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Rocket vs. Comets recap & highlights: Jesse Ylönen’s two goals lead Laval to a win

The young sniper put in a great effort as the Rocket scored another massive victory.

Club de Hockey Canadien

After a big three-game week when the Rocket compiled a 2-1-0 record while missing most of their regular players, the club was right back into the fire on Wednesday night. The good news for the Rocket was that, with the Canadiens getting healthier, many of their missing players were returning to the team. Among them were Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Alex Belzile, and Jesse Ylönen, while Gianni Fairbrother slotted back in on defence alongside Louie Belpedio.

Backing them up in net was Kevin Poulin, the only contracted player available for the Rocket as Michael McNiven and Cayden Primeau were on recall with the NHL club. Facing the Rocket was arguably their toughest task in recent games, as the Utica Comets rolled into town having lost just four games total in regulation this season.

The Rocket weren’t fazed by the Comets early on as they worked their way through the neutral zone with ease, and put some early chances on Nico Daws to open the contest. A nifty rush from Terrance Amorosa allowed Harvey-Pinard to draw a slashing call on his way to the net, giving Laval an early power play.

It took them just 25 seconds to make the most of that opportunity, as a failed clearing attempt allowed Ylönen to collect the puck with room to operate. With that open space along the left boards he deked around one defender before firing a shot from the slot. That shot was blocked, but he picked up his own rebound to rifle the puck by Daws to open up the scoring.

Both sides settled in to trading a few chances at even strength, but after a fantastic solo effort from Peter Abbandonato, it was Kevin Roy taking a penalty to give the Comets their first man advantage of the night.

On the Utica power play, the Rocket were pushed to their limit, with a shot clanging off the iron, and then Poulin was forced into a series of scrambling saves to deny the Comets a goal before the net came off its moorings. Those saves were crucial as the Rocket took control off the ensuing faceoff, killing off the Roy minor penalty and heading into the first intermission up by a goal.

While the first period started with the Rocket in control, the second started with the Comets all over Laval from the opening draw. Poulin did well to stymie the early attack with a number of timely glove saves, allowing the Rocket to get their legs back in the game.

The pressure from Utica eventually broke down the Rocket defence however, as a flipped clearing effort by Kevin Bahl sprung Alexander Holtz on a two-on-one break. Holtz held the puck, then called his own number as he snapped his eighth goal of the year past Poulin to tie the game with just over six minutes gone in the period.

That momentum from Utica turned quickly in the form of a Frederik Gauthier tripping penalty on Ylönen in the Comets’ offensive zone. On the man advantage, it was again the laser-sighted release of Ylönen that made the difference as J.-S. Dea fed him a cross-zone pass and the young Finn blistered a shot by Daws to restore the Laval lead.

The Rocket counter-attack didn’t stop there, as the fourth line hemmed in the Comets in their own end, and with that pressure the defence got in on the scoring. Devante Smith-Pelly chipped the puck out from behind the net to Belpedio, and he slid the pass across to Tory Dello, who immediately fed it back to Belpedio. He cracked a slapshot off the crossbar and in to make it a two-goal Laval lead.

A Gianni Fairbrother charging penalty swung momentum back toward the Comets in the final minutes of the period, and while Laval managed to kill his minor penalty, Utica clawed back within a goal with just over a minute left. Nate Schnarr calmly waited out Poulin and snapped a shot far-side to make the contest a little bit closer heading into the third period.

Period three started with the Rocket having to kill off an Alex Belzile slashing penalty a minute into the frame, and again the penalty-killers were up to the task. Especially Brandon Baddock, whose short-handed break allowed Laval to keep its lead intact. The Comets still hung around, and eventually a small defensive lapse opened a lane for Michael Vukojevic to charge into the slot and snap the tying goal by Poulin with just under 15 minutes left to play.

The minutes that followed the third Utica goal were nervy to say the least, but Belzile’s hustle on a dump-in drew an interference call, and the Rocket power play went back to work.

While the top unit didn’t find the back of the net, the second one certainly did. A heavy point shot by Tobie Paquette-Bisson created a scramble in front of Daws, and Jean-Christophe Beaudin was able to clear the puck over to Abbandonato, who buried his first in a Rocket uniform to put Laval back on top once again.

With the Comets pushing to try to tie the game once more, Daws made his way to the bench for the extra attacker. It was then Poulin’s time to shine as he slammed the door shut on the Utica attack, including a desperation pad save as the horn sounded to secure a massive two points for the Rocket.

Final Score: Laval 4, Utica 3

Laval now has a bit of an unexpected break, as their weekend series against Belleville has been postponed due to COVID issues. The Rocket’s next set of games come when they head to Texas for a pair of games with the Stars starting Friday, January 28.