The season is just beginning for the Laval Rocket, but with a 1-3-1 start it was far from what the team expected after a strong end to last year. Thankfully for the Rocket, they had a chance to start righting the ship in another matchup with the Belleville Senators. The Senators have remained a persistent thorn in the side of the Rocket, and J.-F. Houle needed a full 60-minute effort from his team to get back on track.
William Trudeau was a healthy scratch in favour of the veteran Corey Schueneman, while Brandon Gignac, Nate Schnarr, and Xavier Simoneau all drew back into the lineup on the fourth line. Surprising, however, was the scratch of playoff hero Danick Martel, who ceded his spot to Joël Teasdale on the third line.
The game started with the Rocket playing with a nervous energy in the opening minutes. A quick breakaway chance for Gignac appeared to wake up the offensive side of the Rocket, despite the speedy winger having his chance denied. They used their speed to start creating more chances, but no goals followed even with Mitchell Stephens ringing a shot off the post, and then being stonewalled on a breakaway soon afterward.
Even with a pair of power plays, the Rocket’s chances continued to come primarily at even strength as both man-advantage units failed to generate much of an attack. As the period came to an end, the Rocket held a 12-2 shot advantage, and were unlucky to not be up by multiple goals, due to the outstanding play of Kevin Mandolese.
The Rocket kept the pressure up as the second period started, but just under two minutes in headed to their first penalty kill as Jesse Ylönen sat for a boarding penalty. The penalty-killers were in fine form, springing Lucas Condotta for a breakaway chance, and generally keeping the Senators from generating any real threat on net.
It wasn’t long until the penalty kill was needed again after they killed off Ylönen’s minor, as Gabriel Bourque went to the box for tripping up Jake Lucchini. Again the special-teams unit stood tall, creating a short-handed two-on-zero chance that Schnarr fired wide of goal.
After a brief period of domination by the Rocket at even strength, the Senators drew a call by suckering Anthony Richard into a scrum after the whistle, and the third time was the charm for the Senators. Jake Lucchini fed a pass into Egor Sokolov and the big sniper made no mistake with his shot to open the scoring with half the game gone.
After one failed power play, the Rocket finally found a goal of their own thanks to the hard work of Simoneau and Gignac. A leading pass from the defensive zone was just out of reach of the forwards, but Simoneau beat out the icing and kept the play moving along the end boards. Gignac was able to then poke it to the front of the net where Richard fired it home to tie the game up.
Rocket power play goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 27, 2022
: Anthony Richard(2)
: Brandon Gignac pic.twitter.com/QnJ4bDNAmZ
The questionable officiating in the game continued after the Rocket goal, as Ridly Greig appeared to put Otto Leskinen in a headlock as the two headed for a loose puck. When Leskinen retaliated by pulling him back away from the puck in response, he was called for holding. Laval escaped the period with the game still tied, but had about 90 seconds of Leskinen’s minor to kill off.
The rest of the minor penalty passed without much incident, and the Rocket drew a power play of their own with Simoneau’s relentless forecheck drawing an interference call. The man advantage was all over the Senators’ zone, but again Mandolese refused to budge even an inch, denying the Rocket on the goal line to keep the game in a 1-1 tie.
With the teams seemingly settling into a defensive shell as the period wore on, the tenacity of Simoneau helped create a goal to break the deadlock. He again raced ahead to prevent an icing, drawing heavy coverage along the end boards. Out of the pile, Gignac grabbed the puck for himself, then swung around the net and fired his shot in short-side to give the Rocket a much-deserved lead.
Rocket goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 27, 2022
: Brandon Gignac(2) pic.twitter.com/jS6mJ146mI
Instead of making things easy on themselves in the final minutes, the Rocket decided to put the penalty kill to the test again. Gignac took a double-minor for high-sticking Scott Sabourin after a hit, then as the Rocket tried to fend that off, Tory Dello was called for closing his hand on the puck, giving the Senators a five-on-three. The two-man advantage for the Sens found the tying goal despite the Rocket’s best efforts, with Roby Jarventie blistering one through Primeau to tie the game at two goals apiece.
Laval’s penalty kill bounced back to fend off the rest of the Senators’ man advantage, and when Gignac exited the box it created an odd-man rush that Jan Mysak pushed just wide of the goal. Gignac was then run from behind by Greig in front of two officials who chose to call nothing. The officials however saw it perfectly fit to call a hook against Scott Sabourin that appeared to be a massive make-up call for that earlier miss.
The power play didn’t have much of a chance to get going before Mattias Norlinder fired an errant pass that was intercepted, which forced the defenceman to take down Lucchini with a slash. With eight seconds left on the clock in regulation, Rourke Chartier was allowed to corral his own rebound in front of the net and beat Primeau to steal two points for the Senators.
Final Score: Belleville 3, Laval 2
Up next is a two-game stint against the Rochester Americans at Place Bell starting on Friday night.