Coming off a pair of tough defeats to division rivals, the Laval Rocket rolled into Rochester for their final meeting with the Americans this season. While the Rocket held onto the final AHL North playoff spot, it was far from a safe cushion and they needed to get back into the win column quickly.
While Louis Boudon and Jayden Struble were newly signed by Laval, neither was in the lineup for J.-F. Houle as the Rocket went with 11 forwards and seven defencemen in front of Cayden Primeau on Wednesday night.
Through five minutes, the Rocket had the extended pressure they wanted as they peppered Malcolm Subban with shots from all angles. At the other end of the ice, the Americans were getting far fewer but much more dangerous looks that were denied solely through great defensive efforts by the forward group.
The Rocket not capitalizing on their early chances allowed the Amerks to build momentum and start evening out the shot totals. After Subban denied a Jan Mysak chance off a Danick Martel rebound, the Americans clanged a shot off the post, and had their follow-up chance cleared off the line by Nolan Yaremko.
Then things got sloppy as the next several minutes featured six different penalty calls between the two sides. The Rocket went to the power play, then it was four-on-four, then a five-on-three for Rochester, back to a four-on-three, then to four-on-four with a pair of offsetting roughing minors called. No goals were scored during this segment of disjointed hockey as the first period neared its conclusion.
The penalties didn’t slow down to start the second period as the Rocket went back to the power play. Laval was likely wishing the penalty on Linus Weissbach hadn’t been called as they gave up a short-handed goal to Brandon Biro.
Laval kept Rochester from adding to its own goal lead as the second period marched on, but they were clearly playing on the back foot as Rochester continued to pile up scoring chances. Primeau was up to the task, smothering rebounds before there were any chances at a follow-up, but the offence was sorely missing as the game passed its midpoint.
Even a late power play wasn’t enough to get the Rocket a tying goal as the Americans continued to defend every Laval attack with ease. While the Rocket defence was also continuing to hold the fort, the team entered the second intermission still searching for a goal to get back into a crucial game.
The third period saw the stalemate between Rochester and Laval continue. The Rocket, for all their possession time, were struggling to find finesse and accuracy inside the offensive zone. On the other side, the Amerks were happy to keep grinding the clock down with dump-ins off the Rocket’s failed offensive pushes.
With the minutes growing shorter and shorter, the Rocket earned their best chance. A deep push allowed Mattias Norlinder to fire one shot from the slot, forcing Subban into a huge save. With a yawning cage in front of him, Norlinder sent the rebound chance just wide.
Primeau made his way to the bench with just over a minute to play, giving the Rocket one last chance to try to steal at least a point. It wasn’t to be as a clearing attempt went over William Trudeau’s head, allowing Lukas Rousek all the space he needed to poke it into the empty net and send the Rocket to a second straight loss.
Final Score: Rochester 2, Laval 0
The loss, coupled with a Belleville Senators win, has forced the Rocket out of the fifth and final AHL playoff spot. Things aren’t about to get much easier for Laval either as they open up a two-game set with the Utica Comets on Friday night at Place Bell.