To paraphrase Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson here, FINALLY, Cole Caufield has joined the Montreal Canadiens in a professional capacity. The 2019 first-round pick suited up on Friday for the Laval Rocket as they took on the Toronto Marlies in Toronto. While Caufield garnered all of the attention, the Rocket themselves came into the contest looking to bounce back after their first regulation defeat in 13 games.
Caufield slid in next to Jordan Weal and opposite of Yannick Veilleux on the second line, while Rafaël Harvey-Pinard dropped down to the third line. Jacob LeGuerrier suited up for his second professional contest as well on a pairing with team captain Xavier Ouellet. The recently demoted Charlie Lindgren got the start in net, with Vasili Demchenko serving as his backup.
Both sides came out exchanging chances, with both Charlie Lindgren and Joseph Woll being called upon to make a handful of saves each. A burst of speed to the net by Jordan Weal drew the game’s first penalty, as Jeremy McKenna went off for slashing, putting Laval on the first power play.
It was the first look for Caufield with some extra shooting space on the man advantage, and he was clearly ready for it. He had the best chance as he floated up into the left faceoff circle and was fed a perfect pass that he rifled on net, but Woll got across to smother the puck. The Marlies managed to escape the first power play without surrendering a goal, then jumped right back into the offensive zone.
Rourke Chartier had a pair of chances to get Toronto on the board first, but Lindgren was up to the task to deny the Marlies forward. Late in the period, the more experienced Toronto team found a way to gain the lead after a defensive miscommunication by the Rocket. With Gustav Olofsson attacking the puck-carrier, Kalle Kossila found his path to the net wide open, and after collecting a pass from Kenny Agostino he outwaited Lindgren and lifted his shot past him for the game’s first goal.
A holding penalty on LeGuerrier threatened to put the Rocket in an even deeper hole, but some timely saves by Lindgren allowed them to escape the period down by just one goal and trailing only slightly on the shot counter.
Laval came out immediately in the second period and nearly tied the game thanks to the top line. Joël Teasdale got the puck to Ryan Poehling deep in the offensive zone, and he threw a cross-crease pass to Joseph Blandisi. It looked like Blandisi had an empty net to shoot at, until Woll miraculously came across to rob the Rocket forward of what looked like a sure goal.
The Rocket drew a second power play off a high-sticking call, and then it took almost no time for the anticipated thing to happen: Caufield getting his first professional goal. Jordan Weal worked deep into the faceoff dot on the right side of the offensive zone, then put the puck on a tee for Caufield, who blistered his shot off the post and in to tie the game.
FIRST PRO GOAL FOR COLE CAUFIELD pic.twitter.com/r7n7jC5Iwq— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 10, 2021
The tie didn’t last for long though, as Kenny Agostino found some free space to collect his second point of the night and put Toronto back in the lead. To make matters more difficult, the Rocket had another penalty to kill off with Blandisi heading to the box. The penalty kill again came up huge, and that provided all the momentum the Rocket needed to take the lead back.
Caufield was again the catalyst in the offence as he took a pass from Weal, then dangled his way around two Marlies to the front of the net. As he was tripped up he lost control of his shot attempt, but Ouellet stepped up and fired the loose puck by Woll to make sure Caufield’s effort didn’t go to waste.
Oh my god the hands on Caufield.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 10, 2021
Ouellet with his second of the year, but what an assist by the SGB. pic.twitter.com/w9HZlylECr
Caufield wasn’t the only first-round pick getting in on the action for Laval, as a few moments later, Ryan Poehling put the Rocket into the lead. Blandisi picked up a puck at the offensive blue line, then turned and fired a no-look pass to Poehling. The red-hot centreman was all alone and easily lifted his ninth goal of the year past Woll to put Laval in front.
Not to be outdone, Ryan Poehling gets his 9th of the year off a sweet Blandisi feed. pic.twitter.com/DjzKASRFty— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 10, 2021
The Rocket nearly gave the lead back in the dying moments of the period, but Justin Brazeau wasn’t able to get enough power behind his shot to beat a sprawling Lindgren, and the teams went to the second intermission with the Rocket up by one.
The Marlies didn’t take long to strike to open the third period as a Kosila had an odd shot fool Lindgren, which left Agostino wide-open to score his second goal of the night and tie the game once more.
It looked like Toronto had taken the lead back with Timothy Liljgren wiring one by Lindgren, but a high-sticking call on Jeremy McKenna wiped out the goal, and put the Rocket on their third power play of the game. While they couldn’t score on the advantage, it was Caufield again just after the penalty expired making things happen.
Olofsson chipped a puck out of the zone, and Caufield latched onto it, firing a low shot on goal. He collected his own rebound and roofed the chance right over Woll from next to no angle for his second goal of the night.
With time ticking away the Rocket made things hard on themselves once again, taking two penalties in short order, leaving Lindgren and the penalty-killers to fend off a two-man advantage. They managed that, but with the net empty the Marlies still had an extra attacker on the ice, but a bit of luck went the way of the Rocket. Timothy Liljegren had a wide-open shooting lane, wound up to shoot, then tripped on the puck, allowing Olofsson to chip the puck to Yannick Veilleux, who buried it into the empty net.
Final Score: Laval 5, Toronto 3
These two teams will meet again on Saturday at 3:00 PM EDT, before the Rocket get a five-day break between games. It is expected that Vasili Demchenko will get the start for Laval.
- Cole Caufield (2G, 1A)
- Kalle Kosila (1G, 2A)
- Jordan Weal (2A)