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Rocket @ Senators recap & highlights: Special teams make the difference as Laval loses on the road

There were plenty of promising signs for the Rocket, but not enough to avoid a winless weekend.

Laval Rocket

Twenty-four hours after a thrilling home-opener for the Rocket at Place Bell, they found themselves on the road in Belleville for the Senators’ home debut. The two sides combined for a feisty 11-goal affair that needed overtime to determine a winner on Friday night. Despite the overtime loss, the Rocket battled back hard and earned a point thanks to a strong showing from their leadership core.

They did have to make a few lineup changes following the loss as Filip Mesar was sent to the OHL, and Mitchell Stephens was made a scratch following his major penalty ejection on Friday. Inserted into the lineup were veteran Nate Schnarr and tryout Pierrick Dubé while rookie William Trudeau replaced Alex Green on the third pairing.

The opening parts of the game showed none of the chaotic energy from the previous night as both sides poked and prodded their way into the offensive zone, but neither group really tested starting goalies Antoine Bibeau and Kevin Poulin.

The Senators had the game’s first chance as Tory Dello was sent off for a cross-checking penalty. Laval’s penalty kill held firm, thanks to some steady goaltending from Poulin, and some luck from the posts next to him.

The strong penalty kill instantly spurred the Rocket attack into full swing, and into the lead. Schnarr sent Dubé in on the wing with a nice pass from along the boards, and Dubé sped in and wired his first goal of the season past Bibeau.

The Rocket looked like they were going to continue their dominant march forward as they piled on more and more shots, but were not able to slide a second goal past Antoine Bibeau.

The Senators drew level with just over two minutes left to play in the opening frame. With Jesse Ylönen in the box, the Senators cashed in on their second power-play opportunity, despite the efforts of Poulin. Maxence Guenette put a shot toward the net, and on the rebound it was Jayce Hawryluk who fired it by Poulin to get Belleville on the board.

The feisty nature from the previous night returned in force in the final minutes of the first period, but cooler heads prevented pushes and shoves from becoming anything more than that as the horn sounded for intermission.

The penalty issues continued for Laval to start the second period with Jan Mysak heading to the box just 12 seconds after the puck dropped. The penalty-killers did an admirable job until the dying seconds when Philippe Daoust fired a shot over a sprawling Poulin to make it a 2-1 contest.

Misfortune continued to follow Laval as Mattias Norlinder blew a tire, allowing Cole Reinhardt to take off uncontested. Reinhardt broke in, firing his first goal of the year over the glove of Poulin to double the Sens’ lead.

Much like the previous night, the Rocket took those two quick goals against and turned it into instant momentum for themselves. Anthony Richard bolted down the right wing, taking a huge hit as he fired a diagonal pass to Gabriel Bourque. The Rocket alternate captain was all alone in front of the net and he snapped his second goal of the year by Bibeau to put Laval right back into the game.

Just over two minutes later they would strike a second time with Norlinder making up for his earlier gaffe. Dubé flicked the puck back to Norlinder at the point, and the young defender fired a shot-pass right to the crease. Standing at the back post was Alex Belzile who just left his stick on the ice to direct the pass home for the tying goal.

The Rocket continued their self-destructive march to the penalty box to end the period, with Madison Bowey going in for a cross check first, and after he exited he was replaced by Xavier Simoneau and Jesse Ylönen in rapid order. The Rocket escaped the four-on-three penalty kill with some time remaining to start the third period, but that was wiped out as the Sens were called for a bench minor after the intermission horn sounded.

With the play shifted to three-on-three to start the third period, both teams played rather timidly, and then the Senators’ tempers boiled over after a hit by Ylönen, putting the Rocket on a two-man advantage. The power play yielded nothing for the Rocket as Bibeau remained steadfast, and shortly after the penalties expired Bourque found himself taking a trip to the box as well.

The penalty-killers fended off another man advantage, and then proceeded to dominate the following minutes without relenting. The fourth line dumped the puck in and it remained there for several minutes as Laval continued to change lines and chip chances on net, but none would trickle beyond Bibeau.

Even with all the momentum in their favour, it took just one small mistake to hand the game right to the Senators. A wide shot dragged Poulin out of his net, and the rebound bounced right to the stick of Scott Sabourin, who calmly fired it between a lunging Poulin’s legs to give Belleville a late lead.

The Rocket had no last-ditch comeback in them this time, as the Senators tacked on two empty-net goals to hand Laval another loss to start their season.

Final Score: Belleville 6, Laval 3

Up next for the Rocket is an Eastern Conference Final rematch against the Springfield Thunderbirds on Wednesday night at Place Bell.