After a strong weekend for the Laval Rocket at Place Bell where they collected two huge wins, the team found itself starting a trip to Western Canada. The Rocket got another boost as they arrived in Manitoba for a two-game series with the Moose, as both Lukas Vejdemo and Sami Niku rejoined the club.
Missing well over a month, Vejdemo slotted in on the third line between Danick Martel and Joël Teasdale. Niku was allowed to leave the team as he and his significant other welcomed their first child, and his return was on the third pair alongside Olivier Galipeau.
Both sides had their chances early on, with Nate Schnarr testing Evan Cormier on an odd-man rush, and the Moose peppering Cayden Primeau in close after a few failed clearing attempts from the fourth line. Both goalies were sharp as the game remained scoreless through the opening five minutes.
The Moose soon found their legs and began to keep the Rocket pinned down in their own end for longer and longer each shift. Primeau held the fort as the team in front of him scrambled to get the puck clear of the zone and regrouping. Thankfully for the Rocket, they were able to cash in on their next great chance on net.
Gabriel Bourque worked into the slot and had his initial chance blocked away from goal, but the veteran forward stuck with the play. His patience paid off as he collected the rebound and snapped a shot over Cormier to give the Rocket a lead.
Gabriel Bourque gets the Rocket on the board first with his eighth goal of the season!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 30, 2022
1-0 Laval. pic.twitter.com/s1plErssoQ
The Moose drew the first power play of the game, however, with J.-S. Dea taking a seat for high-sticking, putting the Laval penalty kill in a tough spot in the final six minutes of the period. Those penalty-killers handled the Moose power play with aplomb, keeping lanes clear for Primeau and hammering pucks out of the zone to keep the Moose from setting up for long. The strong kill gave the Rocket a nice push to end the period with some momentum, but they held just a one-goal lead heading into the intermission.
The second period was all Manitoba from the outset as they continued to pressure the Rocket and keep pucks deep in the offensive zone. Primeau stymied them at every turn, denying all five shots he faced in the opening half of the frame.
However, the Rocket eventually bent just enough for the Moose to finally beat the goaltender, despite his best efforts. A shot from Jeff Malott was kicked out from the crease, and Olivier Galipeau wasn’t able to locate it before Nick Hutchinson fired it in to tie the game at its midpoint.
The physicality ramped up as thie period trudged on, with Louie Belpedio hammering a Moose player along the end boards and drawing the ire of Malott. The two players quickly settled their differences with a wrestling match, ending with Belpedio tossing Malott to the ice.
The fight seemed to bring some spark back to the Rocket’s offence as Dea broke into open space in the offensive zone and snapped a shot off the post behind Cormier. The newfound pressure eventually paid off again for the Rocket as they cashed in on another chance in tight with just over three minutes left to play.
Teasdale collected a pass behind the net, and using his size he worked hard to the net-front area. He slid the puck over to Danick Martel, who poked it home for his 12th of the year, restoring the Rocket lead.
Rocket Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 30, 2022
: Danick Martel(12)
: Joël Teasdale
: Xavier Ouellet pic.twitter.com/cs00OwgH8f
Martel’s goal helped the Rocket head into the third period back on top, and having knocked some wind out of Manitoba’s sails.
Period three did not start well for the Rocket as Niku was called for a hold just 34 seconds in. The Moose wasted no time on their second power play of the night as David Gustafsson took a pass from Leon Gawanke and rifled it by Primeau just eight seconds into the advantage.
The Rocket recovered after the goal, but Xavier Ouellet found himself on the way to the box for a hook. The Moose didn’t get to enjoy the power play as Mikey Eyssimont was called for holding the stick right off the ensuing draw, making it a four-on-four contest. With the extra ice, the Rocket offence struck once more as Terrance Amorosa fed a pass across the zone to Dea, and this time he buried it five-hole to make it a 3-2 game.
Rocket Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 30, 2022
: J-S Dea(19)
: Terrance Amorosa
: Louie Belpedio pic.twitter.com/GVRcPwhOzW
The penalty parade continued from there, as Martel was called for interference while battling for a loose puck, giving the Moose a four-on-three power play. Primeau again showed his poise as he kept the Moose at bay.
As time ticked away, the Moose attack began to ramp back up again as they kept Laval pinned in its own zone. Primeau was at the top of his game, making sprawling saves, and stops through traffic to keep a tenuous lead intact.
He and the team again had to rise to the occasion as Niku was called for delay of game. After a Brandon Gignac short-handed chance, the play went the other way and Morgan Barron was able to shovel a tying goal by Primeau while also running into the Rocket goalie. There was no review, much to the chagrin of J.-F. Houle and the entire Rocket bench, forcing Laval to dig deep for another goal.
The team did well to force the game to overtime, securing a massive point to start their road trip. The Rocket looked to have had the game won in extra time when Gignac cut back across the front of the net, but Cormier swallowed up the chance before he could hammer the rebound home. At the other end of the ice, Primeau was saved by the smallest of margins as a shot beat him but not the post.
Despite the furious action, the game required a shootout to find a winner on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, there was not a second point to be had for the Rocket, as Eyssimont was the only player to score, while all three Rocket shooters were denied by Cormier.
Final Score: Manitoba 4, Laval 3 (SO)
There’s little time for Laval to dwell on the loss as they have a rematch with the Moose on tonight.