The trials and tribulations of the 2022-23 Laval Rocket continued as the team arrived back into the comfy confines of Place Bell. Injuries still hounded the lineup as Danick Martel and Jan Mysak were missing among the forwards while both Justin Barron and Madison Bowey were out on defence.
The ongoing injury battles forced head coach J.-F. Houle into using an 11-forward, seven-defenceman lineup once again, with the recently recalled Olivier Galipeau slotting in as the seventh option on the blue line. In net it was Kevin Poulin being handed the reins as Cayden Primeau was still out after sustaining a facial injury while sitting on the bench.
In the early minutes it was all about Poulin, who faced five shots in rapid succession as the Senators swarmed all over a vulnerable Rocket side. The veteran goalie kept the game scoreless, and the Rocket slowly began to find their legs on the counter-attack. With the speed of Jesse Ylönen and Anthony Richard, Laval was able to keep Mads Sogaard on his toes as well.
The heated rivalry didn’t take long to begin rearing its head as Xavier Simoneau took exception to a hit from Egor Sokolov in the offensive zone. Sokolov refused to engage further beyond shoving with Simoneau while the Rocket forward wanted to trade punches, resulting in him being handed a second minor and putting Belleville on the power play.
Laval’s penalty kill made life fairly easy for Poulin, keeping the puck away from the goal and getting a few chances of their own short-handed to escape the game’s first power play unscathed.
However, just as the Rocket were beginning to put together a promising push at the end of the period, Brandon Gignac was called for a hold, putting Laval on another penalty kill. Before they could escape the first period, a Corey Schuenenman trip made it a five-on-three, and forced Poulin into an incredible desperation pad save to keep the game scoreless as the horn sounded.
Laval killed off the end of Gignac’s penalty, but just 47 seconds into the second period, Gabriel Bourque was whistled for boarding Angus Crookshank handing the Senators an extended two-man advantage. An incredible effort from Alex Belzile and Olivier Galipeau allowed Schueneman to escape the box without a goal against, but moments later Rourke Chartier got a stick on a loose rebound from Sokolov and put Belleville in the lead.
The Rocket pushed back to try to get their first goal of the night, and found it through an unlikely source. Ylönen plowed ahead into the offensive zone and sent a pass back to the point for Tory Dello. The defensive-minded player fired a shot through traffic that Sogaard never saw and it was suddenly a tie game.
Tie game in Laval as Jesse Ylönen sets up Tory Dello for his second goal of the season! pic.twitter.com/bOidRbgoqI— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 10, 2022
Things then took an extremely scary turn, as a heavy slapshot from the point hit Simoneau in the side of the head. The force caused him to shed his helmet and gloves while attempting to get to the bench for help. He was unable to do so, and he was placed on a stretcher to be removed from the ice.
Once play resumed, Laval soon drew their first penalty, and that man advantage kickstarted the Rocket offence into gear as they began to pile up shots. Sogaard was up to the task as he battled the Rocket on every shot to keep the game tied heading into the third.
As the final period wore on past the halfway point, the two rivals were trading chances, and saves from their standout goalies kept things tight. The Rocket, already playing short-handed and now without one of their top forwards, refused to go away quietly, frustrating the Senators in all three zones. Eventually that pressure resulted in Sokolov taking his frustrations out deep in the offensive zone on a Laval player, and sending the Rocket to another power play.
Laval had its looks on net, namely Belzile hammering a one-timer from the top of the left circle, but Sogaard continued to be a stout opponent in net for the Rocket as the game remained tied heading into the final three minutes of play.
The Rocket were handed a second chance to end the game late as a sloppy line change by Belleville resulted in too many men on the ice and a power play for Laval with 64 seconds left to play. Laval did not capitalize on the advantage before the horn sounded, sending the game to overtime and 56 seconds of power play time left for the Rocket to gain two points.
It looked as though Laval was going to end it early, but Anthony Richard rang back-to-back shots off the post. The game shifted back to four-on-four, then three-on-three, and Laval wasn’t able to find the game-winner.
In the shootout, none of Laval’s three shooters — Richard, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, and Peter Abbandonato — were able to best Sogaard while Sokolov beat Poulin through the five-hole to secure a Belleville victory.
Final Score: Belleville 2, Laval 1 (Shootout)
These two sides will play again on Saturday afternoon. The game marks the return of the Teddy Bear Toss in Laval after it was cancelled due to COVID-19 in previous years.