Laval Rocket forward Jean-Sébastien Dea skated into the zone, took a drop pass from Kevin Roy, dragged the puck and fired the snap shot past Colten Ellis as the Laval Rocket came all the way back to defeat the Springfield Thunderbirds 4-3 in overtime on Friday night.
It was Dea’s 10th goal of the season and his second straight game-winning goal after also securing the winning marker on Wednesday. The goal completed a two-goal third period comeback for the Rocket, who extended their winning streak to four games.
“I didn’t have the start of the season that I wanted, so it did some good to do a bit of a reset over the holidays,” Dea said. “I want contribute a lot more to the team and the last two games it is going well, so I just need to keep working hard and it’s a team effort as well.”
“It speaks to the players we have,” said Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle. “They’re playing hard and laying it on the line and they want to win. That’s what hockey is all about. It showed that we have good leadership and some character in this locker room.”
Laval was trailing 3-1 entering the third period. Less than six minutes into the third period, Justin Ducharme, playing his second AHL game after starting the year in the ECHL, sprung Alexandre Fortin on a breakaway, and he made no mistake to make it a one-goal game.
“I think that’s the biggest difference from the beginning of the year,” Dea said. “Early in the year as soon as there were a couple of goals, we’d get discouraged and now it doesn’t effect us much. We continue playing, we believe in our talent, we believe in our team.”
With 3:47 remaining in the third period, Laval forced overtime when Kevin Roy’s shot was saved by Ellis, but defenceman Tobie Paquette-Bisson pounced on the rebound in front of the net for his third goal of the season.
The final part of the third period was furious back and forth action with both teams trading chances. If not for Ellis and Laval goaltender Kevin Poulin, there could have been a lot more goals.
Poulin, for his part, was making his first AHL start since November 20 as both Cayden Primeau and Michael McNiven are with the NHL team. He made 34 saves in the win. His biggest save of the night came early in the third period when he sprawled across his net to rob Mackenzie MacEachern. It was one of several incredible saves he made on the Thunderbirds forward throughout the game.
“He played an excellent game,” Dea said on Poulin. “He kept us in it. I hope the save is on RDS because it was extraordinary.”
“We have a lot of new players. Every game we have a chance to play and show the coaching staff what we can do, and it’s a good opportunity for us.” Poulin said. “It wasn’t pretty but we came away with the win.”
Springfield took the lead 7:32 into the game. After Charles-David Beaudoin got beat to a loose puck, Keean Washkurak started a two-on-one rush. He held the puck and fired the shot five hole past Poulin.
Laval had some chances in the first period. First, Dea, Peter Abbandonato and Gabriel Bourque ended up on a three-on-one, after a turnover and a falling defender. The trio made one pass too many and failed to hit the net on the shot they did take.
A few minutes later, Springfield doubled their lead. Michael Kim’s point shot tipped was wide, but Mackenzie MacEachern banked the puck off of Poulin from behind the net with 3:33 remaining.
The Rocket almost cut the deficit before the first period. Brandon Gignac broke into the zone, and drew the defender over to him in the race for the puck. Gignac picked it up and made a great pass back to Martel but the goaltender managed a glove save.
Only 3:17 into the second period, Laval finally did get on the board. Louie Belpedio entered the zone and led Devante Smith-Pelly. He fired a pass to the slot where Ducharme picked it up, and he turned and fired the puck past Ellis for his first career AHL goal.
It was Smith-Pelly’s first point in his second game with the team as well.
Springfield restored their two-goal advantage just 65 seconds later when Sam Anas fired a shot past Poulin from the high slot.
The score remained that way until the third period when the Rocket came back.
Laval will look to extend their winning streak to five on Saturday night when they are in Hartford to face the Wolfpack. Houle said that he isn’t sure if Poulin will start for a second straight day, or if try out Louis-Philip Guindon will make his AHL debut.
Guindon was previously with McGill University and has spent this season with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. The 26-year-old is 3-1 with a 2.69 goals against average and .915 save percentage in four games this season.
The Rocket had some reinforcements with Brandon Baddock, Cameron Hillis, and Louie Belpedio all returning to the lineup. They replaced Shawn St. Amant, Ryan Valentini, and Olivier Galipeau.