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Laval vs. Bridgeport recap & highlights: Dauphin and Ylönen guide Rocket to a thrilling win

It was a back-and-forth affair, but the Rocket grabbed both points thanks to a big night from their stars.

Club de Hockey Canadien

Fresh off a solid shutout victory over the Belleville Senators on Wednesday night, the Laval Rocket were back in action against the Bridgeport Islanders at Place Bell. The Rocket lineup featured just one change, with Michael McNiven getting the nod in net for Laval, while Jakub Skarek was in goal for the Islanders.

The Rocket got all the momentum they needed right off the bat as they found the back of the net 27 seconds into the game. Laurent Dauphin worked off the half-wall and put a shot towards the net, and Danick Martel was able to get just enough of the puck to direct it home for an early Rocket lead.

Laval continued to dictate the early run of play, but Kevin Roy’s attempted clearing attempt on a puck in mid-air flew out of play, putting the Islanders on the game’s first power play. They moved the puck quickly, and after Chris Terry had his shot blocked Robin Salo, he held the puck back at the point before wiring a long-range shot through a screen to tie the game with just over eight minutes gone.

Just over two minutes later the Islanders took advantage of poor defensive awareness as Blade Jenkins dished off to Arnaud Durandeau. The Isles forward had his first shot saved, but Louie Belpedio failed to see the rebound, allowing Durandeau to easily slot the puck into the empty net.

A wild first period continued from there as Brandon Baddock and Seth Helgeson threw down, and Laval had to fend off another Bridgeport power play to keep the deficit at just one goal.

Roy atoned for his early penalty as he worked into the soft area of the ice in the offensive zone. Alexandre Fortin backhanded a pass to him, Roy snapped a quick shot over Skarek, and the game was knotted up a two goals apiece.

The tie didn’t last long as Paul LaDue worked along the blue line and let a harmless shot go that appeared to hit off a Rocket stick or body and floated over McNiven, who expected a fastball not a change-up.

After a slashing penalty on both Terry and Tory Dello to end the first period, the second started with some four-on-four hockey. The extra ice allowed Cole Caufield a bit of space to operate, but a misfired pass to Dauphin went the other way down the ice for the Islanders. A strong shot was saved by McNiven, but it went up in the air and Andy Andreoff swatted it into the net as McNiven went to glove it. The attempt, however, was well over the bar, and the goal was instantly waved off.

The Islanders then took advantage of poor defensive coverage by the Rocket as they hammered multiple chances at McNiven, but some timely saves and a diving stick from Dello kept the deficit at just one. Then, a bit of luck for the Rocket as the Isles were whistled for too many men on the ice, giving Laval a crucial break from the onslaught.

The power play looked to be heading for failure, as Caufield crossed the line offside, not hearing the whistle and rifling a shot near Skarek that drew a crowd. Out of the massive scrum, the Islanders were the only ones penalized, giving the Rocket a massive two-man advantage early in the second period.

To call the power play a mess is quite kind as the Rocket never truly put themselves in a spot to threaten the Islanders’ three-man penalty-killing unit. Even the following five-on-four power play led to nothing. As Parker Wotherspoon left the box, he collected a clearing play for a breakaway chance, but McNiven denied him with a strong pad save to bail out his teammates.

Gabriel Bourque followed that up by taking a hooking penalty, putting Laval back in a precarious spot. The penalty-killers were able to press the Islanders back, getting a few looks short-handed, and the Rocket escaped without further damage.

Then came the breakthrough for the Rocket after a number of close calls. With the puck deep in Laval’s end, Jesse Ylönen grabbed a loose puck and fired it up ice to a streaking Danick Martel. The speedy winger made no mistake, burying his second goal of the night to tie the game at three.

Then the Rocket penalty issues reared their head again, as Martel was whistled for a slash just 14 seconds after his goal. While the Rocket were able to kill Martel’s minor, they soon had another to contend with as Corey Schueneman was called for a cross-check in the defensive zone.

The Rocket penalty kill again fought off the Isles power play, but as Schueneman exited the box, Robin Salo teed up Terry for an open look, and the former Rocket star wired a shot under the bar to restore the Bridgeport lead.

As the period approached its conclusion, things took a turn for the stupid once again as a scrum broke out, and at the end of it only McNiven and Kyle MacLean were given matching minors for roughing.

The third period began with some incredible fortune for the Rocket as Terry was called for high-sticking Belpedio, presenting Laval with a four-on-three opportunity. This time the power play made it count as Dauphin fed a pass back to Xavier Ouellet at the point. The Rocket captain stepped in and fired a wristshot high on Skarek to make it a 4-4 game very early in the third period.

Both teams continued to trade chances as the period marched on, but it was the Rocket gaining all the momentum. This shift in the game was punctuated by Belpedio launching Terry up into the rafter with a beautiful hip-check.

Skarek remained a wall, refusing to budge as the Rocket fourth line hounded him throughout the period, and before long the game headed to overtime.

As always, three-on-three overtime was full of end-to-end chances. First Caufield uncorked a blistering shot that Skarek gloved down. Then at the other end a pair of turnovers by Ouellet nearly ended the game as the first shot clanged off the iron, and the second was batted away.

The Rocket turned around off that series of plays, with Dauphin taking a pass from Tobie Paquette-Bisson and breaking into the Isles’ zone. Dauphin was hauled down as he entered, but still flicked a pass over to Ylönen from his knees. Ylönen left it back for Dauphin, who fired it behind Skarek to grab the overtime win for Laval.

Final Score: Laval 5, Bridgeport 4 (OT)

The Rocket now have a match with the AHL’s hottest team, the Utica Comets, ahead of them on Saturday at 1:00 PM at Place Bell.

Three Stars

  1. Danick Martel (2 Goals, 1 Assist)
  2. Chris Terry (1 Goal, 2 Assists)
  3. Laurent Dauphin (1 Goal, 2 Assists)