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Laval @ Cleveland recap & highlights: Rocket rout Monsters in one-sided contest

Laval came out swinging and put together a dominant effort in Ohio.

Laval Rocket

An already hectic week for the Laval Rocket became a bit more crazy as they traveled to Cleveland for a two-game series with the Monsters. Their first game was originally scheduled for Friday night, but due to the NBA play-In rounds happening in their arena, the AHL game was bumped up to Thursday night. That in turn meant the Rocket had to pack up shop in Rochester and bus the four hours to Cleveland for the game after playing into overtime on Wednesday.

Following the loss in Rochester, J.-F. Houle reunited his former top line of J.-S. Dea, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, and Jesse Ylönen, while Lukas Vejdemo and Alex Belzile formed a second line with Danick Martel. Nicolas Mattinen was swapped out for Terrance Amorosa on defence, and Kevin Poulin again got the nod in net.

The Rocket, despite playing the night before, were all over the Monsters from the start, with the top line generating chances. A brilliant solo rush from Louie Belpedio nearly resulted in a goal if not for a huge pad save from Linden Marshall. The offensive attack continued as Vejdemo drew a cross-checking call, giving Laval the game’s first power play.

The man advantage wasn’t able to get much going, and that set the tone for most of the period as neither side really claimed the upper hand. Laval had a chance in close on a rebounded shot, and the Monsters answered by charging down the ice in a three-on-one rush that resulted in Cole Fonstad firing high over the net.

Before long, the Rocket’s methodical attack paid dividends as they continued to press deep in the offensive zone. Harvey-Pinard fired a pass from the corner as he was being knocked over to Teasdale. The big winger fed the puck to Dea in the slot and the Rocket’s leading goal-scorer added another to his record as Laval took a 1-0 lead.

Laval nearly added another goal a minute or so later, entering the first intermission up by a goal and looking sharp considering their travel in the previous 24 hours.

That sharpness continued right out of the gate into the second period as they piled up three rapid goals to turn a closely contested affair into a rout in just three and a half minutes. First was Alex Belzile collecting a leading pass from Martel heading into the offensive zone where he faked a slapshot then snapped his eighth goal of the year by Marshall.

Just under two minutes later, Laval added another tally thanks in part to a beautiful passing play in front of the net. Nate Schnarr broke into the zone and passed the puck off to Gabriel Bourque at the faceoff dot. Bourque held the puck of a moment before feeding it back to Schnarr, who buried it for a three-goal lead.

For good measure, the fourth line got in on the action as well, as J.-C. Beaudin flicked a pass forward to Brandon Gignac, who used his speed to separate himself from the defence before neatly tucking it five-hole.

Tempers boiled over after a handful of whistles as players got a bit too close to opposing goalies, but at the end of the second period the Rocket led comfortably by four goals and looked primed to add more in the third period.

They again came out strong to start the third period, tallying a fifth goal just over a minute in. Ylönen fired a shot on net, and Harvey-Pinard corralled the rebound enough to flick a pass to Dea, who finished with ease.

The fourth line added another goal just over a minute later. Kevin Roy worked a puck from behind the net to Gignac just off to the left of goal. Gignac quickly fired it across for Beaudin who made it a 6-0 game.

The only thing that slowed down the Rocket’s onslaught was that they took a pair of minors in short order. They killed off Amorosa’s tripping minor and then shortly after it was Dea headed to the box for high-sticking. An aggressive penalty kill kept the Monsters off the board as the third period slowly marched towards a conclusion.

With a six-goal cushion and the game more than in hand, the Rocket were able to easily see out the remainder of the game, securing Poulin a shutout win. Not only was it a strong bounceback for the Rocket after losing in Rochester, this win puts their magic number to qualify for the playoffs down to nine.

Final Score: Laval 6, Cleveland 0

Also of note is that Alex Belzile became the first player in Rocket history to surpass 100 career points with the club, and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard passed the 50-point plateau on the season, making it a big night all the way around.

Laval now has Good Friday off, perhaps to take in the NBA game that altered their schedule, and will be back in action on Saturday night.