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Rocket vs. Americans recap & highlights: After a treat, Laval tricked in second half of back-to-back

The Rocket couldn’t match Rochester’s intensity in a losing effort.

Club de hockey Canadien

Less than 24 hours after a resounding 8-1 win over the Rochester Americans, the Laval Rocket faced off against their division rivals again on Saturday afternoon but the script was flipped in a 5-1 loss at Place Bell.

The game got off to a slow start as both teams focused on puck control in the second half of the back-to-back. The Rocket got the first goal of the game, however, when Jesse Ylönen carried the puck into the zone and took a shot from the high slot. It was saved by Michael Houser, but the rebound went to Anthony Richard at the side of the net, who made no mistake for his fourth goal of the season.

The lead would be short lived. Just 1:20 after the goal, Rochester tied the game up. With Kevin Poulin down at the side of the net, Isak Rosen managed to put the loose puck past the Rocket goaltender.

The game changed in the next few minutes. Just over a minute later, Anders Bjork fired a shot over the blocker of Poulin for his second goal of the year, and Linus Weissbach took a pass from Brandon Biro to make it 3-1 shortly after. In all, it was three Rochester goals in 2:44.

The shots at that point in the game were 9-4, and Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle called his timeout to try and stop the game from getting out of hand.

“They worked harder than us, especially in the first period to take the lead,” said Houle. “After that, we had no energy to try and come back into the game.”

“Our inexperience showed,” the coach continued. “A back-to-back, the energy wasn’t there, but we need to find a way to compete two nights in a row, that’s what it takes in professional hockey.”

The comeback was made harder when William Trudeau fell awkwardly into the corner, and showed some immediate discomfort. He stayed on the bench for a bit after that shift, but eventually made his way to the locker room and would not return, meaning that for the final 24 minutes, the Rocket would be down to five defenders.

Laval had two chances to close the gap before the end of the first period as Gabriel Bourque had a partial two-on-one, and Anthony Richard had a shorthanded opportunity in the final minute of the period, but both were saved by Houser.

There was a flurry of five penalties in the final 1:50 of the first period, with Madison Bowey going off for interference, followed by two pairs of coincidental minors: Danick Martel and Jeremy Davies for tripping and cross-checking respectively, and then the rare double delay-of-game penalties to Alex Belzile and Sean Malone, who tried to drop the gloves well after the whistle.

Into the second period, the Rocket would have the first two scoring opportunities, but the biggest save was by Poulin. Midway through the period, he made a big glove save to keep the score at 3-1. Poulin made 26 saves in the game.

“[Poulin] had no chance on the three goals in the first period,” Houle said. “He made some big saves to keep us in the game. There’s nothing to say about how he played, it was more how we played in front of him.”

“We played well defensively [on Friday], and today they scored two goals right in the heart of the slot,” Houle said. “It’s important for us to cover those areas. We were puck-focused [Saturday] and we weren’t [on Friday]. The first three goals, we were just standing there. The puck is there, our battle level has to be higher. It’s a young defence back there that need to learn how to battle in front of the net a little more.”

Houser made a big save of his own just a few seconds later when Alex Belzile had a rebound chance right in front, but the Rochester goaltender just managed to get a toe on it. The Rochester goaltender made 31 saves.

Laval’s best opportunity to get back into the game came with 7:05 left in the third period. A four-minute double-minor for high sticking would give them 23 seconds of five-on-three time, but they could not capitalize on the two-player advantage, or the extended power play afterwards.

“We had a pretty good power play,” said Richard. “We had chances to get back into the game. Sometimes the power play can give you momentum but we didn’t follow it up.”

“We had three quality chances in the slot and we didn’t score,” Houle said. “If you score on one of those chances, it makes a difference.”

It was made even worse because the Americans scored on a late power play of their own in the final seconds of the second period. Brandon Biro’s shot was tipped in front by Brett Murray and just managed to squeak through Poulin to make it a 4-1 game.

The Rocket came out attacking in the third period, at one point opening up a 10-2 advantage in shots in the frame, but were unable to get any closer on the scoreboard. With just under 4:30 to go, Jiri Kulich, one of the Buffalo Sabres’ three first-round picks in 2022, scored his first AHL goal into the empty net to make it 5-1.


Lineup

The Rocket went with the same lineup that won Friday night against Rochester, with the only change being in goal. As mentioned, William Trudeau did not return after leaving the game in the second period. He will be re-evaluated next week, and there was no immediate word on his status.

Nicolas Beaudin, Tory Dello, Alex Green, Joël Teasdale, Nate Schnarr, Pierrick Dube, and Brennan Saulnier were healthy scratches for Laval.