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Rocket @ Monsters recap & highlights: Vejdemo’s two goals, Evans’s game-winner cap impressive comeback

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It was a big night for three Canadiens prospects in Cleveland.

Club de Hockey Canadien

On the heels of a dominant weekend sweep over the Manitoba Moose, allowing just one goal while scoring six of their own, the Laval Rocket hit the road for a two-game stint in Cleveland against the Monsters. Missing from their lineup in this series were Dale Weise, who was recalled to Montreal, and veteran centre Michael Chaput, traded to the Arizona Coyotes.

Charlie Lindgren got the start again for Laval, and opposite of him for Cleveland was J.F. Berube.

It was a start to forget for Laval, with the team surrendering an early lead to the Monsters just under four minutes into the first period. Ryan Collins put his team out in front, and 40 seconds later Kole Sherwod doubled the advantage as Laval struggled to put together any sort of early attack.

A too many men penalty gave the Rocket a chance to mount that attack, but in a regular trend this season, the man advantage failed to garner much zone time, let alone scoring chances. They didn’t have to wait long for another chance to open the scoring for themselves, however, as Paul Bittner was whistled for hooking with five minutes left to play in the period. It went for naught once again, and it was up to Lindgren at the end to turn away a handful of chances to keep the deficit at just two goals.

It was a fast and furious start to the second period as well, with Tommy Cross and Alex Belzile both heading to the penalty box within 20 seconds of each other. In the ensuing four-on-four play, Lukas Vejdemo broke free behind the Cleveland defence and finished with a nifty forehand-backhand-forehand deke for his ninth goal of the year.

The joy from the Swede’s goal was short-lived, with Bittner losing his coverage and roofing a far-side shot, chasing Lindgren from the net after three goals on 10 shots.

Laval responded immediately thanks to a pair of rookie forwards combining for a fantastic goal. Michael Pezzetta sent Hayden Verbeek through on a short break as Verbeek’s speed allowed him to weave through the Monsters defence. He then used a nice show of hands to get Berube moving, and picked the far corner for his second goal of the year.

Cross restored the two-goal advantage with just over five minutes left on a shot from the point that found its way past Michael McNiven.

The Rocket again battled back in the dying seconds to get themselves within a goal, with Verbeek striking again. Alex Kile fired a harmless shot from the half-wall that Berube lost track of. Verbeek pounced on the loose puck and poked it home with just two seconds left on the clock.

Even with the momentum after their late goal, the Rocket started slowly in the third period, spending most of it in their own end. McNiven stood tall allowing the rest of the team to get their feet underneath them, and they finally found some pushback against Berube and the Monsters.

The Rocket nearly had the tying goal with 13 minutes left in the period. A setup pass forced Berube to dive across his crease to deny the newly signed Joe Cox a goal in his debut. That series marked a turning point in the game, as the Rocket offence continued their march toward a tying goal, and they got it soon after.

With just over half the period gone, Vejdemo struck once again. Karl Alzner chucked a shot toward the net that was blocked down, and Vejdemo fought through Cross to smack home the puck, tying the game at four goals apiece.

Then, with all the momentum in their favour, the Rocket were handed a golden opportunity thanks to Adam Clendening taking a seat in the box for a delay of game penalty. Despite missing on their previous four chances, the Rocket made the most of this one, with Jake Evans playing the hero with a few seconds left on the man advantage.

Alex Belzile worked the puck into a dangerous area, and Evans managed to peel off the defence into a soft spot on the ice. Belzile fed him the puck, and the rookie forward had no issue snapping the puck by Berube, giving Laval their first lead of the night.

From there McNiven slammed the door shut, and the Rocket held on for a fantastic come-from-behind victory. They won’t have long to celebrate, as the same teams clash on Friday night as well.

Three Stars

1. Jake Evans (1 Goal)

2. Lukas Vejdemo (2 Goals)

3. Hayden Verbeek (2 Goals)