The mood at morning skate on Wednesday was easily identifiable. The Laval Rocket were in high spirits as Game 3 approached in downtown Rochester. They were coming off back-to-back wins in Laval, taking full control of the series, and looking to close things out against the Americans.
Head coach J.-F. Houle kept a winning lineup intact, opting again for the traditional 12-forward, six-defenceman lineup. Game 2 hero Lucas Condotta got the nod again as the 12th forward.
In front of a hostile crowd in Rochester, the start was less than ideal for the Rocket as the Amerks took an early lead. Cédric Paquette attempted to cycle the puck behind his net, but it bounced off the side of the goal and right into the slot. Mark Jankowski jumped on the turnover and fired it by Primeau for a lead just 64 seconds into the game.
The Rocket shook off the early stumble to launch into an attack on the Americans’ net. All four lines continued to cycle and hammer chances toward goaltenders Aaron Dell, who turned away seven straight shots before the puck finally left the zone for more than a moment.
When it did, the Rocket found themselves on an early penalty kill as Xavier Ouellet was called for a cross-check below the goal line. While the penalty kill had been a strength in previous games, JJ Peterka made short work of it, scoring just over 30 seconds into the advantage to double the Rochester lead.
Needing to turn the tide, the Rocket were given an opportunity as Ryan MacInnis hit Sami Niku from behind, putting Laval on their first power play of the night. The Rocket fired chance after chance, but weren’t able to pot any rebounds in front as the Americans did well to clean up their goalie’s spillage.
Laval didn’t make the end of the period easy on itself, as Alex Belzile went to the box for a hook, forcing the Rocket into a late-period penalty kill. Thanks to some mishaps in handling the puck by Dell behind his net, and a few timely saves from Primeau, the Rocket escaped without further harm. A late push from the Rocket nearly resulted in a goal, but J.-S. Dea was unable to poke the puck in as the horn sounded to end the first period.
Trailing heading into the second period for the first time all series had an impact on the Rocket. Their passes had the right intentions, but everything was just a hair off as they tried to generate an attack against a team waiting for a mistake. Primeau was sharp to help cover for those few moments, and at the other end Dell continued to frustrate Laval’s shooters as they peppered him with chances from any angle they had available.
The Rocket’s pressure came to a halt as they found themselves on the penalty kill again, this time with Rafaël Harvey-Pinard in the box for goaltender interference. While it looked like he was driven into Dell by an Amerks defender, he sat all the same. The penalty-killers put in a strong shift to keep Rochester from adding to their lead, and returned to even strength looking to get themselves on the board next.
After a lengthy shift where Dell again turned them away and the defence cleared away any dangerous pucks, the Rocket finally managed to find a bounce. Corey Schueneman held the puck along the boards and fired a hip-high floating shot toward the net. Brandon Gignac cut across the front of the shot and smacked the puck off the ice and over Dell’s glove to make it a one-goal game.
Brandon Gignac with the deflection and the Rocket are on the board in Rochester! pic.twitter.com/jlsLXi6gFY— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) May 26, 2022
Gignac’s third of the playoffs propelled the Rocket to full speed for the rest of the period. Just under a minute later, the third line sped into the zone with Gabriel Bourque winning the puck behind the net and feeding it to Danick Martel, who snapped another goal past Dell to tie up the game.
There goes that man again!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) May 26, 2022
Danick Martel makes it 2-2! pic.twitter.com/xIRiM0IOm6
Just over a minute later, the Rocket took the lead as Ouellet fired a Nate Schnarr pass through traffic, and suddenly the Rocket found themselves in full control of the game.
IT'S A GOAL PARADE FOR THE ROCKET!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) May 26, 2022
Xavier Ouellet makes it 3-2! pic.twitter.com/CAXqqf4AyP
With Rochester reeling, the Rocket refused to let up as the top line finally found its way onto the scoresheet late in the period. A Louie Belpedio shot bounced off Dell in front of the net, and his own defender collided with him, leaving the net wide open for Dea to slot home his first of the series and end the period on a strong note for Laval.
Thats FOUR in a row for Laval, J-S Dea makes it a two goal Rocket lead! pic.twitter.com/BfY0WLmIoG— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) May 26, 2022
A big third period was in store for both sides as the Rocket tried to close out the series and the Amerks tried to keep their season going for another night.
Right off the bat Rochester came out flying, and just 13 second in, Brett Murray rounded in on goal and poked one through Primeau to make it a one-goal affair.
A pair of minor penalties sent it to a four-on-four situation, and again the Amerks took advantage as Peterka beat Niku to the net to shove home a feed from Peyton Krebs.
A stumbling start to the third didn’t get any better as Niku then had to take a seat for cross-checking. The Americans’ advantage didn’t last long as Peterka soon found himself in the box for playing without a helmet. Both goalies fought off premium chance in the following minutes as an air of nervousness settled in, but it was Rochester who took advantage. Ethan Prow let the shot go and Murray tipped it through Primeau to make it a 5-4 contest.
The insanity didn’t end there, as the Rocket were on their last chance as Murray went off for slashing. Primeau left for the extra attacker, and with 1:07 left to play it was Jesse Ylönen who fired one past Dell to tie the game.
A late penalty to Peter Abbandonato carried over to overtime, with a series win on the line and the biggest penalty kill of the season facing the Rocket. They fought through another intense man disadvantage, and had to keep a desperate Amerks team at bay through the following minutes before the offence found its legs again.
Laval had its chances as the period wore on. The duo of Joël Teasdale and Condotta generated great looks, but the rebounds were swept away by the Rochester defence. Even the normally clutch Harvey-Pinard wasn’t able to poke one over the goal line.
Despite the momentum going Laval’s way, they had a penalty to kill again. Niku went to the box, but the penalty-killers stood tall, escaping several close calls as the overtime period neared its end. While the tired legs were starting to show, neither side found a winner and the game needed a second overtime.
The pace continued to slow as the second overtime started; passes were less crisp, and legs were heavy. Gignac nearly ended it early as he found the gas to blow by the defence, but he lifted his backhand chance over the net. Brendan Warren looked to have it won for Rochester, but his chance clanged off the corner iron and away. Then it was the Dea-Ylönen tandem who each had Dell down and out, but the veteran goalie somehow managed to get the puck covered. In the end, the game needed a third overtime to find a winner.
The third overtime didn’t last long, as the Rocket were intent to finish the game as soon as possible, aided by a Brandon Davidson delay of game penalty. Thirty-one seconds into the power play, Ouellet passed the puck across to Dea, and the forward made no mistake as he ended the Americans’ season.
Game 3 final score: Laval 6, Rochester 5 (3OT)
Laval wins series 3-0
Laval now advances to the Eastern Conference Final, where they will play the winner of the series between the Springfield Thunderbirds and Charlotte Checkers.