A lot has changed since the Laval Rocket last played a game: Seven players in the lineup were not part of last year’s team. The coaching staff of Jean-François Houle, Kelly Buchberger, and Martin Laperrière are also among the new arrivals. Their home rink moved back to Place Bell after a year at the Bell Centre. Almost 9.000 fans were cheering them on after a year of empty stands.
The only thing that didn’t seem to change was the fact that the defending Canadian Division champions were dominant en route to a 6-2 win over the Belleville Senators in their season opener on Friday night.
It was a complete team effort from top to bottom. Twelve of the 18 skaters in the lineup had a point, five players had two points, and six different players scored in the win. Cayden Primeau made 17 saves in the win.
It wasn’t a great start for the Rocket early on. They struggled to put together some passes, and were on their heels slightly. The result was that halfway through the period, the Senators had the first seven shots of the game, and they fell behind 1-0 when Matthew Wedman threw a shot on net that beat Primeau and went off the post and in.
The goal seemed to spark Laval. Shortly after the goal, the line of Gabriel Bourque, Jean-Sébastien Dea, and Kevin Roy had the team’s best shift of the game. The teams traded shortened power plays after that, but the Rocket had the momentum.
They tied the game with 1:36 left in the first period when Michael Pezzetta continued his inspired play from training camp to pounce on a loose puck to the right of Senators goaltender Mads Sogaard and put it in the back of the net.
Le premier but de la saison du Rocket signé Michael Pezzetta— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) October 16, 2021
The Rocket's first goal of the season offered to you by Michael Pezzetta pic.twitter.com/W6h5sFxCAo
Laval started the second period shorthanded after a penalty late in the first, but they were be the ones to take the lead. A Tory Dello shoot-in bounced off of a partition in the glass and made its way directly to the net. Sogaard, who was leaving the net to play the puck, managed to make a miraculous save by sticking out his leg in the opposite direction his body was moving. Unfortunately for him, Lukas Vejdemo was right there to pot the rebound to make it 2-1.
The goal came just 38 seconds into the second period.
The lead lasted just under eight minutes. On the power play, Jonathan Aspirot’s shot went wide but it bounced off the boards right to Phllippe Daoust who fired the ricochet right back into the open side of the net to make it 2-2.
Laval bounced right back. Only 15 seconds later, they re-took the lead. Danick Martel forced a turnover in the Belleville zone, Kevin Roy pounced on the puck, brought it to the front of the net and Martel was there to finish the play and give the Rocket a 3-2 lead, and this one they wouldn’t relinquish.
Primeau wasn’t tested much, but he was tested shortly after the Martel goal. He managed to make the save of the game with his glove from a wide open shot from the slot.
Before the second period ended, the Rocket added two more goals. Dea fired a shot past Sogaard from the slot after a scramble, and less than two minutes later, Jean-Christophe Beaudin was sprung on a breakaway on a great pass from Brandon Baddock and made no mistake to score against his former team.
The goal chased Sogaard from the game, and he was replaced by Kevin Mandolese.
The only line to not score through two periods was the line of Ryan Poehling, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, and Jesse Ylönen. They fixed that just nine seconds into the third period.
Poehling got the puck all alone, and skated in and beat Mandolese.
That was the most action as there was in the third period as the two teams combined for five shots on goal. Overall, Laval outshot Belleville 23-19.
The two teams will play the second half of a home-and-home series in Belleville on Saturday night. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.
11 Rafaël Harvey-Pinard — 41 Ryan Poehling — 26 Jesse Ylönen
15 Kevin Roy — 10 Jean-Sébastien Dea — 20 Gabriel Bourque
23 Michael Pezzetta — 12 Lukas Vejdemo — 18 Danick Martel
34 Brandon Baddock — 27 Laurent Dauphin — 17 Jean-Christophe Beaudin
43 Xavier Ouellet — 7 Louie Belpedio
2 Gianni Fairbrother — 6 Corey Schueneman
4 Tobie Paquette-Bisson — 5 Tory Dello
31 Cayden Primeau
40 Michael McNiven
Scratches: D Terrance Amorosa, D Carl Neill, F Cameron Hillis, F Alexandre Fortin, F Brandon Gignac
- Ryan Poehling wore an ‘A’ for the home opener and will be part of the leadership group in Laval. He will alternate with Harvey-Pinard, Bourque, and Schueneman. Xavier Ouellet is the team’s captain.
- Poehling played in all situations, and according to head coach Jean-François Houle lost only two faceoffs all game.