid continued to hold his team in it as the Rocket killed off a Joe Cox minor penalty shortly after Osipov’s goal.

Rockford served up a gigantic opportunity for Laval with two minutes left to play when Anton Wedin was sent to the box for tripping. The makeshift power play units were not able to get it done, and the game shifted to overtime to find a winner. The extra session solved nothing, and the shootout loomed for both sides. Delia stopped all five Laval shooters, while Kinkaid turned away the first four before giving up the winner to Wedin to allow Rockford to grab the second point.

It’s a massively disappointing loss for the Rocket who had easily their best start of the year in the first period, but some missed chances and poor discipline killed them in the end. Kinkaid played well when the team in front of him stopped skating so to speak, so if there is one big positive to takeaway from this game it is certainly that. The Rocket now head off to Utica for their last game before Christmas, they’ll face the Comets on Friday night before a seven day break in games.

Final Score: Rockford 3, Laval 2 (Shootout)