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Rocket @ Senators recap & highlights: Laval loses again in inexcusable fashion

The vibes in Laval are not great as they lose badly in a game they otherwise dominated.

Laval Rocket

Fresh off a thrilling 7-5 win on Friday night against the Senators, the Rocket took to the ice again in Belleville looking for their first consecutive wins of the season. Despite a hugely successful offensive showing on Friday, head coach J.-F. Houle opted for an 11-forward, seven-defenceman approach to the game on Saturday. Alex Green drew in as the extra blue-liner while Joël Teasdale was a healthy scratch.

In net it was the veteran Kevin Poulin who got the nod as expected, duelling Antoine Bibeau, who had played the previous night in relief of Logan Flodell, who was chased from the net in the second period.

While the game on Friday night was all Sens in the early going, the teams split the honours on Saturday. Through the opening minutes the sides traded chances back and forth in an end-to-end affair that forced each defence to be on its toes at all times. The Rocket slowly started to command more and more of the play, using their speed to force Belleville into making rash decisions with passes, and eventually it paid off.

Xavier Simoneau and Peter Abbandonato worked a puck deep behind the Senators’ net, and Lucas Condotta was there to jam it away at the side of the net. Initially Bibeau held the puck out, but Condotta was able to grab his own rebound and elevate it over the Sens goalie for the opening goal of the night.

The Rocket seemed to be headed for another offensive outburst, but a holding penalty from Otto Leskinen forced them to a late penalty kill in the first period. The Sens needed just 30 seconds for Angus Crookshank to pot the tying goal, and cause a rain of teddy bears from the stands.

The Rocket took back control from there, pushing the Senators back with authority, and frustrating Belleville repeatedly. The Sens’ frustrations boiled over as the period came to an end, resulting in Scott Sabourin taking four minutes in penalties, giving Laval a big power-play chance to start the second period.

Despite the power play time on their side, the Rocket were not able to add more goals, choosing to pick their spots instead of just firing everything on net. While Laval remained in the driver's seat following the return to even strength, a Belleville power play threatened to derail that. The Sens worked the puck around the zone with authority and eventually Crookshank deflected a Jake Lucchini shot past Kevin Poulin to give the Senators the lead.

The Rocket were then handed an opportunity as Brennan Saulnier was whistled for a trip, giving Laval another crack at the man advantage. Again Laval failed to cash in, but the ice was almost comically tilted in their favour, and it remained that way as the period wore on. Even as they quadrupled the Senators’ shots in the period, the Rocket had not found a second goal.

As the period came to a close, they were again given a four-minute power-play chance as Jacob Larsson drew blood on a high-sticking call. In keeping with the trend of the previous period, Laval did not convert on their opportunity, and instead surrendered a short-handed goal to fall behind by two goals.

What followed the Sens’ third goal was much the same as we saw in the previous two periods. The Rocket put shot after shot on Bibeau, but they weren’t able to clean up any rebounds, or were even more unlucky and hit the post in the case of Corey Schueneman.

With the game entering its final minutes the Rocket opted to pull Poulin to try to pull off a desperation comeback. Simoneau promptly hit the inside of the goal post off the faceoff, and that was it for the last-gasp chances. A missed pass resulted in Jacob Larsson giving the puck off to Scott Sabourin to seal the game with an empty net goal.

Final Score: Belleville 4, Laval 1

To say this loss is inexcusable almost feels like underselling it by a fair bit. The Rocket had every advantage coming into this game and should have come out of Belleville with another win. It’s just another item on a list of inconsistent performances from the Rocket this year, and time is running short to turn their season around.

The team now travels to Utica where they’ll meet the Comets on Wednesday night, trying to end November on a positive note.