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Laval vs. Belleville recap & highlights: A quiet end for the Rocket

Credit: Arena du Rocket, Inc.

It’s a rather difficult task to ask a team that suffered an elimination from playoff contention less than 24 hours earlier to come out prepared for one last game. It is even harder to do so when players such as David Reinbacher, Jayden Struble and Mitchell Stephens are unavailable due to injuries, and Joshua Roy suspended for the night.

The injuries on defence brought Mattias Norlinder and Olivier Galipeau back into the fold, along with Riley McKay who slotted in on the fourth line. Kasimir Kaskisuo was given the net for the final Rocket game of the year, with Jakub Dobeš serving as the backup.

The Rocket being eliminated did little to cool off the bad blood between both teams, with McKay engaging Donovan Sebrango behind the play and collecting a roughing call and misconduct just three minutes in. Laval did well to fend off the Senators’ power play, allowing just a single shot on Kaskisuo in the game’s early minutes.

Laval’s strong penalty kill helped to tilt the ice heavily in its favour, with Riley Kidney leading the charge as the rookie generated a handful of chances deep inside the offensive zone. Beyond that, the pairing of William Trudeau and Logan Mailloux kept the Senators pinned back as they seamlessly cycled in and out of the zone without any issues at all.

Eventually that pressure broke down the Belleville defence, with Lias Andersson feeding Trudeau at the point. Trudeau walked in, then ripped a shot past Leevi Merilainen to open the scoring with just under a minute left to play in the first period.

Trudeau’s goal ensured that the Rocket had a lead heading into the intermission, and deservedly so after dominating puck possession in the opening 20 minutes.

As strong as the Rocket started the first period the Senators started in the second as Belleville came out strong, pushing Laval deep into their zone and snuffing out chances at every turn. Kaskisuo remained sharp after a quiet first period, gloving down multiple chances from the Sens and keeping Laval in the lead.

After a few minutes, however, the Rocket found their legs and began to again push the Senators deeper into their own zone. A prime scoring chance from Andersson to Florian Xhekaj forced Belleville into taking their first penalty of the night and putting the Rocket power play to work.

While the power play didn’t cash in, it kept the momentum rolling, including Arnaud Durandeau pulling out a Michigan attempt on the fly but being denied by the post on his chance. Eventually that pressure drew another penalty, with Tyler Kleven taking a seat for tripping.

The Rocket again weren’t able to cash in on the advantage, despite a number of chances being deflected in front of the Senators’ net. As the period wound down to its conclusion, the Rocket were heavily in control with a 29-11 shot advantage along with a 1-0 lead still.

Laval was punished almost instantly for not putting away more of their chances in the previous periods as the Senators found a tying goal in the opening minutes of the third. A misplayed puck behind the net allowed Wyatt Bongiovanni to feed Tarun Fizer in front of net, and Fizer’s goal tied it up.

A slashing call on Kidney then put the Rocket back into a crucial spot on the penalty kill. And after multiple strong kills to start the game, Bongiovanni powered a one-timer by Kaskisuo and put the Senators on top 2-1.

Unfortunately for the fans, there wasn’t a last-second miracle for the Rocket, as they spent most of the period desperately trying to set up their cycle game once again. Belleville did well to clamp down on that, forcing the Rocket to settle for low-percentage chances, if they got to the net at all.

Mailloux took out his frustrations as the final seconds approached, cross-checking a Senators player in the back and ending his rookie season a few moments early. Maillet joined him as he jumped into the fray to tangle with Kleven who also headed to an early show.

Final Score: Belleville 2, Laval 1

After a strong start to 2024, the young Rocket slowly ran out of gas down the stretch. As the team saluted the fans one last time, Jakub Dobeš told them, “We will be back stronger next year, and we will be in the playoffs!”

With a promising young defensive group, can the Rocket figure out the other key pieces to bring them back to the top of the division? Time will tell.

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