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Laval vs. Cleveland recap & highlights: Goalies steal the show in a Rocket victory

Both Kevin Poulin and Jet Greaves entertained the crowd in a hard-fought Rocket win on Monday.

Club de Hockey Canadien

On the heels of a blown 3-0 lead on Saturday afternoon, the Laval Rocket found themselves right back in the thick of things as they welcomed the Cleveland Monsters to Place Bell on Monday night. The Rocket kept their lineup mostly intact from Saturday’s loss, with Gianni Fairbrother drawing in for Josh Brook on the third pairing.

The other change was in net, as Kevin Poulin got the nod over Michael McNiven, and Cayden Primeau served as the backup for Laval.

Things started in a hurry at Place Bell as the Monsters nearly scored on their first shot of the game after Poulin kicked out a rebound that required a sliding block to deny what looked like a sure goal. Even as the Rocket stormed back down the ice to generate their own chances on Jet Greaves, they were called for the game’s first penalty as Louie Belpedio took a seat for interference.

A strong Rocket penalty kill made up for their woeful Saturday with a perfect two minutes, generating a few chances of their own as the play returned to even strength. Laval wrested control of the game from the Monsters, hemming Cleveland in their own end repeatedly and hammering chances on net from in close. Ironically, the only time the chances let up was on Laval’s first power play of the game.

On that power play, the best overall chance fell to the Monsters, who forced Poulin into a desperation save as players piled into the crease around him, but the puck stayed out and the game remained 0-0 despite the Rocket’s shot domination.

The fourth line in particular was effective as the synergy between Devante Smith-Pelly and Alexandre Fortin was on display once again. The duo took turns opening up passing and shooting lanes for each other, but the stubbornness of Greaves in net denied them a goal they likely deserved. The Rocket had one final chance before the period came to an end as Jesse Ylönen dangled through the defence, but his heavy shot was denied by the mask of Greaves and the two sides headed into the first intermission tied at zero.

After all the work in the first period yielded no goals, the Rocket were rewarded almost instantly in the second. Tory Dello fired a hard shot that bounced off the end boards right to Danick Martel along the goal line. Martel curled toward the net and roofed his shot over the shoulder of Greaves, giving the Rocket a well-earned one-goal lead.

After the period-opening goal, both sides settled in for a stint of doing very little with their puck-possession. The Rocket were able to repeatedly catch the Monsters flatfooted entering the offensive zone, but their passing was lacking a bit of finesse and the team struggled to finish off plays.

At the other end of the ice, Poulin remained stoic in net as the Monsters mounted a handful of counters, but the veteran netminder was composed to keep them off the scoreboard. With that, the second frame ended much like the first, with the Rocket in control, but still seeking more finish in the final period to secure a win.

Right out of the gate it looked like Martel was about score inside the opening minute of a period again. He picked off a pass and sped off toward the Monsters’ zone, spinning away from a defender before clanging a shot off the crossbar and out of play. With that, the game settled into the lull that highlighted the second period, and neither side seemed to have the energy to muster much of a sustained push for a goal.

The Rocket did nearly break the doldrums after Rafaël Harvey-Pinard battled through two Cleveland players to grab a loose puck and ended up alone in front of the net. He snapped the puck quickly on his backhand, but Greaves was faster with his glove to deny the Rocket’s leading scorer.

Shortly afterward, a brief period of offensive zone time by the Monsters drew a penalty as Belpedio went off for tripping. This time the Monsters were able to cash in on the man advantage. Poulin made the initial save on a Tyler Sikura chance, but the rebound was swept into the net by Justin Scott to tie the game up with just over eight minutes left to play.

After a strong shift in the offensive zone, the Rocket found themselves back on the penalty kill again, thanks to a dubious slashing call on Gabriel Bourque against Kevin Stenlund. A great showing from Martel, Cam Hillis and Joël Teasdale ensured that the Rocket escaped the penalty unscathed as the game entered its final few minutes of regulation.

Despite the hot start from the Rocket, regulation solved nothing and the two sides headed to overtime to try to find a winner. Almost immediately, the Rocket were caught out a bit, forcing Sami Niku into a sliding pass breakup deep in the Rocket zone to deny the Monsters early.

Then it was Jesse Ylönen’s turn to impress as he dangled through the Monsters, forcing Greaves into a series of incredible saves to deny the skilled winger a goal. At the other end, Poulin stood tall to deny Tyler Angle multiple times, and the two sides headed to the shootout to decide a winner.

After allowing the first shootout goal to Justin Scott, Poulin locked it down, denying the next four Monsters shooters while the Rocket got shootout goals from Jesse Ylönen and Alexandre Fortin to secure a vital second point in the shootout victory.

Final Score: Laval 2, Cleveland 1 (SO)

After a grueling contest, these two sides will go back at on Wednesday night at Place Bell with a 7:30 PM puck drop scheduled.