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Laval @ Rochester recap & highlights: Jesse Ylönen’s big game secures the Rocket a point

The Rocket nearly pulled off the overtime winner again, but came up just short in Rochester.

Club de Hockey Canadien

It’s beginning to sound like a broken record, but the Laval Rocket were back in action on Wednesday night in a crucial North Division game versus the Rochester Americans. After losing three straight to them to start the season, the Rocket had won the last four games while outscoring Rochester 22-8.

Rejoining Laval for the game was star prospect Jesse Ylönen, providing a much-needed punch in the forward corps. The skilful Finn was inserted onto a line with Brandon Gignac and Lukas Vejdemo, allowing J.-F. Houle to keep his red-hot top line in one piece. After another strong game, Nicolas Mattinen kept his spot on the top pair with Xavier Ouellet, and in net Kevin Poulin got the start.

The Americans jumped out to the early lead on home ice as they won an offensive-zone draw back to the point. Josh Teves let a low shot go and Linus Weissbach was in front of the net to direct it by Poulin for the game’s opening goal.

While the Rocket countered with a few long-range chances of their own, the Amerks’ firepower continued to keep the defence on the back foot, eventually drawing a tripping call on an odd-man rush.

On the ensuing penalty kill, it was Mattinen who came to the defence of his goaltender after J.J. Peterka took an extra poke at him after the whistle. Mattinen was sent off, but he also took Peterka with him. It didn’t matter much as Mark Jankowski got free in front of Poulin to redirect an Arttu Ruotsalainen shot to make it a 2-0 game.

Just as the Rocket strung together a few solid shifts in a row, they once again headed to the penalty kill as Nate Schnarr was called for a hold coming through the neutral zone. A really strong showing from Vejdemo and Gignac allowed the Rocket to escape the penalty kill and get back to trying to find their first goal of the game.

Their chances came late in the period, but the goaltending of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and some timely cleanup work from the Americans’ defence kept the Rocket from getting on the scoreboard as the first period came to an end. Trailing by a pair of goals, the Rocket had a massive 40 minutes ahead of them as they worked to secure a playoff spot.

Whatever message was shared in the locker room between periods worked. Just over a minute in, J.-S. Dea collected a breakout pass through the neutral zone, and as he charged into the offensive zone he wired a rising shot past Luukkonen to cut the Rochester lead in half.

After Brandon Biro was called for a tripping penalty, the Rocket had their first power-play opportunity of the night, and they made the most of it. Joël Teasdale pushed the puck back to Ouellet at the point, and the Rocket captain teed up Ylönen for the power-play tally.

Another bad penalty from Louie Belpedio cost the team once again. Rochester cycled the puck around and a rebounded shot fell to Sean Malone in the slot, who fired it in to put Rochester back on top.

The Americans controlled the flow of play, but that didn’t stop the Rocket from countering when they had the chance. Despite the late push, Laval was entering the third period trailing by a goal and on the shot chart as well.

Out of the gate the Rocket launched their counter-attacking game, and in an odd-man rush the team drew a hooking call, but after one good look on net, a Dea high-sticking double minor made it an abbreviated four-on-four situation instead. With Rochester back on the power play. both Poulin and the penalty-killers did an admirable job to keep the lead from growing as time ticked away.

A big glove save by Poulin on Peterka kept the Rocket from going down by two goals, and in the same series Schnarr caught a stick up high, putting the Rocket on a power play with half of the period gone. The return of Ylönen to the man advantage again paid off as the Finn pulled back on a one-timer, opting to pass instead. He feed went to the point, and Ouellet fired one to the back of the net to tie the game at three goals apiece.

The pressure from the Rocket continued as the period wore on, and eventually it led to Josh Teves firing a puck out of play and sending Laval to a power play with just over three minutes to play. As the power play pushed hard, Luukkonen came up with a number of stops to keep the game level as it entered its final minute. The game did not find a winner in regulation, as the two sides went to overtime for the second time in a week.

This time there wasn’t a happy ending to be had for the Rocket as the Amerks came away with the second point in overtime. Ryan MacInnis made a last-ditch pokecheck in the neutral zone to force the play the other way, and Jack Quinn set up Ethan Prow for the winner with 41 seconds left on the clock.

Final Score: Rochester 4, Laval 3 (OT)

Things now get tough for the Rocket as they have to travel to Cleveland to play on Thursday, as their game originally set for Friday was bumped up by the NBA play-ins. It’s unclear who will start for the Rocket as Cayden Primeau is still with the Montreal Canadiens.