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Laval @ Belleville recap & highlights: Rocket eliminated from playoff contention in loss

With a back-to-back against the Belleville Senators to finish the season, the Laval Rocket found themselves in a precarious position. Their playoff hopes rested entirely on taking both of the remaining games, doing so in regulation, as well as the Utica Comets not winning out themselves. Only being able to control what they can, they needed to do their part and beat Belleville, starting with a game on the road on Friday night.

In the early goings, there weren’t very many shots on goal for either side, but they all seemed to be scoring chances. The goaltenders were equal to the task, but Jakub Dobes saw his workload increase dramatically when the Rocket found themselves in some penalty trouble. Joshua Roy and William Trudeau took minor penalties rather close to each other, and Dobes was the team’s best penalty killer in ensuring that no damage was done, other than a big lead for Belleville on the shot clock.

And killing those penalties ended up being crucial, because right after Trudeau left the box, the Rocket found a golden opportunity. Riley Kidney was sent in essentially one-on-one by Jayden Struble, but found a trailing Mitchell Stephens joining him on the other side. Stephens made no mistake, giving the Rocket a 1-0 lead near the midway point of the frame.

Laval fought their way back into the shooting race from there, but the period would end with that 1-0 lead intact for Laval. From the very outset of the second period, you could sense the urgency on the visiting team’s part to increase their lead, with several excellent scoring chances stopped in the opening minutes.

But as that flurry of chances continued, it felt like a matter of time before the Rocket would break through. David Reinbacher set up Tobie Paquette-Bisson at the point, and his shot was stopped, but Lias Andersson was right there to collect the rebound and send it home for a 2-0 Laval lead.

That lead was very short lived, as an untimely line change allowed Ryan Bongiovanni to get a breakaway, and he beat Dobes clean to cut the lead to one almost immediately after the Andersson marker. That seemed to energize the Sens, and play was a lot more back and forth after that than it was early in the period.

A Lucas Condotta interference penalty gave Belleville a huge chance to equalize past the midway point, but Dobes once again stood tall, and the Laval penalty killers helped him keep the Senators off the board. The Sens would get yet another power play with Trudeau sent off for his second high stick of the night late in the period, and yet again Dobes was there to keep the puck out, frustrating the power play of the Senators to no end.

But taking so many penalties eventually proved to be playing with fire. Mitchell Stephens took a delay of game penalty in the third period, the sixth minor penalty for the Rocket in the game, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Egor Sokolov unleashed a one timer near the left face-off dot, finally giving the Senators a power play goal and tying the game at two apiece.

Since an overtime win would have been useless to them, the Rocket pulled Dobes in the final minutes to try and find an equalizer. It was a futile effort, as the Rocket could scarcely gain the offensive zone, let alone set up quality chances to take back the lead. Sokolov would put one into the empty net with about a second left on the clock, and with that, the Rocket were officially eliminated from playoff contention.


  • The one man to whom an ounce of blame cannot possibly be affixed is Jakub Dobes. He gave that team every opportunity to win the game, but they just couldn’t provide enough run support. Frankly, with the penalty trouble they found themselves in, they owe him a debt of gratitude for the simple fact they had a chance to win in regulation for as long as they did.
  • Luke Tuch stood out for me quite a bit among the forward group. He plays somewhat of a thankless game that probably won’t show up on the scoresheet a lot, but he back checks like his life depends on it, and is very capable in the dirty areas. If he keeps bringing that level of effort at both ends of the ice, he’ll eventually find himself getting a chance in the NHL.
  • Joshua Roy looked pretty good in his return from injury. His undisciplined penalty in the first was uncharacteristic, but he reined it in from there and played a physical game.
  • William Trudeau was even more undisciplined with two minor penalties, but he also had five shots on goal and barely missed on a couple of quality scoring chances. For better and for worse, he was very noticeable in that game.
  • David Reinbacher is just so quietly effective. Outside of his assist, what really stood out for me was his puck distribution in his own zone. He seems to have an innate sense for where his teammates will be, and his first pass on the breakout is almost always right. He’s on the right track, and it will be interesting to see how he develops next season.

Laval may be eliminated, but they still have one more game left to play. With nothing but pride on the line, they’ll face Belleville one more time tomorrow at Place Bell in Laval.

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