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Rocket @ Senators recap & highlights: Ryan Poehling lifts Laval to first place in the AHL

The young centre stole the show as the Rocket dominated the Senators.

Club de Hockey Canadien

Laval was back in action on Friday night, just two days after their nail-biting 5-4 victory over the Belleville Senators in Ottawa. Originally scheduled to be a weekend off, the game kicked off a back to back against the Senators, and a chance for the Rocket to keep their red-hot streak rolling.

Joël Bouchard opted for a few minor lineup changes after the win on Wednesday, inserting Cam Hillis in place of Jan Myšák on the fourth line, while Terrance Amorosa replaced Jacob LeGuerrier on defence. In net Michael McNiven got the start, looking to improve on his stellar 6-1-2 record for Laval this season.

It was the Rocket once again getting off to a quick start as they tallied the game’s opening goal just over two minutes in. Gustav Olofsson fed a breakout pass up to Jesse Ylönen, who started a darting run towards the Belleville net. Ylönen pulled up and threw a short pass across the front of the net and Yannick Veilleux was able to to chip it past Filip Gustavsson to put Laval up 1-0 early on.

Laval had the chance to double that lead shortly after, as Lassi Thomson was called for a slash in the offensive zone. The Rocket power play moved the puck well, but was not able to find a second goal on Gustavsson in the opening minutes of the game. Then, as these games often do, things turn physical and nasty as the Senators failed to mount any serious offence against the Rocket.

After Parker Kelly and Lukas Vejdemo got into a kerfuffle in front of McNiven’s net, the Rocket struck for a second time. With the puck deep in the Laval zone, Ryan Poehling tracked it from the corner and up along the boards, where he swiped it off of Hubert Labrie’s stick. Poehling then blew by Labrie and his defensive partner to create his own breakaway before rifling a shot on his forehand past Gustavsson to double the Laval lead.

While the first period had plenty of back-and-forth chances and goals on the board, the second period was a sloppy, grinding affair littered with penalties.

Even with the teams trading penalties, rough minors, and general nastiness, neither side really managed to create much during the middle frame. Laval piled up more chances, including what looked like a goal for Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, but it was waved off due to a quick whistle, robbing the rookie of his eighth goal of the season.

As the period approached its end, it was clear that the Rocket were in full control of the flow of the game, and were slowly cutting off any sort of Belleville counter-attack before it could get started.

The third period again started with a bang for Laval, as they piled on a third goal just 30 seconds in. Poehling circled high in the zone, dishing back to Tobie Paquette-Bisson at the point. He let a hard, low slapshot fly and Joël Teasdale got just enough of the shot to redirect it behind Gustavsson for his eighth goal of the season.

As things often have in these games, things began to unravel in rapid fashion. Olivier LeBlanc hit Laurent Dauphin away from the puck, drawing a two-minute penalty for his troubles. Before the Rocket could touch the puck, Yannick Veilleux instigated a fight with the Sens defender, and in three short punches ended that fight.

The fisticuffs didn’t end there as Colby Williams squared off with Josh Brook for some reason or another. The two WHL products had a long, spirited tilt with both landing plenty of big shots before the officials stepped in and sent both combatants to the box.

Laval continued to smother the Senators, absolutely crushing any sort of offensive push that Belleville made into the offensive zone. In fact the Sens’ only shot came early in the period, and it’s the only chance they got in the third period as the Rocket clamped down, in the final 20 minutes.

Even with the three-goal lead the Rocket pushed the Sens back, and coasted through the final minutes of the game with absolutely no issues, allowing McNiven to collect a 12-save shutout, his first of the season.

Final Score: Laval 3, Belleville 0

As the final whistle blew, Brook finished a minor check on Jonathan Aspirot, causing a ruckus along the boards, bad enough that McNiven darted out of his net to join the fracas and defend his teammate.

These two teams will clash again today at 3:00 PM EDT to finish their weekend back-to-back. It’s likely that Vasili Demchenko will get the start, and it’s unclear if Jordan Weal will be back in the lineup after he was a late scratch due to an undisclosed issue.

Three Stars

  1. Ryan Poehling (1G, 1A)
  2. Jesse Ylönen (1A)
  3. Corey Schueneman (4 SOG)