The Laval Rocket went into Calgary knowing they would have the biggest challenge of their season to date — a four-game set against a team that had won eight of their last nine games. On Tuesday night, they left Calgary with four straight wins over the Stockton Heat.
Their 4-2 win on Tuesday was their sixth straight win overall, as they extend their winning streak and their hold on top spot in the AHL’s Canadian division.
The Rocket came out strong on Tuesday night, with 20 shots in the opening period against Heat goaltender Louis Domingue. They walked away with only one goal — a five-on-three goal from Otto Leskinen — but hit three posts in the frame as well.
Leskinen’s second of the year was a perfectly placed wrist shot that made its way through traffic.
Otto Leskinen finishes a feed from Jesse Ylönen for a power play goal. pic.twitter.com/qH892ExO7o— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 23, 2021
The second period had more animosity, which is to be expected in the fourth straight game between two teams. First Joseph Blandisi took exception to a Zac Leslie hit in the corner and took a roughing penalty. Leslie was also called for a double minor for interference.
Then, Michael Pezzetta and Connor Mackey fought later in the period.
Laval extended their lead with two goals in the second period. Jesse Ylönen scored his first of two goals on the night finishing a nifty passing play from Jordan Weal and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard.
Jesse Ylönen gets the tap-in goal.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 24, 2021
Rocket up 2-0 pic.twitter.com/xiPlotEYJx
Shortly after yet another Rocket power play expired (Adam Ruzicka went off for a cross check of Ryan Poehling), Laval got a funny bounce of a goal when Brandon Baddock’s shot was tipped by Jake Lucchini, rolled down Domingue’s back and just crossed the line. It was Lucchini’s first goal of the season.
I uh, don't think that crossed the line, but it's a goal from Brandon Baddock as it stands pic.twitter.com/5Be5st6ZF7— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 24, 2021
The Heat did get that goal right back on a power play of their own. Byron Froese scored his second of the year when he walked in front and roofed a shot past Cayden Primeau, who was back in the Laval net. Primeau ended up making 24 saves in the win.
In a 3-1 game, and after allowing a late goal to end the second period, it seemed like Laval would have to defend an onslaught from the Heat in the final 20 minutes. The Heat had shown throughout the series that they are never out of a game.
This time, however, the Rocket were able to pull away. Only 35 seconds into the period, Emilio Pettersen took a high sticking penalty. On the ensuing advantage, the roles reversed from Laval’s opening goal. Leskinen fed Ylönen who wired his second of the game, and sixth goal of the season, past Domingue to make it a 4-1 game.
Jesse Ylönen cannot be stopped! pic.twitter.com/1uFzYFfIc8— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 24, 2021
Stockton ended up making a final push despite losing all of the momentum early in the period. The Rocket took three straight penalties — including a double minor — allowing the Heat to create some chances.
The Heat ended up scoring on the first half of Baddock’s double minor with under five minutes remaining to make it a 4-2 game and get some life. That was as close as they got. They did get some chances down low on Primeau, but he shut the door.
Despite the Heat pulling the goaltender, neither team was able to change the 4-2 score.
Once again the team had to replace Yannick Veilleux. After missing the first two games with a suspension, he was suspended for four games before Tuesday’s contest. Arsen Khisamutdinov was also out of the lineup. They were replaced by Pezzetta and Lucchini.
No changes on defence, as Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard seems content with the six players he has in place. In goal, Primeau returned to get the start.
Laval is on a great run, and are well in front right now. They will now finish up their eight-game road trip with four games in Winnipeg against the Manitoba Moose. The first two games of the series will be in a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday.