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Rocket @ Canucks recap & highlights: A wild west shootout in Abbotsford

The Rocket offence was in fine form in a back and forth affair with the Canucks, but the defence couldn’t match.

Laval Rocket

It was another night of roster shakeup for the Laval Rocket as they had traded away Alex Green to the Chicago Wolves, then were hammered by a pair of injuries to Madison Bowey and Justin Barron announced before puck drop. That meant a shuffle on defence with William Trudeau drawing back into the lineup.

On the forward side of things there was good news as team captain Alex Belzile was cleared to play and took a spot as the second-line centre. In net it was Kevin Poulin getting the start with Cayden Primeau still injured and not making the trip to Abbotsford.

The Rocket’s start was not the one they wanted as they failed to register more than a shot through the opening eight minutes of the game, which was punctuated by a four-on-four segment, and a penalty kill with Trudeau in the box. The Canucks’ power play did everything but score during their two-minute advantage, but Poulin’s quick pads kept the game scoreless.

A Laval power play gave the team a chance to steady itself, but their chances were blocked or swatted away by active Canucks sticks. Then things got worse for a beleaguered club as Jan Mysak exited the game with an injury.

Alex Belzile was called for tripping, but the Rocket penalty kill looked to be in great form, pressuring the Canucks in the offensive zone. However, with 31 seconds left on the kill Phil Di Giuseppe took a cross-zone feed to one-time a shot by Poulin to open up the scoring.

Xavier Simoneau gave the Rocket some life after the goal, drawing his second penalty of the night in the offensive zone. The power play looked like it might strike out again, but Simoneau acting as the catalyst once more refused to let that happen. The rookie winger hit Anthony Richard with a diagonal pass across the neutral zone to drive deep into the Canucks’ end. Richard then put a pass right to Jesse Ylönen along the goal line for the Finn to fire home to tie the game up.

The joy and the tie game was short-lived as the Rocket found themselves on the back foot in the defensive zone and it allowed Jett Woo to creep in and fire one by Poulin from the faceoff circle.

The period ended at four-on-four with Danick Martel and Tristan Nielsen being sent to the box after a tussle. Laval nearly added a second goal with the Canucks caught scrambling, but misfired chances allowed the home side to escape the period still leading by one goal.

Laval was the side to come out of the intermission flying, with Arturs Silovs scrambling all over to try and corral his rebounds as the Rocket tried to chip a puck home. Then a poor clearing attempt by Tory Dello gave the Canucks a lengthy offensive-zone presence that was capped off by Lane Pederson deflecting a puck in to make it 3-1.

The duo of Simoneau and Richard clawed the Rocket back to within a goal thanks to a tic-tac-toe passing play. Mitchell Stephens rounded the net, passing to Simoneau, who in turn put it right in Richard’s wheelhouse for his 14th goal of the year.

Just like the previous goal, the Canucks bounced back to take the wind out of the Rocket’s sails in short order. Pederson sent Vasily Podkolzin in on net and the first-round pick was able to slide a cross-crease pass to Di Giuseppe to restore the two-goal lead for Abbotsford.

It looked as though Abbotsford would end the period on a power play of their own as Willia Trudeau sat for interference. The Canucks responded by taking three straight penalties, then Laval was called for hooking, and with four seconds left on the clock the Canucks took a delay of game penalty. At the end of the chaos the Rocket still trailed by two goals, but had a pile of power-play time to start the third period.

Just 39 seconds in, the Rocket found their third goal thanks to Peter Abbandonato and a bit of luck. Richard collected his third point of the evening as he fed Abbandonato along the goal line, and Abbandonato banked his shot in off of Silovs’s pads to make it a one-goal game.

The Rocket pushed to add another power-play marker before the play returned to even strength but were unable to, and then Lucas Condotta took a hooking call to put Laval short-handed.

After a wild series of saves from Poulin, the Rocket goalie was called for a slash, putting the Rocket down two men early, which resulted in Pederson restoring a two-goal lead again for the Canucks.

Then it was pure chaos, with Vincent Arseneau scoring to make it a three-goal lead. Off the faceoff following the goal, Trudeau sent Rafaël Harvey-Pinard in alone, and the Rocket winger buried his eighth goal of the season to cut the lead to two goals again.

As the Rocket pushed for more goals, they drew another power play, and a great effort from Abbandonato on a rebound chance cut the Canucks’ lead down to one. A kerfuffle broke out afterward, leading to a run of four-on-four play.

The intense pressure from Richard and the Rocket’s top line drew a call shortly after the four-on-four came to a close, giving the Rocket another massive power play chance.

The man advantage came mere inches from tying the game as a shot hit the outside of the post, as the bounces weren’t there for Laval. As the minutes wound down the Rocket eventually got Poulin out of his net for the extra attacker, but there was no miraculous last-second goal as the Canucks added an empty-netter to seal the win.

Final Score: Abbotsford 7, Laval 5

These two sides play again on Sunday evening, with puck drop scheduled for 7:00 PM ET. It’s unclear how the lineup will change due to Jan Mysak’s injury, or if Kevin Poulin will start both halves of the back-to-back.