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Rocket @ Moose recap & highlights: Late mistakes snap Laval’s six game winning streak

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Things were great, until they weren’t.

Club de Hockey Canadien

Fresh off a four-game domination of their biggest competition in the AHL’s Canadian Division, the Laval Rocket began their slow trek back east, stopping in Winnipeg to open a four-game series with the Manitoba Moose. With a six-game winning streak and riding an incredible 8-2-0 form in their last 10, the Rocket entered Thursday’s game as the hottest team in the AHL.

Given the incredible run of form, Joël Bouchard made no changes to his forwards or defensive pairings, opting only to give Michael McNiven another start, with Vasili Demchenko serving as his backup. The Moose were bolstered by Kristian Vesalainen in their forward group, while old foe Mikhail Berdin was between the pipes.

Just over 80 seconds into the game, the Rocket drew the first power play, still seeking a chance to score their first man-advantage goal against the Moose this season. The Manitoba penalty-killers kept that streak intact, locking down the formidable Rocket power play and getting back to even strength without much incident.

As the Moose mounted their counter-attack, they also drew a penalty, sending Jordan Weal to the box for slashing. The Rocket penalty kill remained as aggressive as ever, with Lukas Vejdemo leading short-handed rushes into the offensive zone. but with just three seconds remaining on the power play, Jeff Malott got alone in front and got enough of a puck to direct it by Michael McNiven and put Manitoba in the lead.

As the period wore on, both teams were clamping down in a big way on the puck-carriers, not allowing any real offence to take hold. A too many men on the ice call allowed the Rocket to head back to the power play. It looked like the Moose might stifle the Rocket attack once again, but some hard work by Joseph Blandisi allowed Laval to draw even on the scoreboard.

A big shot by Corey Schueneman bounced around the front of the net, including Joël Teasdale firing in tight off of Berdin’s pads, then Blandisi fired the loose puck in for his seventh goal of the season.

The Moose pushed hard at the end of the period, but McNiven stood tall and sent the teams into the first intermission tied at a goal apiece.

While the first period was a back-and-forth affair, the second was far more tepid, with just six total shots on goal between the two sides at the midpoint of the period. The pace of the Rocket saw Joël Teasdale draw a tripping call to head to their third power play of the night.

The power play yielded no goals, but still led to the Rocket taking the lead thanks to a beautiful read by Josh Brook. With Trent Bourque just having left the box, Brook collected a pass from Otto Leskinen at the blue line and picked out Jesse Ylönen alone in the high slot. Brook put the pass right in the Finn’s wheelhouse, and Ylönen blew a slapshot right by Berdin to make it a one-goal lead for Laval.

Sixty-six seconds later, the Rocket doubled their lead, with Guillaume Brisebois getting his first goal of the season. The red-hot Joseph Blandisi won a puck battle along the boards, then threw a pass into the slot for Brisebois, who stepped up and rifled it past Berdin to put Laval up by two goals.

The Rocket fended off a late Moose power play after Brandon Baddock was called for tripping to head into the second intermission up by two on the scoreboard and in full control of the game.

Laval did well to smother the Manitoba attack to start the third period, allowing only a handful of chances that McNiven fought off. The Rocket were content to keep chipping pucks out as the Moose struggled to generate any sustained offensive attack. With Tobie Paquette-Bisson in the box for interference, Manitoba managed to beat McNiven twice, but were denied by the post on both occasions.

The Rocket pressure on the Moose attackers created an odd-man rush, forcing Marko Dano to interfere and then take a seat in the box. The Rocket weren’t able to add to their lead, and at the next whistle Berdin headed to the bench for an extra attacker with over three minutes left to play.

Somehow, almost miraculously, the Moose managed to claw one goal back with Kristian Vesalainen getting his first of the year by McNiven. Then, in the most ridiculous of fashions, the Moose managed to force overtime when David Gustafsson tipped a puck by McNiven with no time on the clock. With no video review, the officials stood by the call, and Manitoba had somehow stolen a point from right under the Rocket’s feet.

Despite the Rocket owning the puck and having a number of chances, they couldn’t close out the Moose in overtime, leaving the game in the hands of the shootout. The Rocket came close, with Ryan Poehling ringing his shot off the post, but the Moose managed the win when Nathan Todd beat McNiven, and Jordan Weal was waited out by Berdin.

Final Score: Manitoba 4, Laval 3 (SO)

The loss snapped the Rocket’s six game winning streak, and ended McNiven’s undefeated streak in the AHL which dated back to 2019. Laval has a chance to even the score on Friday night when the two teams meet once again.

Three Stars

  1. Nathan Todd (Shootout winner, 1A)
  2. Joseph Blandisi (1G, 1A)
  3. David Gustafsson (1G)