It was another night of returns at Place Bell for the Laval Rocket as they welcomed starting goalie Cayden Primeau back to the fold as they were set to take on the Manitoba Moose. The rest of the lineup remained the same, save Pierrick Dubé replacing John Parker-Jones on the fourth line.
The Rocket again came out of the gate as the stronger side, using their speed and pressure to draw the first power play of the game in the early going. Both waves pushed the Moose back, but lacked just a touch of finesse needed to finish off their sharp passing plays. Despite not scoring on the man advantage, Laval was doing a fantastic job at keeping Manitoba’s offence from getting out of neutral.
However, the Rocket ended up surrendering the game’s first goal thanks to an error from Primeau. The goalie mishandled a pass back to him from the neutral zone, and then while scrambling to play the puck away from his crease put it right on the stick of Dominic Toninato. The Manitoba forward easily fired the puck into the empty net, and put the Rocket down by a goal with seven minutes played.
Laval continued to be the more controlling side as the first period ticked away, drawing a second power play again in the process. The incredible play from Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylönen nearly tied the game on the advantage, but a sprawling save and quick cover of the rebound from Arvid Holm denied Laval its first goal.
With the Rocket power play expired, the team then found itself trapped in its own zone, and that led to Santino Centorame taking a holding penalty. The Rocket exited the first period with 1:40 of a Moose power play left to kill off in the second, while trailing by a goal.
Laval’s penalty-killers did an outstanding job of shutting down the Moose power play to start the period, allowing just a single shot on goal. The offence then went back to work, pressing the Moose deep in the offensive zone, and again being denied by Holm.
Just as it looked like the Rocket were going to get on the board, Xavier Simoneau found himself in the box for tripping. Laval again killed off the minor penalty without much difficulty, but soon found themselves in a four-on-four situation as Joël Teasdale and Dean Stewart were sent to the box for an interference/embellishment combo. Things ended up spiralling badly for the Rocket from there, with the Moose adding a pair of goals inside of three minutes to take a commanding lead.
The first was on a dubious non-call for goaltender interference as Cole Maier barrelled into Primeau without even trying to avoid him. The ensuing collision left Primeau down in his crease for a bit before he stayed in the game.
I have absolutely no idea how this isn't goaltender interference— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 7, 2023
Primeau at least right now appears to be staying in the game. pic.twitter.com/61MB91ki57
Not long after that hit Wyatt Bongiovanni shot down the wing, hammering a shot on net that trickled through Primeau to put the Moose up 3-0.
The Rocket lost their composure a bit as the second period neared its end, forcing passes and taking ill-timed penalties. They escaped the second period trailing by three goals, perhaps luckily, and needed a huge third period to secure a potential fourth straight win.
The Rocket kicked their attack into high gear from the start, firing five shots on net before the Moose were able to respond at all. The red-hot Rem Pitlick won a puck battle along the boards, sending a pass through the slot to Alex Belzile, who buried it to cut into the Moose lead.
Laval gets on the board with Rem Pitlick setting up Alex Belzile's sixth goal of the year.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 7, 2023
Rocket trailing 3-1. pic.twitter.com/hAc3tGsnrT
The momentum was on Laval’s side, but a defensive breakdown allowed the Moose to set up a strong cycle deep in the Rocket zone shortly after Belzile’s goal. Tyler Boland fed a pass to the point where Daniel Torgersson let it rip to restore the three-goal advantage.
Despite the deficit, Laval continued to hammer chance after chance on Holm, including on another power play, but the Moose netminder refused to yield an inch to the Rocket and kept the score at 4-1.
With five-and-a-half minutes left to play, the Rocket found their way back onto the scoresheet thanks to the combination of Pitlick and Belzile again. William Trudeau pushed a pass to Pitlick, who fired a low shot on net, and as it hit the crease, Belzile was able to get the blade of his stick on the shot to direct it in.
That's two goals on the night for Alex Belzile as he tips a Rem Pitlick shot by Arvid Holm— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 7, 2023
Laval trails 4-2. pic.twitter.com/uFOfdT2rKO
With time winding down the Rocket waited as long as they could before sending Primeau to the bench for the extra attacker. The Moose defended the Rocket for a time but eventually Corey Schueneman hammered a point shot through Holm to make it a one-goal contest.
Laval is not going quietly!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 7, 2023
Corey Schueneman makes it 4-3 with 1:11 left to play! pic.twitter.com/igAyIce6U8
Somehow, the Rocket then completed the climb with just 25 seconds left on the clock. Pitlick fed Teasdale, who put a shot into the Moose crease, and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard swatted home the rebound to force an improbable overtime.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard ties it with 25 seconds to play!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 7, 2023
Laval has battled back from 4-1 down to force overtime! pic.twitter.com/YIYuuraH3c
There was unfortunately not a full happy ending for the Rocket as Schueneman went into a scrum for the puck in the defensive zone that already involved both of his teammates, and it kicked out to Jansen Harkins who won the game for Manitoba.
Final Score: Manitoba 5, Laval 4
The Rocket are off on Saturday and welcome the first-place Toronto Marlies on Sunday afternoon.