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Rocket @ Monsters recap & highlights: A big third period nets Laval a win

The playoffs are within clinching distance for the Rocket after a strong week.

Club de hockey Canadien

After a Friday off in Cleveland, the Laval Rocket were back in action against the Monsters after running riot against them on Thursday. There isn’t much any coach would have changed following a 6-0 domination, but Rocket head coach J.-F. Houle was forced into one lineup change as Brandon Gignac was sick with a non-COVID illness. Luckily for Houle, he was able to reinsert Cédric Paquette into the lineup as he returned from a minor injury. The rest of the lineup remained the same, right down to Kevin Poulin getting his fourth straight start in net.

It was a rather quiet start to the game after the offensive explosion on Thursday night, with the two teams combining for just three shots through six minutes of play. After Lukas Vejdemo and Scott Harrington got in a kerfuffle behind the play, there was a two-minute period of four-on-four. The speed and depth of the Rocket was able to push Cleveland’s defence back repeatedly, but their chances went just wide or high as the game remained goalless approaching the halfway point of the first period.

A slash by J.-C. Beaudin put the Rocket penalty kill to work early on, and it was up to the test. Alex Belzile had a short-handed breakaway turned aside, and another rush by J.-S. Dea drew a slashing call, giving the Rocket an abbreviated power play. Dea and the man advantage had a few looks, but Cam Johnson smothered any rebound chances to keep Laval off the board.

Vejdemo soon found himself in the crosshairs late in the period after a big hit on Roman Ahcan along the boards. While he wasn’t penalized for the hit, it drew a crowd that was less than happy with the Swede. As Vejdemo’s next shift came to an end, Tristan Mullin grabbed him and tossed him to the ice in a scuffle, which resulted in the Rocket earning another power-play opportunity.

The man advantage worked hard, but lacked the finish needed, and before the teams could head to their locker rooms tempers flared again. Tobie Paquette-Bisson laid a huge hit that drew the ire of Justin Scott, who attempted to goad the Rocket defender into a fight. Paquette came to Paquette-Bisson’s aid, which drew in Cole Cassels. At the end of everything the Rocket were set to start the second period with a power play.

Just after that power play expired, the Rocket managed to take the lead. Gabriel Bourque worked the puck toward the circles and fed a pass to Alex Belzile in the slot. Belzile’s shot beat Johnson, hit the post, then bounced off the goaltender’s pad and into the net.

The lead lasted just over a minute as the Monsters stormed back down the ice and knotted the game back up. A shot from distance was knocked into the air, and Tyler Angle was able to spin and whack the puck by Poulin with an impressive effort.

A Tyler Sikura high stick gave a dangerous-looking Rocket power play another opportunity to find a goal and take the lead back. While the man advantage again generated chances, Johnson continued his stubborn defence of the net, keeping it a tie game as the game passed the midpoint.

The Rocket’s legs seemed to be tiring a bit as the period wore on and the Monsters took control, but Poulin was sharp to send the two teams into the intermission tied at one goal apiece.

The momentum for the home side carried into the third period, so Poulin had to make a number of big saves. The Monsters’ lack of discipline caught up with them before long though as Roman Ahcan hit Sami Niku in the head, injuring Niku and putting Laval back on the power play. In just 17 seconds, the Rocket made Ahcan pay for his moment of anger as Xavier Ouellet put a puck on a tee for Jesse Ylönen, who had no issues blowing it by Johnson to give Laval the lead back.

Not even a minute later, the third line went barrelling down the ice and tacked on another goal to increase the lead to two. Joël Teasdale took a leading pass from Terrance Amorosa, and as he was hauled down driving to the net he pushed a pass across. Nate Schnarr was right on the spot and lifted a backhander in to add to the Rocket’s lead.

With Cam Johnson on the bench late, Gabriel Bourque fired a 200-foot shot into the empty net. Angle added a late goal, but far too late to make an impact as the Rocket left Cleveland with a pair of wins that brought their magic number down to five points.

Final Score: Laval 4, Cleveland 2

Up next for the team is a gigantic four-point game in Belleville on Monday night. Cayden Primeau will be re-joining the team as well and may be the one to get the start.