After a strong end to the previous week, the Laval Rocket looked to push their winning streak to three games as they welcomed the Manitoba Moose to Place Bell. It was going to be a tall order, however, as the Rocket were without many of their top players thanks to the Montreal Canadiens’ injury woes. The latest recall was Jesse Ylönen, who was plucked from the roster after an injury to Christian Dvorak.
It wasn’t all bad for Laval, as Mattias Norlinder joined the team, giving them a true offensive weapon on defence in the absences of Xavier Ouellet and Corey Schueneman. Cayden Primeau earned a third straight start after another strong showing against Toronto on Sunday, looking down the ice at Mikhail Berdin for the Moose.
The Rocket had an extremely early chance to jump out in front of the Moose as Declan Chisholm was sent to the box for slashing just over 90 seconds into the first period. With Norlinder manning the top unit, the Rocket struggled to generate much attack against the Manitoba penalty kill, and the game remained scoreless as play returned to even strength.
Manitoba was able to use their successful penalty kill to begin their own offensive push, but even when they were able to find an open look on net, Primeau was there to shut down any second chances with a quick flash of his glove.
With the Moose dialing up the pressure, Kevin Roy was called for holding and Laval was in a tough spot as the period ticked over the halfway point. The penalty-killers continued their strong form though, especially Louie Belpedio, who gave up his body on a number of shot blocks to keep the Moose from truly threatening.
Much like the Moose’s earlier penalty kill, the Rocket used theirs to launch an effective counter-punch before the period ended. Despite Berdin robbing Peter Abbandonato, Laval still found the back of the net before the first came to a close.
Terrance Amorosa held the puck in the defensive zone, and then snapped a stretch-pass that hit Alex Belzile in stride. Belzile held it for a second to open up a clean shooting lane, then snapped his third goal of the year past Berdin to give the Rocket the lead heading into the intermission.
Rocket Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 9, 2021
: Alex Belzile(3)
: Terrance Amorosa pic.twitter.com/lIe9saxbcR
The second period started slowly for Laval once again, and thanks to a J.-C. Beaudin hooking call, the Rocket found themselves on an early penalty kill. Through the opening minute the penalty killers didn’t allow the Moose any time or space to set up, and it looked like another clean kill was in order. However, the Moose found their tying goal in a bit of a weird scramble where Primeau made the initial save but the puck somehow trickled out the other side of his pads, and Jeff Malott roofed it on the goal line to tie the game up at one goal apiece.
Some effort from Rafaël Harvey-Pinard drew a call for the Rocket, but before they could really get set up, Belzile was called for a slash after his attempt to play the puck caught the hand of a Moose skater. In the following four-on-four and short Moose power play, neither side really wrested control in their favour, but the Rocket had the next chance as Jimmy Oligny was sent to the box for boarding with about seven minutes left in the period.
With actual time to work, Norlinder easily controlled the puck throughout the man advantage, teeing up multiple chances for his teammates at the expense of taking some of them himself. While the Rocket power play pressured hard, Berdin stood tall to keep Laval off the board late in the second period.
Laval didn’t have to wait long to get another crack at the man advantage, as they drew a holding call with just under three minutes left to play. It took them just 27 seconds to make this power play count as Norlinder ran the show once more. The blue-liner dished a pass to Kevin Roy deep in the zone, and got it back almost instantly. Norlinder walked to the centre of the blue line and snapped a shot through traffic that fooled Berdin. The goal stands as his first in North America, and gave the Rocket a lead heading into the second intermission.
Rocket Power Play Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 9, 2021
: Mattias Norlinder(1)
: Kevin Roy pic.twitter.com/IGWLqLw9vE
The Rocket nearly found an insurance thanks to the new look fourth line early in the third, Beaudin took a feed from Abbandonato before returning it back across the crease, but Abbandonato couldn’t get enough of the puck to chip it in.
As he had done multiple times last week, Brandon Gignac broke up a play at the blue line, taking off in an odd-man rush with Roy. Gignac fed a perfect feed across the front of goal, and Roy misstepped, but fired off a shot across his body, off his back foot, and beat Berdin to make it a two-goal lead for Laval.
Rocket Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 9, 2021
: Kevin Roy(5)
: Brandon Gignac pic.twitter.com/xrdc1GrhgK
With the lead at two, the pressure shifted to Primeau to keep the door sealed up tight as the game approached its conclusion. The young netminder did just that as the game hit its final TV timeout in the period, making a number of strong saves in tight to keep the Moose from chipping into Laval’s lead.
The Rocket faced a massive test in the final few minutes. Berdin departed the ice for the extra attacker, and after three failed long-range empty net attempts, the Moose finally were able to bury one past Primeau to make it a one-goal game with 80 seconds left to play.
Primeau refused to budge for a third time, making one final key save in the dying seconds to secure a third straight victory for Laval.
Final Score: Laval 3, Manitoba 2
The Rocket now have another tall task in front of them as they travel to Rochester for a showdown with the high-flying Americans on Friday.