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Laval vs. Utica recap & highlights: Four-goal third period propels Rocket to comeback win

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Veterans and rookies alike combined for an important win at Place Bell.

Club de Hockey Canadien

After dropping a shutout loss to the Toronto Marlies on Friday night, the Laval Rocket didn’t have much time to linger on the stinging defeat. The Utica Comets rolled into Place Bell on Saturday and they were on the fringe of the playoff picture, affording the Rocket the chance to catch up somewhat to a team ahead. Charlie Lindgren got the net for Joël Bouchard after Michael McNiven started the previous game, opposing one of the AHL’s stalwart veterans, Michael Leighton.

The teams traded early opportunities, and it was the Rocket once again who surrendered the first goal, a little over nine minutes into the opening period. Brendan Woods caught the Rocket defence playing too aggressively, and Kole Lind broke free in the zone as well. Woods’s pass to Lind was right on the money and Lind ripped the puck by Lindgren for an early lead.

The Rocket kept the Comets at bay for the second half of the period, and also headed to a late power play thanks to a Cam Darcy tripping penalty. A heavy attack couldn’t find a goal in the dying minutes thanks to some timely shot-blocking and quick reactions from Leighton. The Rocket carried their advantage over into the second period, still looking for their first goal of the night.

With under a minute of power play time left to start the period, the Rocket had to work quickly to try and capitalize. Though the chance wasn’t converted, they didn’t have to wait long for another chance on the man advantage. Tanner Kero and David Sklenicka barreled into Lindgren, drawing a goaltender interference call in the process, and fortunately Lindgren appeared to be just fine after the heavy collision.

This time the Rocket power play cashed in, with the rookie duo of Lukas Vejdemo and Cale Fleury combining for the marker. Vejdemo took the draw, winning it back to Fleury, and the defender took his time to find an open shooting lane before wiring a snapshot by Leighton to tie the game at one goal each.

The Rocket then got themselves in penalty trouble of their own, with Jake Evans and Antoine Waked putting the team on a three-on-five penalty kill at the midway point of the period. Some strong play by Lindgren and the Rocket special-teams unit kept the scored knotted up.

Despite a strong overall period, the Comets took the lead back with just 38 seconds left on the clock. Vincent Arseneau’s seventh goal of the year sent Laval to the intermission needing another strong period start to tie the game up again.

They got the opposite in the final frame, with Woods scoring his fourth goal of the year, and putting the thin Rocket offence under heavy pressure. A pair of Daniel Audette penalties put a stick in the spokes for the Rocket, but a strong showing by the penalty-killers again saw the deficit kept at two goals, and they managed to draw a penalty in the process.

Then, after weeks of struggling, the Rocket power play came alive at the best possible time.

Colton Saucerman took a seat for hooking just before the halfway point of the third period, and with his penalty almost set to expire, Alexandre Alain notched a power-play goal to bring Laval back into the contest. Fleury was the catalyst again, firing a quick shot from the point that Leighton lost sight of, but Alain did not as he chipped it home to cut the Utica lead to one goal.

From there on out the Rocket would not be denied on offence. The veteran Alexandre Grenier was the driving force in the late Laval attack. After being denied on the goal line by Leighton, Grenier found the tying goal, his 11th of the campaign. Another Fleuy shot was directed behind the net, where Joe Cox collected it and threw a blind pass behind him, which Grenier rifled home to tie the game in the final four minutes.

Then the hits kept coming as the line of Cox, Grenier and Evans combined to set up what became the game-winning goal just 34 seconds later. A Maxim Lamarche shot missed the net and Evans pushed it along to Grenier. The Rocket’s veteran forward dropped a pass through his legs and Cox directed it home for his first AHL goal.

Vejdemo capped off a quietly great game with an empty-net goal, completing a monstrous third period for the Rocket: four goals, including three in the final four minutes, en route to a 5-3 win.

The Rocket now have some time to rest and recuperate after a hard week at home. The four-point contest moves them seven points back of the Comets and Belleville Senators for fourth place in the division. Fifteen games remain on the schedule for them to reduce that gap.

AHL

Laval will finish up the current homestand on Wednesday night when the Syracuse Crunch roll into Place Bell.

Three Stars

1. Alexandre Grenier (1 Goal, 2 Assists)

2. Joe Cox (1 Goal, 1 Assist)

3. Cale Fleury (1 Goal, 2 Assists)