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Laval @ Rochester recap & highlights: Rocket wallop Americans in bounceback win

After a disappointing showing on Friday night, the Laval Rocket hammered Rochester thanks to some timely contributions from call-ups.

Club de Hockey Canadien

After suffering a tough defeat to the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night, the Laval Rocket headed down the highway to Rochester to face another North Division rival: the Americans. The Rocket were still hampered by a rash of injuries and multiple positive COVID tests prior to their trip to New York.

With no players leaving protocol and the Montreal Canadiens also playing at the same time, there were no fresh bodies for the Rocket, who rolled the same lineup as Friday night, with Cayden Primeau once again getting the start. Perhaps the only surprise was that Louis-Philip Guindon was backing up Primeau instead of Michael McNiven, who was returned to the club after coming off IR earlier in the week.

Despite both teams missing bodies due to illness and other reasons, the pace to start the game was intense. The Rocket’s bottom six kept the pressure on the Americans, forcing multiple turnovers and testing Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen repeatedly. To their credit, the Americans rebounded to launch immediate counter-attacks down the ice, but Primeau, with some help from the defence, kept Rochester from converting on its odd-man rush chances.

The Laval attack and pressure broke through before long with the fourth line striking gold for the second game in a row. Cam Hillis left a pass for Shawn St. Amant, who fired a hard wrister from the point that Luukkonen blockered down. The puck bounced right to Cedric Desruisseaux, who neatly tucked it behind Luukkonen’s pad for his first career AHL goal.

Things continued to tilt in favour of the Rocket as they drew a roughing penalty by defending Cayden Primeau in a scrum, and then on the ensuing power play a slashing call gave the Rocket a short two-man advantage.

The Rocket power play took full advantage of the extra ice, with the second unit finding the back of the net on the five-on-three power play. Louie Belpedio slid a pass to Xavier Ouellet, who walked into the faceoff circle and fired a pass to Peter Abbandonato. The Rocket forward turned and fired on net, and it fooled Luukkonen, slowly trickling through the five hole to double the Rocket lead.

St. Amant was whistled for interference shortly after the Laval goal, giving the Americans a golden opportunity to cut into the Rocket lead. The penalty-killers came out strong, and Primeau did well to hold the fort to keep Rochester off the board. Then, just after St. Amant exited the box, he took a pass from Sami Niku in stride to create a surprise rush into the Rochester zone. St. Amant held up and fed a streaking J.-S. Dea in the slot, and Dea blasted his 15th goal of the season past Luukkonen to give Laval a big lead as the first period ended.

Rochester came out with a strong push to start the second period, but the Rocket were prepared for an early attack and settled in for a great early counter of their own. A long banked clearing attempt sprung St. Amant into the clear, with the recent call-up holding up and setting up Devante Smith-Pelly in the slot, but the Amerks goalie smothered the shot to deny the veteran his first Rocket goal.

As the sides traded chances, the Rocket were inching closer and closer to increasing their three-goal lead. They found another marker just before the halfway point of the period, with the fourth line again doing the damage. A dump in by Tobie Paquette-Bisson bounced right to Desruisseaux in the slot, and Desruisseaux spun a pass to Cam Hillis. The Rocket centreman cut to his backhand and lifted his shot by Luukkonen to make it a 4-0 game.

With a chance to put the game away on another power play, the Rocket came close, but a pair of chances for Jesse Ylönen went just high, and Rochester was able to escape unscathed. Shortly afterward, it was the Rocket’s turn to kill off a penalty with Belpedio off to the box. However, before Rochester could even set up, Brandon Biro was sent off for hooking, making it a four-on-four for just under two minutes.

The Americans finally solved Primeau after Ryan Scarfo landed a thunderous check in his defensive zone, starting an odd-man rush the other way. While the Rocket got themselves in a strong defensive posture, Scarfo used Paquette-Bisson as a screen to fire one over Primeau’s shoulder to put his team on the board.

Following the goal, Alexandre Fortin and Danick Martel both took exception to Scarfo’s hit at the other end of the ice. Martel was given a 10-minute misconduct and Fortin was given two for roughing.

Rochester wasn’t able to capitalize, and before the period was out there was a massive kerfuffle following a hit on J.J. Peterka that led to Joël Teasdale and Jimmy Schuldt throwing fists as the period came to an end.

The final 20 minutes started off slowly for Laval, as Fortin found himself back in the penalty box for high-sticking and he was joined shortly after by Devante Smith-Pelly. The Laval penalty kill continued its perfect form, fending off the two-man advantage to keep the three-goal lead intact. From there it was all about the defence and Primeau as the Rocket clamped down and gave the Americans nothing to operate, slowly whittling the clock away.

Rochester pulled Luukkonen for an extra attacker to try to make a last-ditch effort to make it a game. Niku ended those hopes pretty quickly as he buried the empty-net goal for his first as a Rocket player to secure the victory.

Final Score: Laval 5, Rochester 1

A busy week lies ahead for the Rocket as the team has headed to Toronto for a game this afternoon on Family Day.