Three-in-three weekends are never easy, and after a raucous affair on Friday, then a slow-paced loss on Saturday, the Rocket rolled into Bridgeport looking to end their weekend on a high note. Cayden Primeau was back between the pipes, and Josh Brook drew back into the lineup after getting two games’ worth of rest.
Also joining the lineup was Antoine Waked, who slid in for Joe Cox, and Evan McEneny for Christian Folin, who was a late scratch just before puck drop.
It seemed like the Rocket were determined to shake off Saturday’s loss in the early going of the game, with the team drawing a penalty just under 90 seconds into the contest as Kieffer Bellows went off for boarding. In what eventually became a trend in the contest, the power play did not convert, and even worse they surrendered a short-handed goal to Ryan Bourque shortly into their advantage.
The special-teams issues haunted the Rocket further, as Waked took a penalty on his first shift of the game, and the Sound Tigers made their power play count. Otto Koivula worked along the boards until he found his way to the goal line and then fired a low shot off a Laval skate in front of the net to make it two early goals for Bridgeport.
Things only got worse for the rookie netminder, as the next shot he faced ended up being a goal as well. Koivula snuck in behind the defence, breaking in alone and neatly tucking a second goal around Primeau’s pads for a three-goal Bridgeport lead. It was a third goal on five shots for Primeau, and that was the end of his Sunday as Joël Bouchard pulled him in favour of Keith Kinkaid.
Alexandre Alain temporarily stopped the bleeding late in the first, thanks to a timely interception. An errant pass by a Bridgeport defender landed right on Alain’s tape, and he waited a split second before firing a shot by Jared Coreau for his ninth goal of the year.
Trailing by two goals after the first the Rocket needed a big start to the second, and they got it thanks to Riley Barber. Phil Varone took a pass from Nikita Jevpalovs and cut in front of Coreau, nearly scoring himself. Barber was all over the rebound, lifting home his eighth goal of the year to make it just a one-goal deficit.
Just as it looked like the Rocket were going to make a game of it, the Sound Tigers struck twice in just a few minutes to put their lead back at three. First it was Koivula completing his hat trick in a little over half of the game. A lazy clearing attempt was kept in by Bellows, who reversed his pass behind the net to Koivula, and he finished easily past Kinkaid.
A few minutes later Bellows added to his big day, collecting a pass off the faceoff, walking into the high slot and snapping his shot by Kinkaid to make it 5-2.
The Rocket did fight back before the end of the period as Laurent Dauphin made his first impact in a Rocket sweater. He skated into the slot off the half-boards and fired what looked like a harmless wrist shot on Coreau, but the seeing-eye shot found the back of the net and gave Laval some momentum heading into the intermission.
Vejdemo dévie un tir de Dauphin et nous permet de rester dans le match!— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) January 12, 2020
Vejdemo deflects a shot from Dauphin and keeps us in the game!#LAVvsBRI #WitnessTheFuture #IciLAVenir #GoRocket pic.twitter.com/Vu3uE19z99
Trailing by two goals but with the momentum from Dauphin’s late-second-period tally, the Rocket set out to try to pull off another third-period comeback. With just over six minutes gone they nearly found a fourth goal. A simple dump-in was mishandled by Coreau, and Jevpalovs tried to chip it over the sprawling goaltender but fired his chance right back at the netminder.
Their chances continued as Robert Carpenter took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone, but even with the man advantage Laval failed to take advantage, and didn’t threaten much at all.
After some good chances by Lukas Vejdemo around the net, the Rocket finally cut into the Sound Tigers’ lead once more. Xavier Ouellet battled down low and while taking a hit flicked the puck back toward the blue line. Varone stepped into his shot in a big way, scoring his first goal of the year and putting the pressure on Bridgeport to hold on for another six minutes with a one-goal lead.
Kinkaid vacated his net with around two minutes left to play, a desperate final push for the Rocket as they tried to find a tying goal. That goal did not come as Nick Schilkey fired a shot the length of the ice for the empty-net marker, making it a 6-4 game.
Even with the result all but sealed, the Rocket continued to throw everything at Coreau, but to no avail as they dropped their second straight game to close out the three-in-three weekend.
Final Score: Bridgeport 6, Laval 4
It’s nearly a full week off for the team now. They’ll head to Winnipeg next Saturday for a two-game set with the Manitoba Moose.