Fresh off a successful three-game homestand where the Laval Rocket collected three huge wins over divisional rivals, the team was back on the road for a five-game swing. First on their trip was their perpetual Achilles’ heel, the Belleville Senators, a team that the Rocket had failed to beat all season.
While already an extremely tough foe on paper, the Rocket entered the game very much short-handed. Cayden Primeau was called up to the NHL on Sunday, leaving Kevin Poulin and Tristan Berube to tend the net on the road trip. Also missing was the veteran trio of Alex Belzile, Cedric Paquette, and Gabriel Bourque. The former was out with a non-Covid illness while the other two were day-to-day with minor injuries. Devante Smith-Pelly and Peter Abbandonato drew in on offence, while Nicolas Mattinen was inserted back in the defensive rotation.
The early pressure of the Rocket nearly paid off as Rafaël Harvey-Pinard was all over the net-front area, and eventually it was him drawing a penalty to give Laval an early power play. The best chance of the advantage fell to the Sens, as Cole Reinhardt found himself on a short-handed breakaway. Poulin was every part his equal with a big pad save on the Belleville forward.
Despite the Rocket controlling the early flow of play, it was the Sens getting on the board first. A shot by Jacob Bernard-Docker forced Poulin into a lunging save, and as he scrambled to get back into position, Reinhardt converted a pass from Logan Shaw to open the scoring.
The period then became relatively quiet, with the Rocket struggling to get their speed game going against the Senators. Belleville was content to control the puck in the offensive zone, but they weren’t able to generate much against a stout Laval defence. It was a big hit that woke the game out of its slumber, as Colby Williams ran over J.-S. Dea in the offensive zone. Xavier Ouellet immediately threw off his gloves to challenge Williams, and earned the extra minor penalty for his troubles.
The Rocket killed off the minor without much issue, but needed an offensive wake-up call as they headed into the first intermission trailing by a goal.
Out of the gate in the second period, the Rocket were pushing hard to get themselves on the scoreboard and again that pressure sent them to the power play. This time, they made sure to make this advantage count as they cashed in just seven seconds in.
A faceoff win fell to Harvey-Pinard, who pushed the puck up to Joël Teasdale along the goal line. Teasdale fed a pass around a defender’s stick, and Danick Martel was there to fire it home for his 15th goal of the year.
After the Rocket killed off Lucas Condotta’s penalty for delay of game, they went right back down the ice to try to find a second goal. They did that through one of the most unexpected of sources. Teasdale broke through into the offensive zone, leaving a pass off for Nicolas Mattinen, and the gargantuan defender walked in to snipe his first professional goal past Filip Gustavsson to give Laval the lead.
With the lead in their hands, the Rocket then started a penalty parade to the box as Martel went off for holding the stick, and shortly after the team killed off that minor Tobie Paquette-Bisson went off for delay of game as well. The Laval penalty kill again came up big as they continued to hound the Senators at both ends of the ice while fighting to increase their one-goal lead. If not for the brilliant goaltending of Gustavsson to deny Teasdale in close, and then Harvey-Pinard on a breakaway, it’s likely that the Rocket lead could have been up by three or four goals instead of one.
Martel made sure to not let the strong period from the Rocket go to waste as the top line continued to be a thorn in Belleville’s side. Harvey-Pinard, working along the goal line, fed a pass into the slot for Tory Dello. The Rocket defender patiently waited a moment before setting up Martel for a one-timer that was wired just under the bar for his second goal of the game.
With a two-goal lead in hand, the Rocket headed into the third period looking to secure a huge road win with a strong final 20 minutes. The Rocket again started strong, but soon found themselves on the penalty kill as Kevin Roy was called for high-sticking behind the play. Being down a man didn’t deter the Rocket attack at all, and once again it was Harvey-Pinard leading the charge. He chased down a cleared puck and then hacked and poked the puck by Gustavsson to make it a three-goal game with a short-handed tally.
A delay of game penalty and the Senators’ net empty marked one last test for the Rocket, and they again passed with flying colours as they kept the Senators far away from net to kill of J.-C. Beaudin’s minor. When they were finally able to grab the puck for more than a moment, Roy made up for his earlier penalty by burying the empty-net chance to make it a 5-1 contest with 3:15 left to play.
That was all Laval needed to see out the final minutes, securing a gigantic two points over a team the Rocket had struggled against all season.
Final Score: Laval 5, Belleville 1
The Rocket now continue their road trip, heading to Rochester for a Wednesday night game in western New York.