Things got off to a fiesty start between the Laval Rocket and Belleville Senators on Friday night. Brennan Saulnier and Riley McKay wasted no time tossing off their gloves after a whistle in the Senators’ zone. The more experienced Saulnier ended up likely getting the decision as he landed several heavy shots.
Well, Sens/Rocket is off to a fiesty start as Saulnier and McKay throw down. pic.twitter.com/R1shp7Qwo8— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 18, 2023
On the following shift, the Rocket put their penalty kill to the test as Brandon Gignac took a seat for holding. Without one of their top penalty-killers, the Rocket were still able to limit the Senators to just three shots, and kept the game scoreless as Gignac exited the box with haste.
The Rocket soon went to an advantage of their own, and much like the Senators the chances were few and far between, with Antoine Bibeau gobbling up any loose pucks around his crease. Not to be outdone, Cayden Primeau was in prime form as he faced down a dangerous John Quenneville breakaway chance. Primeau kicked out the pad and bailed out a defencemen who allowed the Sens forward to spring free.
Another great effort by Xavier Simoneau to win a 50/50 battle for the puck was immediately wiped out as he was called for a hook on the play, giving the Sens a late-period power play. Again the Rocket penalty kill came up big, in particular Mattias Norlinder who had a number of key blocks to preserve the scoreline.
The Rocket got the last laugh to end the first as Peter Abbandonato drew a tripping penalty, giving Laval a man advantage to start the second. The Senators looked like they were going to escape unscathed from their late first-period mistake, but Angus Crookshank found himself in the box just as the initial penalty was coming to an end. The Rocket power play sputtered to a halt, leaving it a 0-0 game with five minutes played into the second period.
Even with their man-advantage struggles, the Rocket were the first to find the back of the net thanks to a great effort from Abbandonato. A lengthy offensive zone shift for Belleville gave way to Pierrick Dubé throwing a leading pass to Abbandonato as the forward burst into the offensive zone. He had to kick the puck forward, losing it for a second before collecting his bearings and hammering his shot by Antoine Bibeau to make it 1-0.
Peter Abbandonato somehow keeps control of the puck, and opens the scoring for Laval in Belleville! pic.twitter.com/sK7BNtsU05— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 18, 2023
The lead soon doubled for Laval as Anthony Richard used his speed to beat out a potential icing call. With control of the puck behind the net, Richard picked out Pierrick Dubé right at the side of the net, and the ECHL call-up made it 2-0.
Anthony Richard gets behind the net and feeds a wide open Pierrick Dubé.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 18, 2023
2-0 Laval! pic.twitter.com/TeXAXIaUSS
The lead quickly returned to one goal after Scott Sabourin ran over William Trudeau with an uncalled late hit that left the rookie shaken up. As Trudeau worked to get back to his feet, the Sens went the other way, with Sabourin feeding Jonathan Aspirot to get Belleville on the board.
The goal from Belleville brought life back into their game, and thanks to a pair of failed clearing attempts from Mitchell Stephens and Tory Dello, the Senators found a tying goal. Dello’s clear ended up on Crookshank’s stick, and then behind Primeau to send the sides into the intermission tied up.
Laval’s third period did not start the way they hoped, as McKay found himself headed to the box less than three minutes in. The Rocket penalty-killers fended off the Senators to keep it a tie game with 15 minutes left to play in regulation.
While the Rocket were getting the better looks as the period wore on, the Senators were still able to take the lead for the first time. Primeau made an ill-fated choice to play a dump-in behind the net. He got crossed up with Saulnier, forcing him to fire a pass to Olivier Galipeau quickly. Galipeau mishandled the pass, and Crookshank had a wide open net to score on to make it 3-2.
That score quickly became 4-2 as Jacob Bernard-Docker fired one through traffic to send Laval reeling in the final seven minutes of play.
There wasn’t a miracle comeback in the cards for the Rocket, as they pulled Primeau early and an Egor Sokolov empty-net goal put the contest away for good. Even a late power play tally from William Trudeau wasn’t enough to threaten the Senators’ lead as they saw out the final minutes without much issue.
Final Score: Belleville 5, Laval 3
These two sides will face off again on Saturday night in Belleville. It’s likely that Jan Mysak will draw into the lineup, though it’s unknown who will get the start in net. There is also the looming threat of a recall on defence as Justin Barron’s status is unclear for the Montreal Canadiens in Toronto.