After nearly a full year away from the ice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Laval Rocket were finally back, funny enough facing the same club they beat the day before the season was cancelled: the Belleville Senators. While much of the core of the Rocket roster remained the same, the club added a handful of prospects to their lineup to help bolster a club that was deep in the playoff hunt last march.
Friday night marked the North American pro debut for Jesse Ylönen, and the professional debuts of Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Joël Teasdale. Harvey-Pinard was slotted in on the Rocket’s top line due to Alex Belzile missing the opening game due to a slight knock suffered during training camp. Also missing was 2020 first-round pick Kaiden Guhle who was also nursing a minor injury. In his spot was Corey Schueneman who was signed in the off-season to an AHL contract.
Between the pipes it was Cayden Primeau getting the start for Laval with Michael McNiven backing him up, while Belleville started Joey Daccord.
The Rocket held the offensive zone in the opening minute, and in that time they drew a boarding call against Logan Shaw, and went to the power play just 53 seconds into the contest. A turnover by Otto Leskinen at the blue line forced Joseph Blandisi into chasing down Alex Formenton and took a holding penalty to prevent the Sens potential breakaway.
On the ensuing penalty kill, the Rocket did well to keep the Belleville attack at the blue line, and a turnover forced by Lukas Vejdemo turned into a breakaway chance for the Swede. Vejdemo’s shot went right over the net and the Sens launched their counter attack, ringing a chance off the crossbar, and missing the follow up over the top of the net.
Laval struck first just ahead of the midway point of the period. Josh Brook fed a puck to Teasdale who worked through the centre of the offensive zone. Teasdale slid a pass back to Xavier Ouellet at the point and the captain’s shot bounced off a skate or two and fooled the Sens netminder as it trickled into the net to open the scoring.
Xavier Ouellet gets the first Rocket goal of the year!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 13, 2021
First pro point for Joel Teasdale who grabbed the primary assist. pic.twitter.com/OGEOG8aQBH
The Rocket continued to keep the pressure on as they rolled their lines and piled up a heavy shot advantage as the first period rolled on. Laval went to their second power play of the night when Clark Bishop fired a puck up and out of play with just over seven minutes left to play. A furious scramble around Daccord’s net after a Ouellet point shot couldn’t find its way by the Belleville goalie who was lunging across his crease to try and cover the loose puck. Despite the strong looks, Laval wasn’t able to add on another goal with their two minute advantage.
The team didn’t have to wait long for another chance on the power play though, as Filip Chlapik was called for interference. It wasn’t a long advantage thanks to Michael Pezzetta’s interference call wiping out the power play and pushing the play to four on four late in the first period. Another strong penalty kill allowed the Rocket to keep their one goal lead intact as the teams headed to the locker room for first intermission.
The second period got off to a bumpy start for Laval as Ouellet turned the puck over on a clearing attempt right to Logan Shaw. Shaw in turn beat Ouellet around the edge towards the Laval net and tucked his shot by Cayden Primeau to tie the game just 56 seconds into the period.
The Rocket didn’t help their slow start either, with Ryan Poehling and Gustav Olofsson taking back-to-back penalties just 18 seconds apart, putting Laval on a crucial five on three penalty kill. Some tidy goaltending from Primeau and a stingy showing from the penalty killers allowed Laval to escape unscathed and back to even strength.
Laval made the most of that momentum, with Jesse Ylönen picking up a loose puck and dropping it off for Joseph Blandisi to fire home a goal and take the lead back.
First pro point for Jesse Ylönen as he sets up Joseph Blandisi's first goal of the year! pic.twitter.com/IKUdUyk0cq— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 13, 2021
Then the Senators put themselves down two men in short order, but their penalty kill couldn’t match the effort of the Rocket’s earlier showing. Jordan Weal teed up a big Cale Fleury shot from the point, and it rebounded off Daccord right to Blandisi who had no problem roofing it for his second goal in just over two minutes.
The period was all Laval after their second goal, and in the dying seconds Yannick Veilleux wove through the defence to nearly slip a backhand shot by Joey Daccord, but the Sens goalie denied him to keep the Rocket lead to two goals heading into intermission.
It took just 20 seconds for Laval to add another goal to their lead as their fourth line put in a strong shift. Lukas Vejdemo worked the puck from behind the net to Michael Pezzetta in the faceoff circle. Pezzetta then, while falling to a knee slid a pass back to Vejdemo who lifted a fluttering shot over Daccord’s shoulder for his first goal of the year.
Michael Pezzetta gets a pass to Lukas Vejdemo, who scores while falling down.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 13, 2021
4-1 Laval. pic.twitter.com/0B4aot1O4w
A night of firsts continued late in the third period as Teasdale added a first professional goal to go along with his first assist from earlier in the night. Teasdale broke into the zone, stopping quickly to avoid a hit, then reset his feet and fired a low shot by Daccord to push the Rocket lead to four goals.
FIRST PRO GOAL FOR JOËL TEASDALE!! pic.twitter.com/qN8aFA6JnS— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 13, 2021
The Rocket had no issues closing the door as the game wound down and picked up a well-deserved victory to open up their season. There’s little time to celebrate however, as the Senators will square off with the Rocket again Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre, with a 1pm EST puck drop.
Final Score: Laval 5, Belleville 1
First Star: Joël Teasdale (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
Second Star: Joseph Blandisi (2 Goals)
Third Star: Cayden Primeau (22 Saves, Win)
Nouvelle saison, nouvelle formation. Ne manquez rien de l’action:— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 12, 2021
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