As a frustrating search for consistency continued for the Laval Rocket following a weekend split with the Rochester Americans — an 8-1 win and a 5-1 loss — they faced the divisional rival Toronto Marlies on Wednesday night, who came into the game with drastically different fortunes.
Laval entered the game minus team captain Alex Belzile, who was replaced by Joël Teasdale on the fourth line. Also drawing back in was defenceman Alex Green on the third pair, while Cayden Primeau got the start in net.
Neither side looked overtly dangerous through the opening minutes, but the Marlies were the first to break the deadlock. A long-range shot fooled Primeau as he was screened by a forward cutting across the front of his net, giving Toronto the lead with just shy of five minutes played.
The goal against helped kick the Rocket attack into a higher gear, and their pressure resulted in the first power play of the night. Laval’s man advantage nearly scored three or four times on their advantage as their speed entering the zone opened up shooting lanes, and the shots themselves created plenty of dangerous rebounds. Some sprawling desperation saves from Keith Petruzzelli and a broken stick kept the lead in Toronto’s hands as the game returned to even strength.
Even a boarding penalty did little to slow down the Rocket attack as they generated the most dangerous chances on the Marlies’ power play. A successful penalty kill only spurred the Rocket on harder, resulting in them again heading to the power play. They made this one count, with Corey Schueneman feeding Anthony Richard along the half wall for a blistering one-timer. Richard also shushed the entire Marlies bench on his way by, continuing the hotly contested rivalry between the two sides.
Rocket power play goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 2, 2022
: Anthony Richard(5)
: Corey Schueneman pic.twitter.com/57rY7M4S84
While both teams entered the intermission tied up, Toronto started the second on the power play thanks to a Madison Bowey slashing penalty. The Marlies power play struck in under a minute with Nick Abruzzese displaying a deft touch, redirecting a pass intended for Joey Anderson and fooling Primeau to make it a 2-1 game.
Again the Rocket refused to let a goal against slow them down, and soon found another tying goal from one of their veteran leaders. Mitchell Stephens collected a pass from Otto Leskinen and fired a nearly perfect pass to Gabriel Bourque streaking through the neutral zone. Bourque swatted away an encroaching stick and calmly finished a backhand chance to tie the game at two.
Rocket goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 3, 2022
: Gabriel Bourque(5)
: Mitchell Stephens
: Otto Leskinen pic.twitter.com/awRJ1qCQtj
Logan Shaw of the Marlies followed up that goal against by repeatedly slashing Xavier Simoneau on an ensuing faceoff, sending Laval back to the power play. It took about a minute for Simoneau to feed a puck to Jesse Ylönen, who sent it to Justin Barron, who then sent it back to the Finn for a power-play goal to make it 3-2.
Rocket power play goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 3, 2022
: Jesse Ylönen(2)
: Justin Barron
: Xavier Simoneau pic.twitter.com/o9htz49C9k
It was then Laval’s turn for a poorly timed slashing penalty, as Stephens headed to the box. Much like the Rocket, the Marlies found a power-play marker thanks to a wicked slapshot from Logan Shaw to draw level in a wild second period.
With a Jan Mysak penalty and a Nick Abruzzese penalty happening in rapid succession, the game shifted to four-on-four for a time, and the Marlies used the extra space to rattle off another pair of goals. The first saw Adam Gaudette rifling one under the crossbar in tight, and then Shaw found himself on a breakaway before burying it by a sprawling Primeau.
Those two goals left Laval needing a strong third period to try and leave with any points on Wednesday night. The effort was most certainly there from Laval as they came after the Marlies in wave after wave but continued to be rebuffed by Petruzzelli. Mitchell Stephens saw himself denied on three separate chances, Danick Martel was stoned after a daring drive to the net on a solo effort, and Joël Teasdale saw his chance at a wide-open net be denied by the pads of the Toronto netminder as the Rocket neared 40 shots.
It appeared that the Rocket had drawn within a goal late in the third, with Primeau on the bench for an extra attacker. A shot on net forced Petruzzelli into a sprawling snow angel in his crease, Brandon Gignac then poked the puck home. However, the officials had blown the whistle moments before, denying the Rocket a potential lifeline.
Laval did get that goal back before long thanks to a great effort by Barron to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Brandon Gignac fired a pass into the slot, where Teasdale fired off a shot, and then Rafaël Harvey-Pinard was there to cash in on the rebound chance to get Laval within a goal.
Rocket Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 3, 2022
: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard(3)
: Joël Teasdale
: Brandon Gignac pic.twitter.com/gi94hKUqm7
It simply wasn’t the Rocket’s night, as shortly after they got within one goal, Toronto pounced on a loose puck and buried it into the empty net with about a minute left to play. There was still one last Rocket push that allowed them to get Cayden Primeau back to the bench, but again the Marlies found the empty net to ice the game.
Final Score: Toronto 7, Laval 4
It was a frustrating game for the Rocket who fired 46 total shots on net, including 22 in the third period, but were denied by a goalie absolutely standing on his head. The Rocket will have a chance to exact their revenge on the Marlies on Friday night when the two teams square off again at Place Bell.