After an unusually dreadful night at Place Bell on Wednesday – a game that I had the misfortune to witness in person – the Laval Rocket were looking for a quick bounceback as they headed to Syracuse to begin their week-long road trip.
Cayden Primeau got the nod to start in goal while injuries and a suspension on Riley McKay meant that PTO left-winger Nolan Yaremko was due his first appearance in a Rocket jersey.
Yaremko is a 24-year old Albertan who has performed admirably with Mount Royal in USports over the last two school years. His playing history also includes five previous games in the AHL back in 2018-19, as well as over 250 games in the WHL for the Tri-City Americans spread out over five Junior seasons.
A late injury update on Brandon Gignac during the warm-ups meant that an already depleted Rocket roster would have to play the game with just 10 forwards. It’s in moments like this that heroes are born, right?
Head coach J.-F. Houle made the quick decision to dress the previously scratched new acquisition Frédéric Allard for duty on the back-end, which meant that Laval would play the game with eight defencemen.
It was an even first period, with two teams feeling each other out like two hesitant boxers. Primeau had decided to be more in the zone than he was two nights prior and made sure the Crunch’s first-line with top scorer Alexis Barré-Boulet and Canadiens legend Gabriel Dumont were kept scoreless.
Instead, it was Laval that managed to open the scoring just before the period break. Danick Martel took the puck through the neutral zone and demonstrated splendid vision to find Joël Teasdale in the slot. Teasdale immediately set up Mitchell Stephens who, from a difficult angle left of the goal, managed to beat Crunch goalie Max Lagacé to break the tie.
Mitchell Stephens ouvre la marque en fin de première période!— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) March 11, 2023
Stephens opens the scoring at the end of the first period. #GoRocket https://t.co/6BYRbvmicN pic.twitter.com/9ftFDeR4n4
Syracuse came out strong in the second, only to once again face the wrath of Primeau. The Rocket bit back around five minutes in, creating two quick breakaways versus Lagacé. Unfortunately, both Teasdale and Gabriel Bourque ended up getting their efforts denied.
Both teams’ respective power plays remained toothless, which effectively meant that the most entertaining part in the latter half of the second period was a fist fight between the behemoth known as John Parker-Jones and Crunch player Shawn Element. It is always strange seeing a fight break out when one of the participants has seven inches and 40 pounds of size advantage. As an additional sidenote, I am happy to teach all of you that ‘element’ is the Swedish word for ‘radiator.’
In a game where the Rocket looked to have the upper hand, they suddenly decided to shoot themselves in the foot. Mattias Norlinder had already been penalized when Corey Scheuneman rocketed a clearance into the stands, giving the Crunch a five-on-three opportunity for almost two full minutes.
As the penalties were coming to an end, our old friend Element decided to put his stick in Stephens’s face, giving Laval a second chance to play the man advantage for four straight minutes.
Instead of getting that game-killing second goal and breathe fresh air in the playoff hunt, Syracuse tied the contest up during those four short-handed minutes. A nice move by Daniel Walcott set him and Philippe Myers up two-on-one against the Rocket net. Primeau stopped the first two efforts from the odd pair, before finally having to capitulate.
That goal ended up being the last one in regulation, meaning that overtime was needed to separate the two sides.
Laval went straight to the attack at three-on-three, and Martel could have ended it a mere eight seconds in, however, Max Lagacé continued to be stellar in net. It took an additional minute and 11 seconds, but Laval would leave Syracuse with a full two-pointer. A miscommunication mid-ice for the home side gave Stephens and Pierrick Dubé the chance for a two-on-one, and this time, not even Lagacé could stand in the way.
DUBÉ— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) March 11, 2023
OT WIN!!!!!!!!!!!#GoRocket https://t.co/oHxXT29Bzh pic.twitter.com/tk987ut3vP
Final Score: Laval 2, Syracuse 1 (OT)
It was a hugely important win for Laval, especially after the woeful night against Belleville on Wednesday. Next up on the road trip is a trip to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the Rocket have a date with the Falcons Saturday night.