While the Montreal Canadiens continue to slide in the NHL, the Laval Rocket have begun to pick up steam, having won their previous four games coming into Friday’s match with the Syracuse Crunch. In their last meeting, Keith Kinkaid stole the Rocket a win as former prospect Zach Fucale allowed three goals on just 15 shots in a 3-2 Laval win.
The Rocket are now bolstered by the return of Lukas Vejdemo from Montreal, Christian Folin who was recently waived, and Phil Varone who has been injured since the early part of the season. Also joining the team was the newly acquired Laurent Dauphin, who arrived from Milwaukee in exchange for Michael McCarron on Tuesday night.
The timing could not be better for a team in a highly competitive North Division, where the Rocket sit in the middle of the pack, just five points out of first place but clinging to the eighth spot in the conference. Not in the lineup on Friday was Josh Brook, with Christian Folin taking his spot, not due to performance, but because Joël Bouchard believed it was wise to rest his rookie defender during a three-game weekend. Between the pipes it was Spencer Martin for the Crunch, and Cayden Primeau for the Rocket.
The first true chance of the opening period fell to the Crunch when Gustav Olofsson flubbed a pass. His turnover landed on the stick of Alex Barre-Boulet, who broke in alone but couldn’t beat Primeau.
The Crunch still managed to strike first. Off an icing call, Patrick Sieloff fired a shot on net, and Cory Conacher collected the puck then patiently went around a sprawling Primeau to make it a 1-0 game.
The Crunch lead did not last long, as the turnover problems continued to plague both teams. Ben Thomas tried to pull the puck away from an attacking Riley Barber, but mishandled it, giving Barber all the time he needed to shovel the puck past Martin to tie the game.
Riley Barber capitalized on a Crunch turnover and scores his 7th of the year. pic.twitter.com/lZgyt8eZ9r— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 11, 2020
Dauphin made his first impact in the game by drawing a boarding call on Cameron Gaunce as the Syracuse defender drilled him into the corner boards. Despite the quick passing of the Rocket man advantage, the best chance of the power play fell to the short-handed Crunch, with Danick Martel taking off on an odd-man rush, but failing to beat Primeau.
The Crunch took the lead back with less than a minute to play in the first, Taylor Raddysh entered the zone in a two-on-one rush, and with Folin cutting off his passing lane he opted to rip his shot over the netminder instead. Laval headed into the intermission trailing by a goal, and heavily in terms of shots on goal as well.
If a back-and-forth period wasn’t enough to open the game, the Rocket offence made sure to bring the excitement to start the second period. Yannick Veilleux held the puck in deep, then fired a pass to the slot where Folin fired a wobbly shot through Martin to tie the game just 37 seconds in.
Christian Folin gets his first of the year just 37 seconds into the period. pic.twitter.com/6rupLJRHGZ— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 11, 2020
Just over a minute-and-a-half later, Alexandre Alain took a pass from Xavier Ouellet, worked his way around a sliding defender, then snapped another goal by Martin, chasing the netminder from the game with three goals on seven shots.
Alexandre Alain gets his 8th of the year and chases Spencer Martin from the game. pic.twitter.com/xsPnoyXVEe— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 11, 2020
Mike Condon did not fare much better upon entering the game, as Kevin Lynch broke in behind the defence and tucked in his fourth goal of the year making it 4-2, with three goals coming in under three minutes.
On the first shot Mike Condon faces, he gets scored on by Kevin Lynch, three goals in under three minutes to start the second period for Laval. pic.twitter.com/DrOFxS1EAH— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 11, 2020
The Crunch drew one back to stop the bleeding. With Vejdemo sitting for holding, the Crunch needed just four seconds on the power play to cut the lead to one. Cal Foote collected the loose puck and fed it to Ross Colton in the slot, who rifled home a shot, his sixth goal of the year.
After the Crunch goal the game settled in a bit, with the goalies managing to stop the chances flying in their respective directions. The Rocket however drew another power play. Between Xavier Ouellet and Charles Hudon, Laval piled on the shots, but could not put a puck past Condon.
They didn’t have to wait long to try again as Gemel Smith was called for tripping with two-and-a-half minutes left to play in the period. This time Jake Evans worked the puck to Ouellet at the point, and he in turn teed up Hudon, who blasted his 17th goal of the year to restore the two-goal lead.
Death, taxes, Charles Hudon scoring on the power play pic.twitter.com/QKoAe486CS— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 11, 2020
After quick starts in both previous periods, the third seemed tame by comparison with both teams failing to establish any sort of control through the opening 10 minutes of play. The Crunch finally broke the doldrums with a goal, however, as Daniel Walcott jumped on a loose puck in front of the Rocket net, poking home his third goal of the year.
The Rocket then turned to their top line to help find some insurance late in this wild game, and again the top line delivered in spades. Evans sprung Hudon and Vejdemo on a two-on-one break, Hudon called his own number and ripped his second goal of the game to make it 6-4 late in the third period.
Syracuse opted to pull Condon with just over three minutes to play, and after a furious battle along the boards Karl Alzner turned and fired a nearly 200-foot shot into the empty net to make it a three-goal Laval lead. The Crunch added a late power-play goal, but the Rocket came away with the win in the end, a fifth straight win for Laval.
Final Score: Laval 7, Syracuse 5
The Rocket now head to Pennsylvania for a game with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday night, where Folin will get a chance to meet up with friend Oskar Lindblom, before heading to Bridgeport for a Sunday afternoon clash with the Sound Tigers to close out their hectic road trip.