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Laval vs. Syracuse recap & highlights: Strong defensive effort earns Rocket overtime win

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but it was another great showing for the Rocket on Friday night.

Club de Hockey Canadien

On the heels of a major 6-2 win on Wednesday night against the Syracuse Crunch, the Rocket were back in action against their division rival once more on Friday night. There was just one lineup change for the Rocket as J.-S. Dea returned to the team after missing the last two games with a minor injury.

In net it was Kevin Poulin for the Rocket, and opposite him was Amir Miftakhov, who was pulled after just one period of action in the game Wednesday night.

Once more it appeared that the Rocket had taken an early lead as Gabriel Bourque broke into the slot and took a centring feed, but his shot clanged off the iron behind Miftakhov. The Rocket still had a prime chance to get on the board first as Antoine Morand was sent to the box for boarding Cam Hillis. The Laval man advantage did well moving the puck around, but Miftakhov stood tall and the Crunch penalty-killers kept the score at zero as Morand’s penalty expired.

While the Rocket began to control more and more of the play as the period wore on, they weren’t able to pot any of their chances, even as their bottom six swarmed relentlessly in the offensive zone. The Crunch did well to weather the Laval onslaught, and on their next scoring chance they opened the scoring. A puck found its way into the slot and Gabriel Dumont was left unchecked, allowing him to rifle his 18th goal of the year by Kevin Poulin, giving Syracuse a first-period lead with around five-and-a-half minutes left to play.

The Rocket did their best to bounce back on their next shift as an odd-man rush turned into a three-on-one chance with multiple close-range chances on net, but the Crunch netminder refused to budge as he kept them off the board.

At the other end, a misread by Sami Niku allowed the Crunch to counter-attack, but Poulin pulled off an incredible save to deny Charles Hudon in front of goal and keep the deficit at just one.

Before the first period could end, the Rocket had another power-play chance, as a Syracuse double-minor presented them with major opportunity to get on the board. Laval did push, but didn’t find the net before the period ended.

The second half of the Rocket’s four-minute power play went much the same way as the first to start the second period, with the Rocket hammering shots towards the goal and the Crunch penalty-killers blocking them and clearing the puck out. As the power play ended, Hudon collected a blocked Xavier Ouellet shot and turned it into a breakaway chance, but he was thwarted by a quick Poulin glove save.

Laval continued to own the flow of play from there, but they still weren’t able to solve Miftakhov in net. Even after a lengthy series of Syracuse icings and long shifts, the Rocket weren’t able to break their goose egg. They did manage to draw another penalty as the Crunch were called for a trip with just over seven minutes left in the period.

It again was a man advantage with no results for Laval, however it did spur the Rocket attack into the next gear. For the remainder of the period the Rocket refused to share the puck, but were still continually stymied by the Crunch defence and netminder. As the horn sounded to end the period, the Rocket were in control of the game, but were unable to buy a goal in any form.

Period three started with Poulin again making an incredible pad save to keep the deficit at one, and then the intense forecheck from the Rocket led to another power play for Laval. While the man advantage couldn’t connect, the third line did shortly after. J.-C. Beaudin won a draw and Brandon Baddock pushed the puck to Tory Dello at the point. Dello let a shot go that rebounded right into Baddock’s path, and the hulking forward swept it home to finally put the Rocket on the board.

Dello nearly added another shortly after as he stepped into a one-timer, clanging his shot off the crossbar behind Miftakhov. As the Rocket continued to push for a second goal, they had to kill their first penalty of the night with Hillis being called for interference inside the offensive zone.

The Rocket penalty kill stymied the Crunch man advantage for 95% of the Hillis minor, but Beaudin was called for a slash with 11 seconds left in the penalty, forcing the penalty-killers to kill off another penalty immediately following the first. Again the special-teams unit rose to the occasion, limiting the pressure from the Crunch and keeping the game tied with six minutes left to play.

The defensive posture remained for both sides as the game needed overtime to find a winner after a tightly contested 60 minutes of regulation.

The Rocket continued their domination of the puck in overtime, holding on to it for nearly two-and-a-half minutes to start, but they missed by inches on a pair of great chances by Dea and Jesse Ylönen.

With just over 90 seconds left to play the Rocket struck to earn a second point on the night. After the Crunch finally got the puck into the Rocket’s zone, they were forced off of it by Tobie Paquette-Bisson, and the play went the other way. Beaudin collected the loose puck and fired a leading pass for Dea who made no mistake, burying his 12th goal of the year past Miftakhov to mark another massive win for Laval.

Final Score: Laval 2, Syracuse 1 (OT)

The Rocket and Crunch finish the series at Place Bell on Saturday afternoon, and it’s expected that Louis-Philip Guindon will get the start for the Rocket.