On a night celebrating the heritage of the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliates, the Laval Rocket finally managed to get a lineup that looked a lot like its old self. After a dominant victory on Wednesday night, the Rocket welcomed the Rochester Americans back to Place Bell for a rematch, with a huge two points on the line for both teams.
The Rocket got a boost in their forward group ahead of the game as Alex Belzile was ready to suit up once again, and joining him was Lucas Condotta who was making his professional debut. The duo joined Lukas Vejdemo on the fourth line, creating a truly formidable four-line attack for J.-F. Houle. On the defensive side of the puck, Tobie Paquette-Bisson rejoined the lineup alongside Louie Belpedio on the second pair, while Nicolas Mattinen and Terrance Amorosa were healthy scratches.
Right out of the gate the Rocket were ready to go as Danick Martel pounced on a lazy clearing attempt and created an instant scoring chance as he rifled a shot off the crossbar. Following that, it was all about Kevin Poulin, who first denied Jack Quinn with a deft pad save before following that up with a sprawling glove save to deny the Americans a goal on an odd-man rush.
Kevin Poulin with a big glove save early for the Rocket! pic.twitter.com/gqLBfzQqqV— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 8, 2022
The Rocket slowly ramped up their game as the period wore on, with their top six peppering Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen with a handful of shots in close, but the Amerks goalie smothered every chance he could get his glove on. The physicality also went through the roof as the period continued, with Laval spending shift after shift hitting anyone wearing a blue sweater. Unfortunately, they also took the game’s first penalty as Olivier Galipeau was called for high-sticking.
Rochester’s power play didn’t last long as Quinn was called for boarding Xavier Ouellet, and it soon turned into a Rocket power play as Sean Malone felt the need to cross-check Alex Belzile after the whistle. The Rocket made that advantage count as they opened up the scoring thanks to a fortunate bounce.
Kevin Roy fired a shot in on net, and it bounced around in front of the crease, including off of Nate Schnarr. Martel was ready to pounce on the loose puck and shoveled home his 14th goal of the year to give Laval a much-deserved lead.
Rocket power play goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 8, 2022
: Danick Martel(14)
: Kevin Roy
: Louie Belpedio pic.twitter.com/92DbwpXPhQ
Another high-sticking call put the Rocket on an abbreviated penalty kill, but their speed and pressure kept Rochester from generating much, and they were able to escape the kill with their lead intact.
A late push to end the period came close to adding to Laval’s lead, but Luukkonen shut the door and the Rocket settled for heading into the intermission up by just one goal.
The Americans got on the board after a rare defensive miscue by Belpedio and Paquette-Bisson. While Belpedio was attempting to cover a potential shooter, it opened a lane for Malone to drive the net and tuck in his 16th goal of the year.
Just 11 seconds later, the Rocket were able to get their lead back, with a huge bit of luck playing a factor. Cédric Paquette grabbed a loose puck, firing a harmless shot toward the net, but a Rochester defender, while trying to knock it out of the air, deflected it behind his own goalie.
Rocket goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 9, 2022
: Cedric Paquette(7) pic.twitter.com/YXGQeIOHZv
Rochester drew back level a few minutes later as a Paquette turnover resulted in a shot on net and then Linus Weissbach putting home the rebound to tie the game at two goals apiece.
What started as a strong period for the Rocket started to get away from them as time wore on, and another small mistake resulted in Rochester’s first lead of the night. A defensive-zone turnover resulted in Arttu Ruotsalainen getting a pair of chances on net and finishing his own rebound to make it a 3-2 game with just under seven minutes to play in the second.
While the Rocket got the better of the chances to end the period, they entered the intermission trailing by a goal, and needing a strong final period to secure a win.
Whatever talk Houle had with his team in the intermission clearly made an impact as the Rocket didn’t allow a shot until eight-and-a-half minutes had passed in the period. On the flipside, the few chances the Rocket generated for themselves were handled without much trouble by Luukkonen, leaving Laval still looking for a tying goal.
As the Rocket continued to throw everything at Rochester, they finally got a break as Mitch Eliot was called for a hook on Vejdemo as he broke in toward the net. With five-and-a-half minutes left to play, it was likely the Rocket’s best bet to find a tying goal.
The man advantage continued to hammer chances at Luukkonen as the Rocket increased their lead in shots to an even 20, and yet there wasn’t a bounce going their way as the power play came to an end.
Somehow, against the odds, and thanks to Paquette, the Rocket finally found a third goal. Paquette laid a massive hit in front of the benches that opened up a lane for the Rocket to attack one more time. The Amerks had three players mobbing him, and Sami Niku jumped into the vacated space and converted a feed from J.-S. Dea into his second goal of the year to tie the game. That was enough to force overtime, giving the Rocket at least one hard-earned point on the night.
Rocket goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 9, 2022
: Sami Niku(2)
: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard pic.twitter.com/kMFRuzg4il
Overtime continued to be an absolutely wild affair. Xavier Ouellet was trapped out for a long shift, and Quinn came close to ending it as his shot pinged off the post. However, with Quinn also being out there for a long stretch, the Rocket were able to counter as he changed.
Niku started the rush by grabbing the puck and fired it up to Dea. Dea returned it to Niku as the Rocket trio burst into the zone. Niku waited just long enough for Rafaël Harvey-Pinard to open up by the net, and the Rocket’s leading scorer swatted the puck home to secure a win.
Your overtime winner courtesy of Rafaël Harvey-Pinard! pic.twitter.com/Xgcnt7rbUL— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 9, 2022
Final Score: Laval 4, Rochester 3 (OT)
Now the hard work continues for Laval, as they’ll welcome the Utica Comets on Saturday afternoon. With Gabriel Bourque banged up in Friday’s game, it’s likely there will be a few lineup changes for the Rocket as well.