After enjoying fairly strong injury luck through the opening months of the AHL season, the Laval Rocket suddenly found themselves in rough shape heading into a matchup with the Abbotsford Canucks. Out were Nate Schnarr, Gabriel Bourque, and Alex Belzile in the forward group, while Mattias Norlinder and Tory Dello were absent on defence.
That meant a bit of a patchwork grouping for head coach J.-F. Houle, with Alex Green drawing in on defence alongside William Trudeau while the forward lines were shuffled around a bit as well. In net it was Cayden Primeau for the Rocket, while the Canucks opted for Colin Delia.
With a reconfigured lineup due to the injuries, the Rocket didn’t exactly jump out of the gate, but the scrambled defence also managed to keep the Canucks mostly at bay through the opening minutes.
Abbotsford did end up with the first real opportunity in the game as Rafaël Harvey-Pinard went to the box for high-sticking. Following a disastrous showing the previous week, the Laval penalty-killers stymied the Canucks’ man advantage, allowing just a few low-danger chances on Primeau by the time Harvey-Pinard exited the penalty box.
Neither side really did much to assume control of the game as the Rocket slowly added back to their shot totals, but they weren’t troubling Delia. In fact, their best chance of the period came with just under two minutes to play when Anthony Richard teed up Brandon Gignac at the side of the net for a one-timer, but Delia got across his crease to take away what looked like a sure goal. Beyond that, the final minute of the period passed without incident, sending the teams to the first intermission deadlocked.
While the first period started slow, the second one started disastrously for Laval. Deep in the offensive zone, William Trudeau took a slash that shattered his stick into pieces, but it went uncalled by the officials. The ensuing chaos resulted in the Canucks taking off on an odd-man rush with Guillaume Brisebois finishing the play off while Primeau did his best to cover his net.
Down a goal, the Rocket came storming back to try to tie the game at one, and Jesse Ylönen’s speed led to him drawing a holding penalty. On the power play, the Rocket struck hard and struck fast, needing just 12 seconds for Rem Pitlick to tee up Justin Barron for a blast from the point.
The Canucks took control right back, pushing the Laval defence back on its heels, and much like the Rocket they also drew a power play for their troubles. Mitchell Stephens was called for tripping as the Canucks swarmed the Rocket zone. Also much like the Rocket, Abbotsford made the advantage count. While Laval’s penalty-killers fended off 80% of the power play, a long-range shot from Will Lockwood deflected off of Danick Martel’s stick and by Primeau to restore the Canucks’ lead midway through the second period.
The two sides traded power plays, with neither finding the back of the net, but as the period wore on it looked more and more like Laval was primed to tie the game a second time. Instead, the defence went to sleep, first allowing Kyle Rau a clean look that Primeau had to deny, but then letting Lane Pederson walk right through the middle of the ice from the neutral zone to double the Canucks’ lead.
Trailing 3-1 and missing a number of key pieces, the Rocket needed a big third period to secure even a point.
Laval came into the final period feeling very feisty, creating an odd-man rush right off the hop, and then Xavier Simoneau inserting himself into a kerfuffle that shifted the play to four-on-four. The Rocket used that extra ice to generate a handful of chances, but Delia kept the Abbotsford lead intact while Laval grew more desperate in its attacks.
The Canucks remained a dangerous presence despite playing mostly on the back foot, and a pair of big saves from Primeau on open shooters in the slot kept Laval still very much alive as the third period passed the halfway point.
The Rocket fended off another Canucks power play, keeping their comeback hopes alive, and thanks to the young guns on the team they managed to claw their way back into the game. Ylönen broke up a play heading back into the defensive zone, allowing the puck to move back to the offensive end. Ylönen took a feed from Simoneau and skated the outline the faceoff circle to find a shooting lane, he rifled a shot on net that Peter Abbandonato managed to tip by Delia to make it a one-goal affair.
Abbandonato makes it a one goal game late in the third pic.twitter.com/jCyBYKEhrb— Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) November 24, 2022
For the final minutes it was all Laval as they hemmed the Canucks deep in their own zone, but like many high-danger chances on the night, the final finishing touch was just not there. Ylönen and Abbandonato had the best looks that were either blockered away by Delia or were blocked by the defence in front of him until the final horn sounded.
Final Score: Abbotsford 3, Laval 2
It’s a frustrating loss for the Rocket who were down several of their key players but managed a strong effort when the pressure was turned up late. However, great efforts don’t count in the standings as Laval dropped the game 3-2.
The Rocket now have American Thanksgiving to recuperate a bit before they open a weekend series against the divisional rivals Belleville Senators.