To say the Laval Rocket are playing at another level right now would be an understatement. The team won their fifth straight game 4-1 against the Belleville Senators in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon.
The three-game sweep that started Wednesday night moved the Rocket to the top of the American Hockey League standings. They are now 22-5-2 on the season, and are 16-1-1 in their last 18 games dating back to March 14.
Laval had four different goal scorers in the victory, and Ryan Poehling had three assists. They scored two goals on the power play, and Vasily Demchenko made 20 saves to win his second game of the season. With his 2-0-1 record, Demchenko is the only Rocket goaltender to not lose in regulation this season.
The depth showed up once again for Laval, as it has all season. Despite having three players who played on Friday injured for Saturday’s game— Joël Teasdale, Laurent Dauphin, and Michael Pezzetta — the team kept on rolling.
It was another strong start for the Rocket. They had an 7-1 advantage in shots before getting the game’s first power play. Jesse Ylönen scored on the opportunity when he was left alone at the side of the net. Kevin Mandolese was able to get a piece of the shot, but it got through him and past the line.
It was Ylönen’s eighth goal of the season, and his first since returning from injury.
Before the period was over, Laval doubled their lead. Cameron Hillis tipped in the Josh Brook shot for his first career AHL goal to make it 2-0.
C'est un but que Cameron Hillis n'oubliera pas de sitôt! C'est son premier chez les professionnels!— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) April 24, 2021
That's a goal Cameron Hillis won't forget anytime soon! It's his first at the pro level. #gorocket pic.twitter.com/2LjHbcydXK
Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard made sure to go see Hillis after the goal on the bench as well.
Joël Bouchard s'est assuré de féliciter Cameron Hillis après son premier but professionnel. On aime ça!— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) April 24, 2021
Joël Bouchard made sure to welcome back Cameron Hillis on the bench after his first pro goal. We love it! #GoRocket pic.twitter.com/iGlwIzj8o8
After the Rocket goal, Angus Crookshank had the Senators’ best chance of the game to that point. He intercepted a pass in the slot but his backhand shot hit the post behind Demchenko and stayed out.
When the Rocket take a lead, they make it almost impossible for the other team to catch up. They block the neutral zone and are content to force the opponent into giveaways. Then, when they get the puck, they use the counter attack to make them pay. The players have shown an unbelievable trust in the system and have said that they know if they play that way for 60 minutes, they will have a chance to win. On Friday, they allowed only one shot on the third period.
In the second period, they were content to let the game come to them. Late in the period, Belleville took back-to-back penalties to give the Rocket a two-player advantage. It took them only nine seconds to capitalize. Jordan Weal, who missed Friday’s game after an injury came up in warmup, walked in and made it 3-0.
The goal wasn’t without controversy. Replays showed that the shot hit off the crossbar and the post, and it didn’t seem to cross the line.
Jordan Weal made it 3-0 Laval, somehow this goal counted even though it never went in the net? pic.twitter.com/mPcVFY3YtK— Josh Glazer (@jglazer9) April 24, 2021
However, the officials did not go to video review and the goal stood. It was a tough break for Mandolese, who made 30 saves in the game.
Less than three minutes later, the Senators got that goal back. Cole Reinhardt centred the puck and it took a deflection. It was no problem for Egor Sokolov, however, as he batted it out of the air and past Demchenko.
In the third period, Poehling picked up his third assist of the game when Joseph Blandisi beat Mandolese for his 10th goal of the season.
Ryan Poehling a récolté sa 3e passe du match sur le but de Blandisi. C'est son 6e point contre Belleville lors des 3 dernières parties.— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) April 24, 2021
Ryan Poehling got his third assist of the game on Blandisi's goal. It's his 6th point against Belleville during this 3 game stretch. #gorocket pic.twitter.com/0xaQuVD73R
Poehling came close to getting a fourth point, but Corey Schueneman and Jake Lucchini couldn’t connect.
With 11 goals and 15 assists in 28 games, Poehling is now 12th in AHL scoring. He is also the team’s leading scorer.
The Rocket now have a break in their schedule. Their next scheduled game isn’t until May 4 when they are set to host the Toronto Marlies. They do have two home games to make up against Toronto that were postponed due to the COVID-19 situation with the Marlies. The games have yet to be re-scheduled.