The Laval Rocket scored six straight goals to turn an early 2-0 deficit into an eventual 6-3 win against the Providence Bruins at Place Bell on Friday night.
The game was played in front of an empty arena due to new regulations in Quebec that limit capacity to 50%. Because there were so many tickets sold, it would have been impossible for everything to be dealt with in just a 24 hour turnaround, similar to what happened Thursday with the Montreal Canadiens. The Rocket have announced that all remaining December and January games will be played in front of 50% capacity, barring any additional changes.
It was not a great start for Laval in Friday’s game, in fact, it was an awful one. They fell behind just 2:56 into the game. Alexis D’Aoust — who has spent most of the season with the Trois-Rivières Lions — was signed by Providence to a professional try out contract on Thursday, and scored on his second shift.
D’Aoust took the puck down the right wing and fired a shot five-hole on Michael McNiven on a shot he probably would have liked to have back. It was D’Aoust’s first goal of the season in the AHL after playing two games with the Belleville Senators earlier this season.
The start got worse for the Rocket following the opening goal. Just 31 seconds later, Cameron Hughes deked around Laval defenceman Tory Dello, and was in all alone against McNiven. He moved to his backhand, and only 3:27 into the game the Rocket trailed 2-0. The Bruins had another chance a few minutes after that, but the shot rang off the post behind McNiven.
Laval cut the lead to 2-1 with a big goal with just over six minutes remaining. Louie Belpedio took the puck into the Bruins zone, Jean-Christophe Beaudin picked up the loose puck behind the net, and centered it for Gabriel Bourque. Bourque then tried to pass it to Jean-Sébastien Dea in front, but the pass bounced off of Providence defenceman John Moore and into the net.
The Rocket power play helped get them take control of the game midway through the second period. First, Samuel Asselin took a four-minute high sticking double minor, and just five seconds after that, Nick Wolff went off for slashing, giving Laval a full two minutes at five-on-three.
They only needed 23 seconds. Seconds after Kevin Roy’s shot hit the post, Alex Belzile fed Louie Belpedio at the top of the zone, and he fired a shot past Troy Grosenick for his fourth goal of the season.
Because of the double minor, Laval kept the five-on-three advantage. As the first penalty expired, Peter Abbondonato found Lukas Vejdemo in the slot who made no mistake for his sixth goal of the season. The goal gave Laval their first lead of the game with 7:25 remaining in the second period.
Three minutes after that, the Bruins took another penalty, and once again Laval made them pay for it. Alex Belzile threw the puck down low as a pass, but it hit off of a Bruins defender and into the net to extend the lead to 4-2. It was Laval’s third power play goal of the period, and they ended the game 3/5 with the advantage.
The Rocket added one more goal before the period ended. Cameron Hillis missed his chance at the side of the net, but the puck found its way to Bruins forward Zach Senyshyn, who in an attempt to clear the puck fired the puck past his own goaltender. It was the third goal of the game that hit off of a Bruins player last, and Hillis got credit for the Rocket’s fifth goal as the score went to 5-2 after 40 minutes.
As the third period started, Laval wouldn’t back down. After several chances throughout the game, including a breakaway he was stopped on, Kevin Roy finally got his goal. At the 1:24 mark of the period, Roy broke into the zone on the left wing and beat Grosenick with a quick shot.
After a shaky start, McNiven was able to regain his composure and finished the game strong. He only faced three shots in the second period, but stopped them all, and overall made 18 saves on 21 shots. Jack Ahcan added a third goal for the Bruins on the power play with 14:30 remaining in the game to make it 6-3, which is how the game ended.
It was the Rocket’s fifth win in their last seven games, and they have points in six of those games. Despite the number of players leaving for the Canadiens on NHL call ups, Laval has kept their focus and have played some of their best hockey.
Immediately following the game, Laval boarded a bus and left for Syracuse where they will play the Crunch in their last game before their Christmas break. The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.
Following the break, their next game is December 29 at Place Bell where they will host Syracuse.
Update: Saturday’s game in Syracuse has been postponed due to league COVID-19 protocols affecting the Crunch.
Michael McNiven made his first start since November 27, with Primeau the backup after his NHL start on Thursday.
At forward, there were no changes from the last game as Jean-François Houle seems to have found some combinations he is comfortable with. On defence, there was no Mattias Norlinder, but Corey Schueneman was back from his NHL recall where he didn’t play a game.
The Rocket’s recent stretch has seen them rise up the standings. They now sit in a tie for third spot based on points percentage.