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Laval @ Syracuse recap & highlights: Rocket shut out in Cole Caufield’s season debut

It was a frustrating game as the Rocket couldn’t break down a tough Crunch defence.

Club de Hockey Canadien

Even on the back of two losses to the Rochester Americans last week, there was plenty to be positive about for the Laval Rocket as they headed into central New York for a back-to-back set of games in Syracuse and Utica. Despite losing Michael Pezzetta and Alex Belzile to NHL call-ups, the Rocket gained plenty of talent for the two-game set.

Cole Caufield was sent down earlier last week to help him find his form after a 10-game stint in Montreal that saw him tally just one assist. He is no stranger to the AHL, as he notched four points in two games last year before joining the Habs for the rest of the year. Caufield wasn’t the only top prospect in the Rocket lineup either, as Mattias Norlinder joined the club on a conditioning stint after sustaining an injury in the NHL pre-season.

In net for the Crunch was Amir Miftakhov, a 2020 sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Cayden Primeau got the nod for Laval.

In the early going, the Rocket were the ones controlling the flow of play, keeping the puck in the Crunch zone and generating chances while not allowing Syracuse much real estate beyond the neutral zone.

It looked like Laval had the game’s first goal as the fourth line went to work following a faceoff. Brandon Gignac picked up a loose puck and charged at Miftakhov, and with a swift deke had the Russian goalie out of position. As Gignac looked to neatly tuck the puck inside the post, the Crunch netminder swung his stick back and denied the goal with a miraculous save.

The Crunch ended up having a chance to turn the momentum in their favour quickly as Gianni Fairbrother had a rough shift that ended with him taking a hooking penalty. The Rocket put together a strong penalty kill, allowing only a few low-risk chances from distance. However, the Crunch’s first strong look resulted in a big rebound that Tristan Langan was able to sweep home from in front of the Rocket net.

The penalty-killers weren’t able to stew on the goal against for long, as Brandon Baddock was soon in the box for boarding. The penalty-killers again looked outstanding, keeping the Crunch to the lower-risk areas, but once again the one clean look they allowed resulted in an incredible chance. This time though, after Cole Koepke’s shot hit off the post, Cayden Primeau went full Superman to dive and take away the second chance with an incredible save.

Laval was able to draw the next call, giving their suddenly very loaded power play a chance to shine. The Crunch boast the second-best penalty kill in the league, and it was easy to see why as they stymied the Rocket at every turn and easily killed the two-minute minor, heading into the intermission up by a single goal.

The second frame didn’t start well for the Rocket, as Jesse Ylönen was called for holding deep in the offensive zone just 33 seconds in. The Rocket penalty-killers again looked strong, fighting off the Crunch man advantage and keeping the deficit at just one.

The Rocket drew another call of their own when Laurent Dauphin split the Crunch defence, breaking through on net while being hooked by Sean Day. Laval wasn’t able to find a breakthrough against the stout penalty kill and it came back to bite them in short order.

Daniel Walcott collided with Tobie Paquette-Bisson and left him on the ice out of position. A neutral-zone turnover allowed Charles Hudon to send Walcott in on a breakaway, and the forward tucked his chance in behind Primeau’s pad to double the Syracuse lead.

Just 20 seconds later, it turned into a three-goal lead for the Crunch as Koepke found himself in a two-on-one rush after a missed check in the neutral zone. He called his own number, snapping a clean shot by Primeau.

Even another Rocket power play, where Caufield was throwing everything he had at Miftakhov, yielded nothing as Laval’s frustrations mounted.

Another late Syracuse penalty gave Laval a chance to get on the board, but again they came up empty-handed

The Rocket were doing well to push deep into Syracuse territory to start the third, but the Crunch performed even better bottling up any attack to make life easy on their netminder.

With just over four minutes left to play, Primeau headed off to the bench for an extra attacker. The Crunch missed a pair of empty-net chances that likely could have sealed the game, allowing the Rocket to hang around a bit longer. Before long, however, Gabriel Dumont beat Xavier Ouellet on a delayed icing, and neatly tucked it under Ouellet’s stick to make it a 4-0 game and sent Laval to a third straight loss.

Final Score: Syracuse 4, Laval 0

The Rocket now head a little bit north for a game tomorrow in Utica against the Comets at 5:00 PM ET.