Less than 24 hours after a difficult loss in overtime in Game 1, the Laval Rocket found themselves back on the ice against the Springfield Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds eked out the opening win after tying the game late in the third period before converting on an odd-man rush in overtime.
The Rocket had an uphill task in front of them as Cédric Paquette was withdrawn from the lineup during warmups as a lingering injury forced him out of the game. In his place, Brandon Gignac was promoted into the top six and Peter Abbandonato slid into the third-line centre role, and J.-C. Beaudin was inserted into an open spot on the fourth-line wing. The defence remained the same as Game 1, and in net Cayden Primeau was again the starting goalie, facing former St. John’s IceCaps and Rocket goalie Charlie Lindgren.
Lindgren had to be sharp early as the Rocket looked to jump out to a fast start, first robbing Alex Belzile in the slot as Danick Martel forced a turnover that left Lindgren in no man’s land before he slid into place to make a save. The pressure continued as the speed of the Rocket kept pushing Springfield back, but their netminder was quick with his blocker and glove to keep the game a scoreless tie in the opening minutes.
That speed eventually broke down the Thunderbirds’ defence as Lucas Condotta held the puck for a second, causing a defender to fall over and opening all the space needed for Jesse Ylönen to move into the offensive zone. The shifty Finn flicked a leading pass for Gignac, who neatly finished it under the leg of Lindgren for an early Rocket lead.
Jesse Ylönen with the slick feed and Brandon Gignac opens the scoring for Laval!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) June 5, 2022
1-0 Rocket in Springfield. pic.twitter.com/8yijxD4rdm
Springfield came back to life following the Rocket’s goal, but Primeau was locked in, allowing no rebounds and even denying Matthew Peca on a breakaway chance. Peca’s miss was a big one as the Rocket stormed back down the ice to double their lead.
Sami Niku fired a breakout pass to Ylönen, and the winger did the rest of the work, driving into the offensive zone and dangling around the defence before snapping a shot off Lindgren’s glove and to the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Jesse Ylönen makes it a two-goal lead for the Rocket!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) June 5, 2022
He has a goal and assist through the opening 11 minutes in Springfield. pic.twitter.com/VWoSQsxNpb
That second goal was a big one, as the Thunderbirds finally got themselves on the scoreboard in short order. Will Bitten did well to hold the puck behind the net as MacKenzie MacEachern collected the puck from him before jamming it past Primeau’s pad on the post to make it a one-goal game again.
A chippy end to the period saw the Thunderbirds trying to get the Rocket to engage in any sort of scrum, but the Rocket were content to skate away and head to the locker room with a lead through 20 minutes.
A Brady Lyle high-sticking penalty allowed the Rocket to kick off the second with the game’s first power play. The Rocket peppered Lindgren with chances but were unable to restore their two-goal lead on the power play. It wasn’t long before they did manage that, however, as Martel collected a pass behind the net, then blindly fired it across the crease where Alex Belzile smacked it home to make it 3-1.
It's a 3-1 game as Alex Belzile converts the Danick Martel pass! pic.twitter.com/Bb4d2xPuVB— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) June 5, 2022
Laval then had to kill off a Condotta minor, and thanks to some lightning-quick pad-work from Primeau they kept their lead intact.
A big opportunity came for the Rocket as Dakota Joshua took a minor penalty for high-sticking, and then right after his team killed it off, he was immediately called for tripping. With a chance to lock in an insurance goal, the Rocket power play struggled to really generate much of a threat, and the Thunderbirds survived their penalty problems. However as the period wore on, the home side was finding fewer high-danger chances as the Rocket kept their game plan relatively conservative.
That didn’t mean they weren’t prepared to counter when the chances arose, and that resulted in a fourth goal. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard swiped an errant pass coming through the neutral zone, creating an odd-man rush with Ylönen in the process. Harvey-Pinard dished to Ylönen, who put a perfect pass right on the tape of his linemate’s stick for him to chip in.
YOU DOWN WITH RHP?— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) June 5, 2022
The Rocket's top line strikes again as Jesse Ylönen feeds Rafaël Harvey-Pinard to make it a 4-1 game! pic.twitter.com/0DimIH6ogO
The celebration was short-lived as off the following faceoff Martel went to the box for a high stick, forcing the Rocket to survive a late-period penalty kill to escape with a three-goal advantage.
Laval was coasting along well as the third period started, keeping the pucks out of dangerous areas and pushing the puck down ice with relative ease. However, one miscommunication cut the Rocket lead down to two as Primeau attempted to play the puck behind his net. He misread where Corey Schueneman was as he pushed the puck around and it was picked off by Hugh McGing. The Springfield forward slid a pass in front and Klim Kostin buried it to cut down the Rocket lead.
After killing off a Louie Belpedio slashing penalty, the Rocket had to do it again as Martel got into a tussle with Joshua and was the only player sent to the box. Again a strong penalty killing shift from the Rocket and Primeau allowed them to escape with their two-goal lead, and just under six minutes left to play.
The Rocket were content to sit back and protect their zone, which resulted in them clearing the puck out to centre ice with relative ease. Before long, Lindgren had exited to the bench to give Springfield an extra attacker, but the stubbornness of the Rocket to get the puck out of their end kept forcing him off the bench and back to his net, allowing Laval to close the game out and even up the series at one game apiece.
Game 2 final score: Laval 4, Springfield 2
Series tied 1-1
The series will now shift to Place Bell for the next three games, with Game 3 taking place on Wednesday night.