After a successful weekend at Place Bell when the Laval Rocket collected a pair of huge wins against Hartford and Hershey, the team found itself back in action against the Belleville Senators on Wednesday night. The team looked slightly different following the NHL Trade Deadline, and with a key player coming back off the injured list.
Nate Schnarr had arrived from Utica after being acquired for Andrew Hammond in a trade with the New Jersey Devils, Schnarr was centring the second line between Cédric Paquette and Jesse Ylönen. Also slotting back in was Louie Belpedio after he missed a few games due to an undisclosed injury. The final new face was that of Nicolas Mattinen on the top pair next to Xavier Ouellet. The former Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick signed a PTO earlier in the week to help give the Rocket some help on defence.
While the Rocket grabbed the first few shots on goal to begin the game, the Senators were the ones who ended up securing control in the opening minutes. Laval’s inability to generate a consistent breakout led to the Senators keeping the puck in one end of the ice, and eventually forced Kevin Roy into a holding penalty. The Rocket penalty kill was up to the task, frustrating the Senators’ man advantage with heavy pressure on their forecheck, and before long the two minute minor was killed off.
The period itself didn’t yield much action following the penalty kill as the teams had just six total shots between them as the midpoint passed. However, as the final minutes approached, the Senators began to crank up the pressure as a cobbled-together Rocket defence did its best to weather the storm.
They were thankfully backed up by an extremely game Cayden Primeau, who stifled any chance the Senators had at a rebound around his net. By the time the period came to a close, the goaltender had made 12 saves, including one in tight after Darien Kielb lost his man behind the net, but Primeau was able to smother the rising shot and allow the Rocket to enter the intermission without a goal allowed.
The second period started much better for the Rocket as they began to chip away at the large shot deficit that the Senators had built for them. Mads Søgaard was every bit as prepared as Primeau, stymying the Rocket’s top line repeatedly as the players swarmed over the puck. Even with more open ice thanks to a pair of minor penalties to Belpedio and Matthew Wedman, the game still didn’t have a goal.
Nate Schnarr was able to draw a call, allowing the Rocket a chance to open the scoring on their first power play of the game. Despite the great puck movement, Laval wasn’t able to find the back of the net.
To make matters worse, Kielb was whistled for a double minor for high-sticking right after the play returned to even strength. The penalty-killing units again showed their fight as they hounded Senators puck-carriers and generated multiple short-handed chances on the four-minute kill. When Belleville did manage to set up in the zone, Primeau was dialed in and batted away every chance sent his way to keep the game scoreless as the second period entered its final minutes.
The Rocket were finally rewarded for their aggressive play as Mattinen broke up a pass in the neutral zone, and from there Paquette picked up the puck and broke in on an odd-man rush. He opted to snap a hard shot past Søgaard to finally break the deadlock.
Rocket Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 24, 2022
: Cedric Paquette(2) pic.twitter.com/mD1uFoKGHu
The lead lasted less than two minutes as the Senators took advantage of a defensive miscommunication, allowing Wedman to slide a pass to a wide-open Clark Bishop, who snapped the puck by a sprawling Primeau.
A late interference penalty on Mark Kastelic guaranteed that the Rocket started the final period with a huge chance to take the lead back with about 90 seconds of power play time. It looked as though the Rocket were going to open the period with a goal almost instantly as Ylönen evaded the Senators’ defence before firing a pass into the slot for J.-S. Dea. Unfortunately for Dea, his shot smashed off the post and away harmlessly.
As the penalty expired, the Sens went the other way and clanged a shot off the crossbar, leaving the game tied at one goal each.
As the period wore on it was Primeau’s time to shine as he kept the door slammed shut on the Senators. Even when players were caught out of position, he was there to make multiple saves in short order and keep the game tied in the dying minutes of regulation. A late flurry still wasn’t enough for the Rocket, and the game shifted to overtime with another crucial point on the line for both teams.
The Rocket held the puck far more often than the Senators in overtime, but their possession wasn’t able to create nearly as many chances as the Senators achieved. At the end of it all, Primeau saved the Rocket once more after the Rocket attempted to race away on after the Rock two-on-zero rush without the puck, leaving Primeau to have to kick out the pads to deny Belleville a last-second goal.
The shootout was not as kind as the Senators scored on their first two chances, while Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Ylönen were denied by Mads Søgaard on theirs, giving Belleville the extra point. It’s a frustrating loss for the Rocket, but with a patchwork defence in place, it’s far from a bad game overall.
Final Score: Belleville 2, Laval 1 (SO)
Laval’s next game is Friday night at Place Bell as they look to bounce back against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.