After a gruelling but highly successful road trip came to an end, the Laval Rocket finally returned back to the friendly confines of the Bell Centre. Joining the Rocket were forward Laurent Dauphin and team captain Xavier Ouellet, providing a much-needed boost to a team now riddled with injuries. A surprise returnee was also Jordan Weal, who missed the final game against Manitoba while nursing an undisclosed injury.
Cayden Primeau was back between the pipes for Laval, and before the puck even dropped the games had begun. After a knee-on-knee hit from Yannick Veilleux injured Heat forward Martin Pospisil several games earlier, the Rocket forward was suspended for four games. The Heat’s own tough guy, Alex Gallant, made sure to have a few words with Veilleux in warmups, likely signalling an exchange of fists at some point in the contest.
The Rocket were clearly happy to be back on home ice as they opened the scoring inside of three minutes. After Hayden Verbeek just missed on an odd-man rush, the puck was hanging out around the blue line, and Brandon Baddock stepped in and whistled a wrist shot toward the net. With Verbeek screening the goalie, Baddock’s shot flew in to put Laval up by a goal early in the contest.
Brandon Baddock with the long range snipe, and Laval's tough guy has the Rocket up by a goal in the first three minutes pic.twitter.com/CeZcaaiZzT— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 2, 2021
Then, as expected, Gallant and Veilleux had their bout. Both combatants tossed aside their helmets and exchanged wild punches until the officials were forced to step in when Veilleux had his jersey pulled over his face.
The Rocket continued to push following the spirited tilt, with the newly signed Corey Schueneman ringing a heavy shot off the crossbar and Verbeek also just missing another prime chance. The Heat, to their credit, did recover after their early shock, with Luke Philp and Eetu Tuulola getting a pair of chances on Primeau. The Rocket netminder showed off a quick glove hand as he denied both forwards, and was a big reason why Laval entered the first intermission with their one-goal lead intact.
Period two again saw the Rocket jump all over the Heat in the early going, getting a line change in while they piled up scoring chance after scoring chance against Stockton. Despite their early-period domination, the Rocket soon found themselves in a tough spot as they found themselves short-handed for the first time on the night.
While the Heat had a cross-crease chance just miss, the Rocket took that chance to counter-attack. With the penalty-killers not only clearing pucks out with ease, but also out-hustling Stockton players to the puck, Joseph Blandisi’s interference penalty passed without much incident.
Just after Hayden Verbeek left the box on a subsequent call, all hell broke loose in the neutral zone. Josh Brook was laid out by Alex Gallant on a blindside hit, so both Michael Pezzetta and Baddock attempted to grab Gallant and have him answer for his hit. Pezzetta got there first, throwing haymakers in a spirited tilt with Gallant while Koletrane Wilson took a beating from Baddock.
Both Brandon Baddock and Michael Pezzetta didn't like Alex Gallant's hit on Josh Brook.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 3, 2021
So they just grabbed Heat players and started throwing. pic.twitter.com/3lTzl5O9oT
When all was said and done, Wilson, Baddock, and Gallant were all ejected from the game, for various reasons. Baddock and Wilson were sent off for initiating a secondary altercation, while Gallant’s second fight of the game resulted in an immediate game misconduct. Thankfully the period ended without further incident, and Laval still held their lead.
The Rocket made sure to make the most of their early pressure in the third period. Josh Brook let a harmless point shot go on net, but Rafaël Harvey-Pinard managed to slam a rebound off of Artyom Zagidulin’s pads. Yannick Veilleux was in the right place at the right time to follow that up and fire home the second chance to make it a two-goal Rocket lead.
Yannick Veilleux's eventful night continues as he pots his fifth goal of the year on a rebound chance pic.twitter.com/U3H7Q8IApg— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 3, 2021
The Rocket went back to work smothering the Stockton attack, even with the Heat ringing a shot off the crossbar once again. The Rocket repaid that favour, with Ryan Poehling muscling his way into a breakaway, but having his backhand chance find only iron.
With well over three minutes left, Stockton chose to get aggressive, pulling Zagidulin for the extra attacker to exploit a major weakness in Laval’s game: their five-on-six play. The Rocket, however, had other plans as they just took the puck back and never allowed the Heat any kind of chance at setting up a push with the extra attacker. Otto Leskinen looked like he had converted the empty-net chance, but Poehling managed to catch the puck and deflect it for an extremely fancy empty-net goal.
Ryan Poehling with a...tip-in empty net goal? pic.twitter.com/WAlpboqeVX— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 3, 2021
A late Heat power play after Brook was singled out in an altercation yielded nothing, and Laval walked out of the Bell Centre with a fourth straight win, and a shutout for Primeau who had just won his seventh straight start.
Final Score: Laval 3, Stockton 0
These two clubs meet again on Easter Sunday, with that game kicking off at 7:00 PM EDT.
- Yannick Veilleux (1G)
- Josh Brook (2A)
- Cayden Primeau (Win, 17 Saves, Shutout)