After a major winning streak the Laval Rocket crashed back to earth with a pair of losses to end a three-games-in-three-days weekend. In their loss to Bridgeport last Sunday, Cayden Primeau allowed three goals on five shots, and was pulled for Keith Kinkaid. Primeau was given the nod again by Joël Bouchard last night, as the rookie looked to shake off the rough outing a week prior.
The Rocket were also bolstered by a returning Matthew Peca, but that return forced the Rocket to sit another veteran to comply with AHL rules. In the end, it was Yannick Veilleux who sat, and the Rocket opted for an 11-forward, seven-defenceman setup, seeing Josh Brook take some shifts as a fourth-line winger. Opposing the Rocket was Eric Comrie in net, having bounced between the Jets and Red Wings on waivers in the NHL.
Right out of the gate it was Laval in control of the game, with the strong play of their top line putting a thin Moose squad on its heels. The pressure forced Manitoba into an early penalty, putting Laval’s threatening power play to work less than five minutes into the game. A shift from Charles Hudon and the man advantage did not result in a goal, but that was due to some big saves from Comrie.
While the Rocket controlled the flow of play for much of the period, they were not able to break through in the first and ended the opening frame killing part of a Christian Folin tripping penalty. Unlike their NHL counterparts, Laval’s penalty-killers managed to avoid the momentum-crippling last-minute goal, heading into the intermission with the game scoreless.
The Rocket finished killing off the final 38 seconds of Folin’s minor, fighting off a Moose attack that seemed destined to score, but big saves by Primeau kept the game still level.
As the penalty expired, it was a timely steal by Lukas Vejdemo that ignited the Rocket counter-attack. Vejdemo snagged a lazy pass, breaking away into the Moose zone and starting a cycle with Jake Evans and Hudon. A quick dump-in found its way to Hudon, who slipped a pass back to Vejdemo, who immediately fed it back to Hudon so he could bury his 19th goal of the year.
Charles Hudon feeds Lukas Vejdemo who gives it right back for Hudon's 19th goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/WzrvlB85w7— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 18, 2020
The Rocket had an immediate challenge to their lead as Kevin Lynch went off for tripping, but again the penalty kill was flawless as it held the Manitoba power play firmly in check.
Laval then had a turn of their own on a two-man advantage as the Moose took a pair of penalties on the same play. First was Logan Stanley for high-sticking, and before Manitoba could touch the puck Andrei Chibisov drilled Hudon in the numbers, drawing a boarding call.
While an earlier power play was full of dangerous looks, this two-man advantage was not, and was cut short when Phil Varone slashed the stick out of a defender’s hands in front of the net, sending the play to four-on-three, then a short power play for the Moose. The Rocket continued to give nothing to their opponent, snuffing out any attacks, and by the time the intermission horn sounded, they had limited Manitoba to just 11 shots.
Laval had the early advantage to start the third, with Jimmy Oligny going off for tripping just 32 seconds into the period. The best chance of the power play fell to the Moose as they generated a short-handed rush, and fired a shot off the crossbar that bounced in favour of Laval, keeping their lead intact.
The Rocket did manage to double their lead shortly after the power play ended, thanks to another timely goal from Riley Barber. Peca poked the puck to Folin at the point, and Folin fired a hard, low shot on Comrie. The Moose goalie kicked it out right to Barber, who settled the puck and slotted it home for his ninth goal of the season.
Christian Folin's shot rebounds right to Riley Barber, and Barber buries his 9th of the year. pic.twitter.com/dNghv7Wiri— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 18, 2020
The Rocket attacked continued to pile on chances and found another goal just before the halfway mark of the period. Alexandre Alain broke into the offensive zone with speed, leaving a drop-pass for Nikita Jevpalovs, and Jevpalovs fired a hard wrist shot that Comrie could not handle, making it a three-goal Laval lead.
Alexandre Alain leaves a puck for Nikita Jevpalovs, and the Latvian winger rips his 5th goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/jz8qv9hmb3— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 19, 2020
JC Lipon’s temper off the following faceoff did not help Manitoba’s cause, as he sat out two minutes for roughing, while also collecting a 10-minute misconduct for directing gloved punches at Evan McEneny.
Laval had no issues running out the final 10 minutes of play, collecting a dominant, and much needed, win over Manitoba.
Final Score: Laval 3, Manitoba 0
It marked Cayden Primeau’s third shutout of the year, tops among rookies and third among all AHL goalies. For Charles Hudon, his goal moved him into a tie for sixth in the AHL for total goals, equal with former Rocket forward Kenny Agostino.
These sides will meet again this afternoon. It is expected that Keith Kinkaid will start for the Rocket.