After a hotly contested series of games against Toronto and Belleville to start the week, the Laval Rocket packed up and headed out west for their first meeting of the year with the Stockton Heat. The Rocket were coming off back-to-back wins over their Ontario-based rivals, and faced arguably their toughest opponent of the season. Stockton sat atop the Canadian Division with an 8-3-0 record, and was led by a strong combination of young players like Adam Ruzicka and Matthew Phillips, as well as supporting veterans.
The Rocket were without Yannick Veilleux in their top six following his suspension for an obscene gesture directed toward the Toronto Marlies’ bench on Sunday. In his place was Jake Lucchini, while Cam Hillis and Liam Hawel sat in favour of Arsen Khisamutdinov and Jan Myšák. In net, Cayden Primeau got the start for Laval against Louis Domingue for the Heat.
It was a nearly perfect start for the Rocket as they opened the scoring in just 96 seconds thanks to Jordan Weal. After Cale Fleury drew a call for interference, the Rocket power play went to work and drew blood first. Otto Leskinen deftly worked along the blue line, then laid a pass off to Weal, who walked into the slot and fired a shot right past Domingue for his third goal of the season.
Jordan Weal opens the scoring on the power play!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 19, 2021
Laval up 1-0 on Stockon early. pic.twitter.com/SRRhVKVmtK
The pressure from the Rocket drew another penalty, this time sending Connor Mackey to the box for hooking. Despite allowing a short-handed chance to Glenn Gawdin, the Rocket did find the back of the net. Leskinen started it with a dump-pass to Weal, who put the puck on Ryan Poehling’s stick below the goal line. Poehling fired a pass right into the slot for Alex Belzile, who easily finished off the brilliant passing play.
What a passing play by the Rocket to set up Alex Belzile's second goal of the season.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 19, 2021
Ryan Poehling collects his second assist in the opening seven minutes. pic.twitter.com/NrNx9PTL1d
Josh Brook went to the box as he tripped up a Heat player on a breakaway chance, continuing the penalty parade by both teams early in the game. The Rocket penalty-killers stood strong, and as Brook exited the box he buried a Stockon player, kickstarting an odd-man rush the other way.
Brook collected the puck he had knocked free and fed a breakout pass to Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, who carried it deep into the Heat zone. Harvey-Pinard fired a cross-ice pass and Weal buried his second goal of the period.
Jordan Weal gets the goal, but Josh Brook makes so much happen on this play.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 19, 2021
Hit, to the breakout pass, to the setup pass to Weal.
Rocket up 3-0. pic.twitter.com/Dvj88NC5qY
The Rocket got into some penalty trouble late in the period, having to kill off two minors in short order, but some massive blocker saves from Primeau helped to secure a three-goal lead heading into the first intermission.
The Heat came out much stronger in the second period, keeping Laval hemmed in their own zone for the opening six minutes. Then it was Alexander Yelesin stepping into a pass and bombing a shot past a screened Primeau to cut the Rocket lead to two goals.
After the Heat’s goal, the game settled into a more passive affair, with neither side making any truly dangerous inroads in the offensive zone. A Michael Stone high-sticking penalty gave the Rocket another power play, and a strong push saw Laval nearly push their lead back to three goals, but a timely block by Luke Philp denied them the goal and returned the play to even strength.
The Heat got the lead down to just one goal late in the period, despite Laval’s strong defensive showing, and it was thanks to a really odd bounce in front of the net. A dump-in was mishandled by the Rocket defence, causing it to drop in front of Primeau. The netminder missed a chance to cover the puck and it drifted away from him, right to Philp on the doorstep, and the Heat centre had no trouble finishing into the open cage.
To the Rocket’s credit, they finished the period by hammering chances at Domingue, but entered the second intermission up just one goal.
The third period began much like the first had, with the Rocket controlling the flow of play, and again thanks to their efforts they drew a penalty by causing a kerfuffle around the Stockton net.
The power play couldn’t get in sync however, jumping into the zone offside on numerous occasions, and stifling the man advantage, leaving the team still searching for an insurance goal.
The Rocket had a penalty of their own to kill thanks to a Weal slashing penalty just before the halfway point. It was another stingy effort, as the penalty-killers gave the Heat nothing in terms of chances on net, and killed off their fourth power play of the game.
With Domingue on the bench it was down to the last chance for the Heat to tie the game as the Rocket tried desperately to secure it. With 16 seconds left, a botched clearing attempt turned into a net-front scramble, and Matthew Phillips poked the puck by Primeau to tie the game and force overtime.
In overtime it looked like the Rocket might go the way of their NHL brethren as Leskinen got trapped on the ice for far too long, but a misplaced pass allowed the Rocket to regroup and attack. Corey Schueneman carried the puck through the neutral zone, shook a defender to open up a shooting lane and left a pass for Poehling. The young centre continued his impressive game by wiring the overtime winner past Domingue, and secured a well-earned second point for Laval.
A better angle.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 19, 2021
Maybe Joël Bouchard can lend Ducharme some OT pointers? pic.twitter.com/WUWdczc23i
Final Score: Laval 4, Stockton 3
These two clubs will meet on Saturday afternoon for their second match of their four-game series. The puck drops at 2:00 PM MDT/4:00 PM EDT, leaving plenty of time to tune in before the Canadiens take on the Canucks.
- Ryan Poehling (1G, 2A)
- Jordan Weal (2G, 1A)
- Luke Philp (1G, 1A)