Coming off a frustrating defeat to the Toronto Marlies on Sunday in a game where the Rocket fired 58 shots on net, the Rocket travelled south of the border for a game in Rochester. Gone from the lineup were Cayden Primeau, Jesse Ylönen, and Nicolas Beaudin, with the first two on NHL recalls and the latter injured in Sunday’s game.
Positive news was the return of leading scorer and AHL All-Star Anthony Richard to the lineup. In net, Kevin Poulin got the nod, backed up by Joe Vrbetic.
After owning the puck on the opening shift of the game, the Rocket ended up surrendering the first goal as Michael Mersch fooled Eric Williams into playing the pass on a rush before snapping a shot by Poulin.
Despite the early goal against, the shot-generation machine kicked into gear as the Rocket rolled their lines and continued to earn solid zone time against the Americans. Malcolm Subban was up to the task, stopping eight shots in the first 10 minutes, while his defencemen blocked several more to keep it a 1-0 game in the first period.
Laval’s onslaught didn’t let up as the period neared its end, continuing to keep Rochester pinned deep in their own zone and firing chances from all angles. Subban could not be budged as he stopped all 16 shots in the first period leaving the Rocket still chasing a breakthrough in the second period.
Laval finally got its breakthrough thanks to the second line using their speed to catch the Amerks flat-footed. Mitchell Stephens took a leading pass from Richard, cut hard toward the net, and flicked a pass backward. Lucas Condotta was right on time to step into the pass and buried his ninth goal of the year inside the near post, tying the game up at one goal apiece.
On their 22nd shot of the game, the Rocket finally score as Lucas Condotta buries his 9th of the year.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 12, 2023
1-1 in Rochester! pic.twitter.com/ZiLZEiEg4T
Laval’s goal appeared to wake the Amerks out of their stupor and brought their offence into the game for the first time since their opening goal. They managed to get the Rocket’s fourth line trapped deep in the zone and it was Poulin who had to be sharp in order to keep the Amerks from retaking the lead.
Before long the Rocket were back in the driver’s seat, however, and their attack led to a power play to end the second period. Again it was Subban stymying the Rocket attack, leaving the game tied.
Rochester flustered what remained of the Rocket power play to start the third period. The open play from earlier in the game had given way to a more tentative approach for both sides as they tried to limit the chances against. However, Laval found themselves on the penalty kill with 14:45 to play after Olivier Galipeau was called for interference right off a defensive zone draw. Laval’s penalty-killers did a great job at keeping the shooters out of the dangerous areas, and clearing the puck with authority to prevent any scrambling in their own zone. As the Rocket pushed the Amerks’ power play back, they managed to draw a tripping call and secured themselves about 90 seconds of power-play time.
The Rocket could not capitalize on the chance, and that ended up being a huge issue very quickly. The Americans took the momentum off their big penalty kill and stormed down the ice, putting the Rocket on their heels. Ethan Prow drew in the defence and sent a pass to Linus Weissbach in the slot, and Weissbach hammered a shot past Poulin to put Rochester back on top.
After Rochester took a timeout with 2:57 left to play, the Rocket had an offensive-zone draw and opted to pull Poulin for the extra attacker. The Amerks barely gave the Rocket an inch with the puck to set up with their extra attacker, leaving Laval frustrated as they entered the final minute of play. There was no comeback to be had for the Rocket in this contest despite the massive shot disparity as Mersch buried the empty-net goal to put the game on ice.
Final Score: Rochester 3, Laval 1
The loss wasn’t for a lack of effort on Wednesday night. The Rocket posted another 40-plus shot effort and outshot their opponent by at least 25 shots. It’s a frustrating pair of losses for the Rocket who are putting in full 60-minute efforts, with a mixed bag in the lineup due to injuries. The Rocket now head down I-90 to Syracuse for a Friday night showdown with the Syracuse Crunch, where they’ll hope the final score better reflects their effort.