At long last, the Laval Rocket started to see their injured players return to the lineup with Nate Schnarr and Xavier Simoneau rejoining the team against Manitoba on Wednesday. Also joining the lineup was Nicolas Beaudin who returned after a trip to the Spengler Cup with Team Canada.
While Cayden Primeau was also back and healthy, he was given backup duty as Kevin Poulin got the start to keep his strong run of play going.
It didn’t take long for the Rocket offence to roar to life as they opened up the scoring in 17 seconds into the game. Jesse Ylönen took a lead pass, darted through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone where he waited before putting a pass on the stick of Mitchell Stephens for a tap-in goal.
Just 17 seconds in and Jesse Ylönen has set up Mitchell Stephens for a tap-in goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 5, 2023
1-0 Laval. pic.twitter.com/FgOnnswATy
Three minutes later the Rocket lead doubled as the full-strength forward group dominated the Moose in the offensive zone. Rem Pitlick was the catalyst for the next goal, patiently waiting to see Corey Schueneman become available in the slot. Schueneman waited as he advanced on goal, then fired a pass to Rafaël Harvey-Pinard who buried it from the goal line to make it 2-0.
Tic-tac-toe passing leads to Rafaël Harvey-Pinard burying his 12th of the year! pic.twitter.com/lGt9pGxJLS— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 5, 2023
The Moose did draw a goal back quickly as Joseph Nardi was left alone in the slot to finish off a centering pass and give some much needed life to Manitoba. The push back was short lived as Laval continued to maul the Moose defenders in transition.
Pitlick sent Xavier Simoneau ahead quickly into the offensive zone. Simoneau flicked a pass over to Nate Schnarr who had joined in his attack, and in his return from injury Schnarr buried the chance to restore the two-goal lead.
Xavier Simoneau to Nate Schnarr and the Rocket offence is in full flight!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 5, 2023
3-1 Laval with just over eight minutes played. pic.twitter.com/TBV95JIFgT
The foot came off the gas a bit as the period ticked towards the first intermission, and the Moose took advantage by pestering the Rocket deep in their own zone. Kevin Poulin, plus some timely blocks in front saw out the first penalty kill of the game for Laval and let them enter the intermission solidly in control.
The goals did not stop flying for Laval as they appeared to score just over two minutes into the period after a dynamic move by Peter Abbandonato to drive to the net. Despite the goal being waved off, the lead soon grew to three goals shortly thereafter. After missing on a previous chance, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard hustled back through the offensive zone, stealing a puck and then snapping his second goal of the game home.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard steals, then scores!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 5, 2023
4-1 Rocket! pic.twitter.com/EggjrSdchd
The Moose weren’t going away without a fight overall though as they drew a goal back with William Trudeau sitting for cross-checking. While Laval’s penalty kill handled the opening minute of the penalty kill easily, Evan Polei was able to get a stick on a point shot to direct it by Kevin Poulin and cut into the Rocket’s lead.
Again though, the Rocket bounced back and continued to pile up shots and chances, but they were still stuck on four total goals. Another William Trudeau penalty threatened to cut their lead down to just one goal, but the penalty kill frustrated the Moose so thoroughly that a frustration penalty against Rem Pitlick cut it short. Laval didn’t tally another goal on their power play, but did start the third period with an abbreviated advantage.
A penalty by Evan Polei not long after the previous Manitoba penalty expired proved to be hugely costly as the Rocket power play cashed in. Rem Pitlick again played the role of facilitator as he dished a pass to Harvey-Pinard at the side of the net. Harvey-Pinard spun, and lifted his third goal of the night into the back of the net to turn the game back into a rout.
That's a hat trick for Rafaël Harvey-Pinard!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 5, 2023
It's also a third assist for Rem Pitlick as the Rocket take a 5-2 lead! pic.twitter.com/gkwUcgXuIm
Another Moose penalty resulted in another Rocket power play goal just over two minutes later. Pitlick fed Harvey-Pinard who put a perfect cross-crease feed on the stick of Jesse Ylönen. The Finn’s initial shot was saved, but he followed it up with a lifted shot and put the game very out of reach with 14 minutes left to play.
Both Pitlick and Harvey-Pinard pick up their fourth point of the night on Jesse Ylönen's power play goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 5, 2023
6-2 Laval! pic.twitter.com/NxjEtEhOA1
The Rocket’s penalty issues got them in trouble as the game began to near it’s close as Wyatt Bongiovanni tallied a power play goal with Xavier Simoneau in the box. Instead of buckling down right afterwards, Simoneau found himself back in the box presenting a tremendous opportunity for the Moose to make a game of it once again.
The penalty killers buckled down from there though, seeing out the rest of the game without much issue locking down another big win for the Rocket who find themselves on a three game winning streak and just outside the playoff picture.
Final Score: Laval 6, Manitoba 3
The Rocket and Moose will clash once more on Friday at 7pm at Place Bell, it is likely Cayden Primeau will get his first start after returning from injury.
The Rocket are moving up the standings and slowly but surely closing in on a playoff spot as they extend their winning streak to three games and have points in seven of their last 10 games. After their slow start, they are starting to play their best hockey of the season just as they are getting healthier.