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Laval vs. Rochester recap & highlights: Rocket comeback forces overtime but comes up short

A wild six-goal third period earned one point, but not two.

Club de hockey Canadien

Two goals in 50 seconds allowed the Laval Rocket to force overtime, but they ultimately came up short as they lost 6-5 to the Rochester Americans on Saturday afternoon at Place Bell in Laval.

“It was a weird game,” said Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle. “There was a part of our game I didn’t like as much. Defensively, you can’t give up five goals and expect to win the game. You need to play better defensively. We showed some character again, we came back from behind, but when you come back and still lose the game it’s disappointing.”

Jesse Ylönen scored twice, and Ryan Poehling and Jean-Sébastien Dea had a goal and an assist in the loss. Alex Belzile and Terrance Amorosa had two assists.

In overtime, Rochester defender Oskari Laaksonen pinched in behind coverage and converted a JJ Peterka pass to clinch the win with 1:13 remaining in the extra period. Michael McNiven would dive to try to make the save, but the effort was not enough.

A wild six-goal third period was a rollercoaster in itself. The game was tied 2-2 after two periods. Michael Pezzetta gave the Rocket a 3-2 lead 1:59 into the final period. He drove to the net, put the puck into the crease, and it bounced in behind Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. It was his third goal of the season.

That goal ended up sparking the Americans.

Less than four minutes after Pezzetta’s goal, the Rocket took an icing. On the ensuing faceoff, the puck went to Linus Weissbach who fired the puck past Rocket goaltender Michael McNiven to tie the game.

Just 68 seconds after Weissbach’s goal, the Americans added another goal. Matej Pekar took the puck at the right half wall, go around the net and beat McNiven on the wraparound.

Rochester wasn’t done there. After a chance in close, Casey Fitzgerald’s shot from the right circle hit the post behind McNiven. The puck went directly to Jimmy Schuldt whose point shot from the left point didn’t miss to make it 5-3. In the 4:04 from Weissbach’s goal to Schuldt’s goal, the Americans outshot the Rocket 9-1. Over the entire game, Laval outshot Rochester 33-26.

Laval wasn’t really challenging Luukkonen, but a Ryan Scarfo interference penalty with 5:42 remaining changed the remainder of the game.

On the power play, Jean-François Houle pulled McNiven to give the Rocket a six-on-four advantage. The gamble paid off. Jesse Ylönen had the puck come to him on a rebound, and he had an open net. He didn’t miss it, and his second goal of the game made it 5-4.

Laval tied the game on the next shift. Amorosa got the puck down low to Belzile. Belzile then one-timed a pass to Dea who had just come off the bench. Dea tied the game up against his former team.

“I think he saw me, coming back door,” Dea said about Belzile’s pass. “He’s a great player and can make those passes, so I was just trying to beat my defender with my speed and that’s my job to put it in.”

Two games in less than 15 hours is never ideal, but the Rocket picked up where they left off at the start of the game, with all four lines getting involved in the play in the Rochester zone. They were unable to beat Luukkonen.

Rochester got a chance of their own when their top line broke into the Rocket zone. Jack Quinn came up on the right wing, centred the puck to JJ Peterka, who was driving towards the net. McNiven made the sprawling save, and despite a scramble in front when Malone drove the net on the rebound, the puck did not go in.

The emotions from back-to-back games boiled over with eight minutes left in the first period. Josh Teves hit Laurent Dauphin at the Rochester blue line, and Louie Belpedio came to defend the AHL’s leading goal scorer. Teves and Belpedio went off for fighting, with the Rocket defender also getting extra two and 10 minute penalties for instigating.

On the ensuing power play, it was Quinn, the Sabres 2020 first-round pick, who opened the scoring. He got the puck at the lower part of the left circle of and fired a shot off of McNiven’s shoulder and behind the Laval goaltender.

The second period saw a lot of action in the middle of the period. Ryan Poehling tied the game at 8:34 of the period when he took a pass from Xavier Ouellet on the left side of the net, and broke towards the middle. He put the backhand past Luukkonen as the goaltender knocked the net off. The goal was allowed immediately by the official.

The goal seemed to spark the Rocket’s offence. Lukas Vejdemo had a chance shortly after, and, just 2:20 after Poehling’s goal, the team converted.

The Rocket took their first lead of the two-game series against the Americans. Jesse Ylönen, who has been getting closer to scoring this season, finally managed to score his first goals of the season and his first was on a great individual effort.

He walked out to the slot and avoided a sprawling Rochester defender, then fired an off-balance shot through traffic and into the net.

“I think I’ve been feeling better every game, but today I was just more lucky than in previous games,” Ylönen said about breaking through offensively. “It was a tough, tough loss. I can’t really be happy about my goals. If we won, it would feel much better.”

Alex Belzile had a great chance shortly after Ylönen’s goal, but Luukkonen made the save.

The lead did not last long as the Americans tied it up less than three minutes after Ylönen’s goal. Michael Mersch walked in front from behind the net and beat McNiven five-hole.

McNiven may have wanted that goal back, but made a big save later in the period to keep the game tied. Laval outshot Rochester 10-4 in the second period, and controlled most of the play, but the Rocket goaltender still had to make key saves at key times.

After a three-game week, Rocket now have a full week of practice before their next games Saturday in Syracuse and Sunday in Utica.

“We need to improve [our defensive game] a lot,” Ylönen said. “We have a good group of guys and a good team but we’re not satisfied right now.”


Three Stars

3 - Ryan Poehling (1 goal, 1 assist)
2 - Jesse Ylönen (2 goals)
1 - Jack Quinn (ROC, 1 goal, 1 assist)

Power plays: ROC 1/1, LAV 1/3

Shots: ROC 26, LAV 33


Lineup

Laurent Dauphin — Jean Sébastien Dea — Jesse Ylönen
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard — Ryan Poehling — Alex Belzile
Michael Pezzetta — Lukas Vejdemo — Gabriel Bourque
Kevin Roy — Brandon Gignac — Alexandre Fortin

Gianni Fairbrother — Xavier Ouellet
Corey Schueneman — Louie Belpedio
Tobie Paquette-Bisson — Terrance Amorosa

Michael McNiven
Cayden Primeau

There were four lineup changes from Friday’s game as Houle tried to keep his guys fresh. Alexandre Fortin and Terrance Amorosa played their first games of the season, while Brandon Gignac and Kevin Roy also re-entered the lineup.

Brandon Baddock, Carl Neill, and Danick Martel were healthy scratches. Jean-Christophe Beaudin was out due to an injury.

Tory Dello, Josh Brook, Joël Teasdale also remain out with injuries.

The top three lines and top two pairs have been relatively constant, but Houle is not completely satisfied.

“It’s nice to see that they find each other and make plays, but it’s not all about offence,” Houle said. “We need to make sure they play well as a unit of five defensively. If you play well defensively, you’ll get your chances.”


Standings

The North Division is going to be tight the entire way through. Only the bottom two teams miss the playoffs, and it will likely be a close race throughout the season. Early on, these standings can change dramatically.

“That’s what’s fun,” said Dea about the strong division. “That’s what makes the league good. There’s a good parity, all the teams are good. It challenges all of the guys to not come to the rink and take days off. If we work hard, we have so much depth, we’re well-coached, I’m not worried that the wins won’t start to come.”

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