After an up-and-down weekend at home, the Laval Rocket hopped on the bus to travel down the 401 to Toronto to face the Marlies. The last time these two teams met, the Rocket notched a shutout victory in a game that was riddled with fisticuffs and penalties in the final minutes.
The Rocket entered the game looking markedly different than that game, with Michael Pezzetta, Alex Belzile, Cayden Primeau, and Ryan Poehling since called up to the NHL, while Cole Caufield found himself in Laval to get his offensive game going a bit. With Primeau called up the net belonged to Michael McNiven, who was looking to establish a rhythm and get his form back on track.
Laval jumped right out of the gate, hammering the Marlies in their own end of the ice, and running up a 5-0 shot advantage in the early minutes. Some strong goaltending by Erik Källgren kept the game scoreless and shifted the momentum back into the Marlies’ favour rather suddenly.
After a few failed clearing attempts by the Rocket the puck was fired in on net by Marc Michaelis, and McNiven wasn’t able to get it covered in the ensuing scramble. Brett Seney took advantage, jumping into the fray to poke the puck by the Rocket netminder and give Toronto a lead against the run of play.
That goal tilted the ice for Toronto, as they began swarming all over every Rocket puck-carrier. Before long they had again hemmed the Rocket into their own zone and were looking to add another goal.
It looked like McNiven had denied them at first with a massive scrambling save, but the puck again wasn’t covered and Michaelis fed Josh Ho-Sang on a cross-crease pass to double the Marlies’ advantage.
The second goal woke up the Rocket up as they looked to keep the game in reach late in the first period. Following the trend of the Toronto goals, the Rocket’s first came on a messy scramble in the crease. Kevin Roy surprised Källgren behind the net, catching the Marlies goalie wandering, and his pass found Rafaël Harvey-Pinard out front. Harvey-Pinard poked away as Källgren attempted to dive back into his net, but the pesky winger was able to slide his second of the season home.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard gets the Rocket on the board with his second of the year!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2021
: Lukas Vejdemo pic.twitter.com/jB8YaTNfVY
A late Rocket power play represented a chance at the tying goal for Laval, but the Marlies’ stingy penalty kill kept the Rocket at bay to end the first period.
The Rocket’s momentum carried over to start the second period, even as they were whistled for too many men on the ice. Laval’s seventh-ranked penalty kill looked extremely strong as they gave the Marlies no real chance to set up. A great solo rush by Corey Schueneman helped kill off the minor penalty.
Cole Caufield started the second flying as well, dangling through opponents and creating chances on a long offensive-zone shift. However after creating some havoc with a shot, the Marlies’ netminder went down injured, and had to be replaced by Michael Hutchinson.
Following that, the Marlies’ top line went back to work against the Rocket, and from behind the net Michaelis registered his third assist of the night as Seney burst by the defence to bury his chance.
Following a failed power play, things came unraveled in quick fashion for the Rocket. A Mikhail Abramov shot clanged off the post and McNiven failed to find the loose puck, allowing Joey Anderson to direct it home with his skate to make it a three-goal Toronto lead.
That lead soon grew to 5-1 as Semyon Der-Arguchinstev cleaned up an Alex Steeves shot that leaked through McNiven, ending a frustrating night for the Rocket goalie.
To their credit, Laval didn’t take the deficit lying down, as they continued to push back against the Marlies and even found another goal. Louie Belpedio’s big shot bounced out to Xavier Ouellet, who fired one in on Hutchinson. The goalie didn’t cover all of the puck, allowing Gabriel Bourque the chance to lift the puck over him and make it a three-goal game headed into the third period.
Rocket trying to get back into it as Bourque makes it a 5-2 game.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2021
: Gabriel Bourque(2)
: Xavier Ouellet
: Louie Belpedio pic.twitter.com/dHgNwxVIYo
An early power play in the third yielded nothing, but the Rocket were given another crack at the man advantage moments later, and this time the second unit made it count. Schueneman held the puck in along the blue line, eventually feeding it across the zone to Belpedio. The Rocket defenceman walked into the faceoff circle and ripped his shot past Hutchinson to give Laval some much-needed life.
Rocket power play goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2021
: Louie Belpedio(2)
: Corey Schueneman pic.twitter.com/DXkcrpag26
The Marlies threatened to re-extend their now tenuous two-goal lead as Ouellet headed to the box for hooking. Again, the Rocket penalty kill stole the show, with Lukas Vejdemo taking off down ice and ripping a shot bar-down and to suddenly make it a one-goal game.
Rocket shorthanded goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2021
: Lukas Vejdemo(2)
Toronto leads 5-4 pic.twitter.com/a3Cw0hbrjF
After a poorly timed penalty by Tobie Paquette-Bisson, the Rocket were put in a difficult spot. That is until a brilliant short-handed rush by Laurent Dauphin drew a call for the Rocket and sent the game to four-on-four. With all the extra space, Caufield struck paydirt in typical Caufield fashion. He collected a loose puck with speed through the neutral zone and bolted into the the Toronto zone. With no defender able to keep pace with him, he uncorked a wicked wristshot to fully erase the four-goal deficit.
GOAL CAUFIELD AND WE ARE TIED!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2021
: Cole Caufield (2) pic.twitter.com/7gA8kvYrhY
Kevin Poulin kept the door sealed tight from there, and, improbably, the Rocket and Marlies went into overtime.
If the third period belonged to the Rocket offence, the overtime period was all about Poulin. The Rocket’s backup netminder was there for every prime Marlies chance, including a spinning stick save to deny Seney a hat trick and force the game to a shootout.
Kevin Poulin with the save of the night! pic.twitter.com/CgRlhFB0dw— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2021
Because nothing between these two teams can ever be normal, the sides went nine shooters deep before the Rocket finally put them away for good. Caufield scored right off the bat, and was matched by Ho-Sang for the Marlies. After Joey Anderson scored in the one-on-one portion of the event, it was Vejdemo wiring a beautiful shot to keep the shootout going. Then, after Pavel Gogolev was denied by Poulin, Harvey-Pinard buried a gorgeous backhand shot and the Rocket finished off the miraculous comeback.
You down with RHP?— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2021
Laval comes back from 5-1 down to win 6-5 in the shootout! pic.twitter.com/zD2pstG0Xz
Final Score: Laval 6, Toronto 5 (SO)
The Rocket are now off until Saturday evening when they head to Belleville to start a three-game set with the Senators at 7:00 PM.