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Rocket @ Islanders recap & highlights: Another frustrating evening for Laval

The effort was there, but the bounces were not in another Rocket loss.

Laval Rocket

An up-and-down opening month for the Laval Rocket continued on Friday night with a 2-1 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. While the Rocket finished on a very strong note, their slow start in the first period was too much to overcome for J.-F. Houle’s squad.

There was little time for the team to dwell on the loss however, as they rolled into Bridgeport for a match with the Islanders on Saturday night. There were three changes from the previous game for Laval as fresh legs were needed in the back-to-back situation. Joël Teasdale, Peter Abbandonato, and Pierrick Dubé slotted in for Xavier Simoneau, Nate Schnarr and Brandon Gignac. In net it was Kevin Poulin who got the nod after Cayden Primeau played on Friday in Pennsylvania.

The new look of the Rocket fourth line generated the first real pressure of the game, with Abbandonato’s speed creating space for a chance on net. The momentum was short-lived though as William Dufour used his size to work Mattias Norlinder into a holding penalty. Laval’s penalty-killers were up to the task to keep the Islanders off the board, but the game did not stay at five-on-five for long.

Joël Teasdale and Parker Wotherspoon came together around the net, moving the play to four-on-four for two minutes. William Trudeau got a rude awakening with larger space available on the ice as Chris Terry dangled around him at the blue line and teed up Simon Holmstrom for a two-on-one goal to open the scoring.

Following the Islanders’ goal, the Rocket forecheck began to show signs of life and cause Bridgeport to make errors with the puck. Mitchell Stephens rushed in, throwing a check to cause a defender to fling a pass blindly off the wall. That puck ended up on the stick of Anthony Richard, who rifled it top-shelf to tie the game up with his first goal of the season.

The tie lasted just about four minutes as another odd-man rush put the Islanders back into the lead. A quick pair of passes allowed Hudson Fasching to find open ice to bury his second goal of the year with just under two minutes left to play. That goal made the difference as the intermission horn sounded after 20 minutes.

Laval was given a golden opportunity very early in the second period as Terry was called for tripping 90 seconds in. The chances on the man advantage were few and far between, and those the Rocket got went just over the crossbar as the Islanders fended off the attack.

Bridgeport took control of the game after the penalty kill, cycling the Rocket defence repeatedly and forcing Poulin into a number of tough saves in close. It appeared that the Islanders had increased their lead in a scramble around the net, but the officials disagreed, saying it never crossed the line. Before the play was able to continue, the Rocket were back on the power play as Ruslan Iskhakov went to the box for slashing.

The power play again failed to find the back of the net, and not long after the play returned to five on five, the Rocket found themselves heading to a penalty kill of their own. While the Rocket managed to kill the penalty off, seconds later Terry walked in and wired a puck into the upper corner of the net where Poulin had no shot at stopping it to make it a two goal game.

It looked like the Rocket were going to cut into the lead as a centring pass came to Jesse Ylönen, but a desperation flailing save from Jakub Skarek denied the Finn a surefire goal. It wasn’t all bad however, as Parker Wotherspoon was called for roughing as the period expired so Laval would start the final 20 up a man.

The early power play paid off big for the Rocket as they pressed the Islanders back immediately, and with 30 seconds remaining they found a second goal on the night. Stephens fired a heavy shot that rebounded right to Rafaël Harvey-Pinard in front and he made no mistake burying his second goal of the year.

Momentum was clearly tipping in favour of the Rocket, but lax defensive coverage came back to hurt them. A shot was stopped by Poulin through traffic, but the rebound sat on the ice, and instead of clearing it the Rocket tried to clear out the mass of bodies instead. Iskhakov jumped on the loose puck and fired it by a diving Poulin to restore the two goal lead.

There was no last-gasp comeback in the cards for the Rocket in Bridgeport sadly, With less than four minutes to play the Rocket pulled Poulin for the extra attacker, but the pressure of the Islanders forced the puck out of the zone and Simon Holmstrom buried the puck into the empty net to seal the game.

Final Score: Islanders 5, Laval 2

It’s another frustrating loss for the Rocket who fall to 1-3-1 on the season. Despite the record, the team hasn’t played overly poorly in any single game. They’re getting pucks to the right spots, but haven’t gotten the expected bounces so far. It’s early on and there are new pieces integrating into the team, so it’s far too soon to hit any panic buttons.

The Rocket play at Place Bell this upcoming Wednesday against the Belleville Senators, looking for just their second win of the season.