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Laval @ Toronto recap & highlights: Rocket fail to launch in a divisional matchup

It was a night to forget versus the Marlies.

For the first time in a long time, the Laval Rocket were as near to full-strength as they possibly could be with the AHL All-Star break rapidly approaching. As the team rolled into Toronto for a two-game stint with the Marlies, it received a boost in the form of Alex Belzile, Gabriel Bourque, and Jesse Ylönen returning to the forward group. Unfortunately, they lost Joël Teasdale due to a freak accident at practice, as he took a puck to the face.

On defence, Tory Dello and Madison Bowey were back in the lineup, a welcome sight as Mattias Norlinder missed out due to illness. In net, Cayden Primeau was the starter for the Rocket as he squared off against Joseph Woll, who put together back-to-back stellar performances against Laval in previous Rocket losses.

Laval’s start was less than desirable as first Belzile was called for tripping, sending Toronto to a power play just 57 seconds into the contest. Less than a minute into the Marlies’ advantage, Alex Steeves weakly backhanded a shot on net, and Primeau was caught unaware as it slowly trickled through him to make it a 1-0 game.

Things did not get much better for Laval as the Marlies refused to budge an inch and continued to keep the Rocket trapped deep in their own zone. Primeau was sharp, keeping Toronto from adding to their lead while the rest of his teammates struggled to find their legs as the period wore on.

The offence never really appeared for Laval as the Marlies ended the first period with a firm grasp on the game, leaving the Rocket looking for a much stronger second-period effort.

Laval’s poor luck continued right into the start of the middle frame, with John Parker-Jones being sent to the box and putting a dangerous Toronto power play back on the ice. Primeau was again extremely sharp, gloving down multiple looks from the Marlies to keep the Toronto lead at one goal.

The Rocket were looking for a bounce of any kind to break in their favour, and they finally got one shortly after killing the penalty. Xavier Simoneau broke into the offensive zone, feeding Olivier Galipeau trailing the play. Galipeau put a meek shot towards the net, and in front, Peter Abbandonato was able to swat it just enough to shove it by Woll and tie the game.

As it had for the Marlies in the first period, the goal for the Rocket appeared to wake them up a fair bit, and they began to look like the far more dangerous side as the second period continued. However, it was another weird chance that put the Marlies back on top before the period ended.

A shot that was clearly going wide of the net hit off of Mikhail Abramov’s skate as the Toronto forward skated with his back to the puck. As the shot hit the side of his skate, it fooled Primeau and beat him five-hole, giving Toronto the lead back heading into the final period.

Both teams came out flying in the third, and increased that pace even more when a pair of penalties shifted the game to four-on-four for two minutes. With the extra space it first allowed Logan Shaw a breakaway chance that Primeau gloved down. Then at the other end Jesse Ylönen shifted his way through the entire Marlies team, but his final chance was rifled just wide of goal.

The Marlies were content to take their chances and dump the puck deep while eating minutes off the clock as the third period wore on. The Rocket had no issue getting the puck into the offensive zone, but their chance-creation faltered between shots being blocked and over-passing inside the high-danger areas.

In the final minutes, the momentum was in Laval’s favour, but the tying goal wasn’t in the cards. The Marlies broke out on an odd-man rush and Marshall Rifai opted to keep it himself. His shot hit Primeau, but the Rocket goaltender somehow allowed it to drop and go through his five-hole to make it a two-goal contest. An empty-netter by Steeves a minute later sealed the game as the Rocket left without a point to show for a decent effort.

Final Score: Toronto 4, Laval 1

The final game for the Rocket before they head home to host the All-Star Game is on today at 4:00 PM, a rematch with the Marlies.