The Laval Rocket entered Saturday night’s game against the Belleville Senators riding high after one of the most impressive wins in franchise history. The team reeled off four goals to force overtime after trailing 5-1 to the Toronto Marlies, then capped it off with a shootout win thanks to an impressive showing from goaltender Kevin Poulin. Following the game, Cole Caufield was recalled to the Canadiens, but team leader Alex Belzile was returned to Laval to help soften the loss.
Belzile slotted onto the top line with Kevin Roy and Laurent Dauphin, while Alexandre Fortin was inserted on the third line for the Rocket. On defence, Gianni Fairbrother was still nursing an injury from the win over Toronto, so Carl Neill was given a run out on the third pair. After a strong showing in the comeback win, Poulin was given his first official start for the Rocket over Michael McNiven.
Just 32 seconds into the game, the Rocket found themselves on the power play after Pontus Aberg hammered a Laval forward from behind, earning a two-minute minor for boarding. The Senators penalty kill did well to push the Rocket out to the points, but they still created a fantastic scoring chance. Laurent Dauphin took a pass with speed into the offensive zone, and fooled Mads Sogaard with his shot, but Dauphin’s shot wasn’t able to beat the post.
While the teams traded chances, the Senators found the back of the net first thanks to a timely bounce in their favour. Mark Kastelic drove deep into the Laval zone and fired a harmless looking shot toward the net. Poulin was prepared for it and was shifting for the expected pass. The pass never came as the puck bounced off something in front and trickled by his pad.
The Rocket took that opening goal against as a wakeup call, and soon found themselves a tying goal thanks to their third line. Gabriel Bourque pushed a pass forward to Corey Schueneman, who carried it deep into the Sens’ zone. From there, Schueneman picked his head up and picked out a wide-open Lukas Vejdemo, who slammed the feed home for his third goal of the season.
Rocket Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 21, 2021
: Lukas Vejdemo (3)
: Corey Schueneman
: Gabriel Bourque pic.twitter.com/SllpkoSnsP
The teams traded power-play opportunities as the period drew toward its end. Neither side managed to convert, and despite a late push by the Senators off an icing, the Rocket held strong and entered the first intermission all tied up.
The Rocket came out pushing hard, repeatedly testing Sogaard from dangerous angles, but they weren’t able to find any breakthrough in the early going. Then, one blocked shot turned into a partial break for Cole Reinhardt. Neill looked to have broken the play up, but the officials called for a penalty shot as Neill might have hooked him. As Reinhardt slowly dipsy-doodled his way into the zone, Poulin read him the whole way, making an easy save to keep the game tied.
The Rocket looked like they were right on the doorstep of breaking the deadlock with a goal, but a poorly timed trip by Cam Hillis sent the Sens back to the power play. The Rocket penalty kill actually did quite well to stymie the Senators man advantage, but with the penalty nearly killed, Zac Leslie found some open space and blasted a shot past Poulin.
History repeated itself just a few minutes later after Jesse Ylönen launched a puck out of play. The Rocket again killed 90% of the penalty, threatening with multiple short-handed rushes, but one opening was all the Sens needed to add another power-play marker, this time from Maxence Guenette to make it 3-1.
Laval got things back on track late in the second period as they drew a penalty after Tobie Paquette-Bisson was boarded from behind. Before that penalty could expire, the Rocket were able to draw a second on. Before Poulin could even get to the bench for a sixth attacker, a shot from J.-S. Dea bounced in front, and Dauphin chipped it home to make it a one goal game heading into the third period.
Rocket Power Play Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 21, 2021
: Laurent Dauphin (9)
: J.S. Dea
: Jesse Ylönen pic.twitter.com/HCIl3qyfHR
The rest of the power play failed to generate the goal the team was looking for, but it gave Laval a strong start to the third, one that continued for the entire period. Their forecheck caused the Senators all types of trouble and didn’t allow Belleville to set up their offence like they normally would as they nursed a one-goal lead.
Another penalty on the Sens, their sixth of the night, presented the Rocket with another incredible chance to mount a second comeback inside a week. They nearly did, too, as Ylönen’s open look rattled the crossbar but bounced away from the net. The Rocket continued to hammer chances in on Sogaard, but the massive Dane refused to budge on a third goal.
With time getting short, the Rocket opted to pull Poulin, and almost instantly Dillon Heatherington fired a 200-foot shot that bounced its way into the empty net to make it a 4-2 game late in the third.
With about 90 seconds left to play and the puck deep in the offensive zone, Poulin made his way to the bench once more. Matthew Wedman was able to deposit another puck into the empty net to seal with win for Belleville.
Final Score: Belleville 5, Laval 2
The scoreline tells a different story than the actual game, where the Rocket were arguably the better side at even strength, but a strong performance from Sogaard made the difference at the end of the day. Luckily for Laval, they’ll have a week off to get some players back before they welcome the Senators to Place Bell on Black Friday.