After earning a split on the road to start the Eastern Conference Final, the Laval Rocket returned to the friendly confines of Place Bell for Game 3 against the Springfield Thunderbirds. The Rocket rebounded in Game 2 with a strong 4-2 victory behind a strong three-point night from Jesse Ylönen.
They also got that win without Cédric Paquette, but he was back in the lineup for Game 3 on a line with Joël Teasdale. Joining the two of them was Joshua Roy, who was making his professional debut for the Rocket after Gabriel Bourque was ruled out with an injury. In net, Cayden Primeau remained the starter, while the Thunderbirds went back to Joel Hofer.
The opening two minutes were packed to the brim with an intense energy as the crowd roared to life every time the Rocket touched the puck. Alex Belzile was a human wrecking ball, but despite getting the opening few chances, the Rocket also had to kill off the game’s first penalty. Corey Schueneman went to the box for tripping, but as they did in Game 2, the penalty-killers kept the Thunderbirds at bay to keep the game scoreless as Schueneman exited the box.
As the Rocket defenceman stepped onto the ice, he was sent in alone, pulling up to feed a pass to Teasdale that the forward just barely missed getting a stick on in the crease. The Rocket weren’t content with almost scoring, and before long the top line found the back of the net. After he hammered James Neal, Belzile sent a leading pass to Sami Niku which put the Rocket deep in the offensive zone. Niku worked along the half-boards before sending a one-timer setup into Rafaël Harvey-Pinard’s wheelhouse, and Harvey-Pinard powered it by Hofer to put Laval on top.
ROCKET STRIKE FIRST— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) June 8, 2022
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard blasts a one-timer by Joel Hofer and it's 1-0 Laval! pic.twitter.com/Lhr1iVWgfB
While the Rocket were sitting in the driver's seat following their goal, Springfield was able to find a goal of its own. Schueneman went to flip a pass out of the zone on his backhand, but it was intercepted, allowing Nikita Alexandrov to slide a pass over to Nathan Todd to level the score.
Belzile’s veteran wiles allowed the Rocket to draw the next penalty as he baited Dakota Joshua into a roughing penalty. Laval’s man advantage moved the puck with authority, but by the time Joshua exited the box, the best chance had fallen to the Thunderbirds on a short-handed rush.
The nonsense from Game 2 continued into Game 3 as well, with the Thunderbirds doing everything they could after a whistle to get into Primeau’s face, legally or not. Eventually the frustration boiled over and the Rocket went back to the power play with Brady Lyle sitting for slashing. The power play didn’t click again, and before long the game was momentarily back at even strength, until Nate Schnarr was whistled for a high-sticking double minor.
The Rocket escaped the end of the period without allowing a goal, but had three-and-a-half minutes left to kill to start the second period.
As the Rocket powered through Schnarr’s double minor, the light at the end of the tunnel was in sight, and then Schueneman fired a puck out of play, forcing the Rocket to play down two men. An impressive showing from the Laval penalty killers kept Springfield off the board despite a heavy onslaught from the Thunderbirds.
As the period continued it’s trudge forward neither side really gained the upper hand, even with the Rocket again getting themselves into penalty trouble. Danick Martel was sent to the box for roughing after a large scrum broke out, and he was soon joined by Tory Dello who had fired the puck all the way over the glass at the far end of the ice while clearing it away. The Rocket again killed off the penalties, thanks in part to another incredible series from Primeau and the game remained tied as the final five minutes started.
However, some defensive miscues to end the period put the Rocket back on their heels. Joshua drove hard to the slot in front of Primeau and his chance rebounded to Hugh McGing, who flipped the puck in to put Springfield on top. Just over two minutes later, it was Will Bitten who struck to double the lead, leaving the Rocket reeling as the period neared its end.
After a rough two periods, Schueneman found a way to keep Laval’s hopes alive. He carried a puck deep through the neutral zone before leaving it off for Martel. The Rocket forward gave the puck right back, allowing Schueneman to snap his first of the playoffs past Hofer and make it a one-goal game.
That's a massive goal for Corey Schueneman who has had a rough night.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) June 9, 2022
Laval trails 3-2 pic.twitter.com/jaic5EFLkp
That deficit instantly became two again to start the third period, as a blindly fired shot bounced off Bitten and by Primeau just 35 seconds in.
The Thunderbirds then put a golden opportunity on the table for Laval as Steven Santini went to the box for cross-checking. As the Rocket power play began to ramp up, Tyler Tucker cross-checked Paquette, turning it into a five-on-three for Laval for 80 seconds. To call the ensuing power plays disastrous would be generous to be honest, as the Rocket failed to generate any real threat and in the end surrendered a hat-trick goal to Bitten.
After keeping their tempers mostly in check, the Rocket finally fought back after Joshua threw a hit right in the numbers. Belzile began throwing punches until Joshua was tossed onto the ice, earning him an extra minor and a misconduct. Laval killed off Belzile’s penalty and then went right back on the kill as Teasdale went to the box for roughing.
The Rocket pushed into the offensive zone, allowing Primeau to exit for the bench. Again it was sloppy play in the defensive zone that resulted in Bitten picking off an errant pass and burying his fourth goal of the night to seal the game for Springfield.
Nate Schnarr added a goal in the final seconds but it was too little, too late.
Game 3 final score: Springfield 6, Laval 3
SPR leads 2-1
The Rocket have a days to lick their wounds following the lopsided loss, and will need to find a way to get their power play going in the right direction again. Game 4 is Friday night at Place Bell.