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Rocket vs. Americans recap & highlights: Xavier Simoneau hits Gordie Howe hat trick in 8-1 win

An offensive explosion helped Laval snap their losing streak in dominant fashion.

Laval Rocket

After another loss in a game they were minutes away from winning on Wednesday night, the Laval Rocket rolled into a two-game weekend series with the Rochester Americans desperately seeking a way to right the ship. The Rocket hadn’t played badly in previous games, but a distinct lack of finish was hampering their overall strong efforts.

J.-F. Houle still sought to shake up the lineup in order to achieve those results, starting with a promotion of Xavier Simoneau to the first line along with Brandon Gignac and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. Jesse Ylönen formed a new trio with Anthony Richard and Mitchell Stephens on line two, and the fourth line saw Peter Abbandonato and Danick Martel join the fray. On defence, William Trudeau slid back in while the veteran Tory Dello got a night off, behind them Cayden Primeau got the start in net once again.

The new lines made their presence felt very early in the game as the top line pressed the Americans through the neutral zone and deep into the offensive zone, while the second used its speed to evade any contact while advancing the puck. The real standout through the opening minutes was Mattias Norlinder, who kept plays alive in the offensive zone on several occasions.

Eventually with the puck deep in the Rochester end, a clearing pass was picked off by Danick Martel, and Peter Abbandonato was able to collect the loose puck. He walked in and snapped his first goal of the year by Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to open the scoring.

The Rocket nearly gave the lead up as Otto Leskinen took a seat for hooking, giving Rochester the game’s first power play. Laval’s penalty kill survived two heavy shots off the post to escape the kill, still leading the Americans as the period passed the halfway point. After that the speed of the Rocket began to make its mark, first with Richard breaking in alone and being denied only by the crossbar, and then with Simoneau’s hustle forcing his opponent to take a penalty behind the net.

The Rocket power-play struggles continued from the previous game as they were unable to increase their advantage on their first power play of the night. They ended the period strong, and despite the tied shot totals it was Laval who had carried the play primarily in the opening frame.

A strong start to period two yielded an unfortunate goal against for the Rocket as the Amerks tied the game up inside of two minutes. With Trudeau caught deep, Rochester countered quickly, and despite a diving attempt to deny a pass by Madison Bowey, Brandon Biro was able to roof his chance to tie the game 1-1.

The Rocket did not wilt from the early goal against, and the bottom six went back to work on getting the lead back. Alex Belzile kept a play alive in the offensive zone, then rapidly cut back to create a swath of space in front of him. The Rocket captain advanced on net, before firing a pass right to the tape of Jan Mysak, who directed it to the back of the net.

After driving teams nuts for the most of the year, Simoneau finally found a willing dance partner in the form of the 6’5” Brett Murray. Despite a massive size disparity, Simoneau held his own as he scored a judo takedown to end the scrap.

It was all Rocket following the fight, and they used that momentum to further increase their lead. A dumped-in puck had Richard in hot pursuit, and he found Justin Barron open in the slot where he snapped his first goal of the year past Luukkonen to make it 3-1.

The Amerks’ frustrations boiled over, resulting in Mitch Eliot being sent to the box. The Laval power play needed just 11 seconds to cash in with Jesse Ylönen putting a pass right on the tape of Simoneau’s stick for his first professional goal.

The three-goal outburst allowed the Rocket to enter the third period with a solid cushion as they looked to end their losing streak. The team refused to slow its pressure as the third period began, and soon found their lead pushed to four goals. A big hit by Madison Bowey at one end allowed the Rocket to launch into an odd-man rush where Abbandonato set up Lucas Condotta for a fifth goal.

Just a few minutes later they tacked on a sixth goal thanks to the effort of Simoneau in the offensive zone once again. Corey Schueneman collected a pass from Brandon Gignac and dropped it off for Simoneau. The forward quickly returned the puck to Schueneman who sniped his first of the season.

Even a four-minute penalty kill wasn’t able to slow down the attack of the Rocket, Richard grabbed an intercepted pass and broke away alone before burying the short-handed goal.

For good measure, Laval added a four-on-three power-play goal in the final minute with Barron finishing off a slick passing play for his second goal of the night for an emphatic finish to the game for the Rocket.

After a frustrating run of games resulting in losses, the Rocket finally put together a complete three-period effort against Rochester, snapping their losing streak in the process. Houle’s lineup changes paid off in a big way as every single line contributed a goal over the course of the game, and the newly inserted players each tailed three points on the night.

Final Score: Laval 8, Rochester 1

Laval will clash with Rochester again today, with a 3:00 PM puck drop scheduled at Place Bell, Kevin Poulin will likely get the start for the Rocket.