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Laval @ Toronto recap and highlights: Rocket push Marlies to the brink, but fall just short

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The battered and short-handed Rocket again put together a great effort in a loss.

Shanna Martin

A night after an emphatic bounce-back victory, the Laval Rocket were right back on the ice against the Toronto Marlies. The Rocket notched a big win on Tuesday getting goals from four different players en route to a 4-2 win. Now, less than 24 hours later, they had to do it again, minus two of their top players in Xavier Ouellet and Jesse Ylönen who were recalled for Montreal’s final regular-season game against Edmonton.

Also missing was goalie Vasili Demchenko, who was sent back to Montreal out of caution due to him showing COVID-like symptoms while having a negative test after last night’s game. This required the Rocket to borrow the Marlies’ backup, Andrew D’Agostini, to back up Michael McNiven in Wednesday’s game.

Despite both teams missing multiple key pieces, the pace was quick to start the afternoon game, with the sides trading chances and hits in the early going. Toronto struck first though, as Nick Robertson laid a pass off for Mikko Kokkonen, and the rookie defender fired his first North American goal by McNiven’s glove for a Marlies lead less than four minutes into the game.

Brandon Baddock didn’t help the Rocket’s less-than-brilliant start as he was called for tripping shortly after the faceoff. The Rocket penalty-killers did well to limit the looks the Marlies got on net, and managed a few looks of their own while short-handed. The penalty expired without any damage, and the Rocket looked to find their first goal of the game.

Baddock again found himself on a path to the box after a late hit on Robertson was called interference. This time the Rocket’s pressure paid off, as they not only kept the Marlies off the board, but also found a tying goal. Timothy Liljegren fumbled the puck at the blue line before Yannick Veilleux steamrolled him, and took the puck the other way. Despite Lukas Vejdemo joining him, Veilleux drove hard to the net and neatly tucked his 13th goal of the season past Joseph Woll’s pad.

It looked like the Rocket might get on the board late, when Veilleux set up Josh Brook for a golden chance, but Woll was able to deny the defenceman-turned-winger a goal late in the period. After 20 minutes the two sides headed to the intermission tied, with Laval leading in shots 10-7.

Right off the bat in the second, Jordan Weal was whistled for tripping up Kenny Agostino, giving a third straight power play to the Marlies. This time the Marlies found the back of the net as Kokkonen teed up Tyler Gaudet for a massive one-timer and the Marlies centre blistered the shot right by McNiven to put Toronto back in the lead.

The Rocket pushed back, getting a strong effort from Brook that was again denied by Woll in tight. The Rocket finally a drew a penalty of their own, with Gaudet taking a seat for tripping in the Rocket defensive zone. The man advantage yielded little pressure, and not long after returning to even strength, the Rocket were forced to kill another penalty as Tobie Paquette-Bisson was called for interference.

The Marlies again made the Rocket pay for their lack of discipline, doubling their lead quickly on the power play. Liljegren faked his shot, dishing it off for Pavel Gogolev, who roofed it right by a lunging McNiven. Another late pair of chances from Brook marked the Rocket’s best chances as the teams headed to intermission with Laval trailing by a goal.

With a two-goal deficit staring them in the face, the Rocket came out strong to start the third as every line threw everything it had at the net. Woll was bouncing out rebounds, but the battered Laval side couldn’t find their second goal just yet.

The Rocket piled up the shots, opening up an 11-2 shot advantage as the period wore on, but, it was readily apparent that the team was missing their top stars as they lacked some of the finish they had in the earlier parts of this season.

Against the odds, the Rocket finally found their second goal with just over two minutes left to play with McNiven on the bench. Corey Schueneman and Laurent Dauphin played catch along the blue line to open up a shooting lane. Dauphin fired a shot towards Woll, and in front of the net was Vejdemo who got enough of the shot to direct it by the Marlies goalie.

Laval put the pressure to the max with McNiven on the bench once more, denying the Marlies an easy empty-net goal. All the late chances went for naught however, as the Marlies got one last-gasp clear to kill off the remaining few seconds and secured the one-goal victory.

Final Score: Toronto 3, Laval 2

The teams are off on Thursday, and will clash once again on Friday night, when it’s likely the Rocket will see the return of multiple players including Ouellet, Ylönen, and Alex Belzile.

Three Stars

  1. Joseph Woll (Win, 36 Saves)
  2. Mikko Kokkonen (1G, 1A)
  3. Laurent Dauphin (1A)