A gruelling schedule for the Laval Rocket continued on Wednesday night when the team rolled into Rochester for another North Division battle with the Americans. The Rocket, in the midst of a bit of a rough patch, sat third in the division with Rochester just a few percentage points behind them in fourth. The last time the two sides met, it was the Rocket who came away with a lopsided 5-1 victory when a handful of ECHL call-ups helped guide the club to a win.
The Rocket did get some good news prior to the game, as Brandon Gignac and Devante Smith-Pelly were both cleared to return to the lineup. Gignac slotted into his usual third line centre spot, while Smith-Pelly lined up on the fourth-line right wing. In net Kevin Poulin was the starter once again, with Louis-Philip Guindon likely getting the nod in Pennsylvania later in the week.
The two sides went through a feeling-out process in the early minutes. Neither side really grabbed control of the game, but Laval had the first opportunity as they drew a hooking penalty. The Rocket man advantage did well to test Aaron Dell in net, but the veteran netminder smothered every chance in close to keep the Rocket off of the scoreboard.
Rochester nearly opened the scoring as Josh Teves deked his way in from the point and hammered his chance off the far post behind Poulin. The loud clang seemed to wake up the Rocket from there as the bottom six connected for odd-man rushes, but again Dell flustered Laval with some timely glove saves.
The Rocket penalty kill was also put to the test late in the period when Gabriel Bourque was sent to the box for running into Dell while chasing down a loose puck. Good positioning and some timely glovework from Poulin allowed the Rocket to escape unscathed.
It didn’t take long into the second period for the Rocket’s offence to finally crack the goose egg on the scoreboard. Sami Niku fed a backhand pass to Jesse Ylönen, and the speedy Finn cut hard to the front of goal before neatly tucking the puck beyond the pad of Dell.
Holy smokes what a goal by Jesse Ylönen pic.twitter.com/ezavQBEh59— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 10, 2022
The Rocket’s push continued to hammer the Americans, and the top line nearly added a second goal moments after Ylönen’s first. However, the winger wasn’t able to corral the cross-zone feed and had his chance blocked. But the lead was doubled regardless moments later as Tory Dello crept in from the point and banked his shot off Dell’s pad from below the goal line to make it 2-0.
Tory Dello sneaks one in off the pad of Aaron Dell.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 10, 2022
2-0 Laval. pic.twitter.com/bOfNsP0GWv
A Justin Ducharme high-sticking penalty presented a chance for the Americans to cut into the lead and slow down the aggressive push from the away side. Being down a man didn’t hurt Laval at all as Gignac outworked Arttu Ruotsalainen in front of the benches before streaking down the ice and burying his third short-handed goal of the year to make it a 3-0 game.
Brandon Gignac scores shorthanded to make it a 3-0 Rocket lead! pic.twitter.com/bOtLLGhISr— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 10, 2022
After the sides continued to trade penalties, the Americans found themselves back on the power play, and this time they converted. It looked like Poulin had covered up the close-range chance from Brett Murray, but the puck had trickled through and Sean Malone was able to sweep it home to cut down the Rocket’s lead.
A poorly timed turnover by Kevin Roy forced Niku to take a hooking call to prevent a likely goal. The Americans’ power play lasted all of four seconds before the Rocket drew an interference call and sent the play to four-on-four. Despite a strong push from the Amerks as the period closed out, Poulin kept the door slammed shut and the Rocket lead at two goals heading into the final period.
Early pressure from the Rocket allowed Ducharme to draw a tripping call under two minutes into the frame. Laval’s man advantage didn’t need long to strike as Danick Martel fired a backhand pass across the crease and Ylönen rifled it past Dell for his second goal of the night.
Jesse Ylönen has his second of the night, this time on the power play! pic.twitter.com/KyTYJEvBg4— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 10, 2022
Not even 20 seconds later, the Rocket struck again, thanks to the effort of Peter Abbandonato. The centre won a 50/50 puck and chipped a pass up to Smith-Pelly at the side of goal. Smith-Pelly waited a moment before sliding a pass into the slot for Rafaël Harvey-Pinard who buried his 11th of the year to make it 5-1.
The Americans pulled one goal back quickly as Jimmy Schuldt snapped one in to make it a 5-2 game.
Then the Rocket went right back down the ice and scored again. A shot bounced off of Joël Teasdale’s skate and Smith-Pelly swooped in to slide the loose puck home to run the score up to 6-2 with his fourth goal of the season.
That's four goals on the year for DSP with the Rocket! pic.twitter.com/0Yu6Po8lhd— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 10, 2022
The sixth goal seemed to suck the life out of the Rochester side, and before too long Martel broke in off the wing and added a seventh goal for good measure with eight minutes left to play.
Danick Martel's 10th of the year makes it 7-2 Laval. pic.twitter.com/BYoUtWGDYt— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 10, 2022
The Rocket easily saw out the remainder of the game from there, securing a huge win, and a strong bounceback after their loss on Monday night to Springfield.
Final Score: Laval 7, Rochester 2
The Rocket now head south to Pennsylvania for a Friday-night meeting with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.