A busy week for the Laval Rocket continued on Wednesday night as they squared off with the Belleville Senators, with a chance to push their current winning streak to three games. The Rocket started the week with a bang, blowing out the Manitoba Moose in back-to-back games, thanks in large part to the dynamic play of Sean Farrell and Joshua Roy.
Heading into the game against Belleville the squad was still without Jayden Struble (suspension), Emil Heineman (injured), and Lias Andersson (injured). They did receive a boost in the form of Joel Armia returning from his call-up to the Montreal Canadiens, with the big Finn slotting in on the first line. Riley McKay was also nursing a slight injury, he took the warm-up skate, but was replaced in the lineup by Riley Kidney. Jakub Dobeš got the nod after picking up the win on Sunday, despite leaving the game with a cramping issue.
As far as games between these two rivals go, the start on Wednesday night was relatively quiet. Laval ended up on the game’s first power play thanks to a puck being played with a hand off a faceoff. The man advantage moved the puck well, generated chances, but lacked the final finishing touch, which turned around to bite the Rocket instantly. Matthew Boucher exited the box, won the puck on the forecheck, and fed Bokondji Imama all alone in front of net to make it 1-0 Belleville.
That deficit soon became two for the Rocket as defensive-zone confusion continued to hamper Laval’s efforts to get back into the game. Olivier Galipeau collected a puck on the end boards, but fired it right at the skates of Mattias Norlinder, who was tied up with a Senators player. The puck hit Norlinder’s skate and went right to Graham McPhee, who quickly buried a second Senators goal.
Laval’s offensive-zone pressure was impressive following the two goals, cycling the Senators over and over again but still failing to find an opening goal. Even on the quick counter-attacks, the Rocket looked impressive but could not solve Leevi Meriläinen. Even another power play wasn’t able to cut into the Senators’ lead, not for a lack of trying as the Roy/Farrell duo ran rampant in the offensive zone. A turnover by Logan Mailloux at the point turned into a short-handed break that Angus Crookshank roofed past Dobeš to make it a 3-0 game with five minutes left in the first period.
A lazy cross-checking penalty by Galipeau put the Rocket on the penalty kill, and into a four-goal hole as the Senators put Laval in a seemingly insurmountable hole.
The Rocket were able to get one back thanks to a power play of their own to end the period and stop some of the bleeding. Farrell worked a puck to Mitchell Stephens, who in turn fed Brandon Gignac at the side of the net. Gignac turned and fired a shot on net, then swatted the rebound out of the air to net his fourth goal of the season.
It was a small consolation for the Rocket who entered the first intermission trailing by three goals, and needed some immediate help to keep the game competitive for the next 40 minutes.
Laval looked to have jumped out to a great start, with Xavier Simoneau slamming home a rebound just over a minute into the period. Until the goal was waved off for a penalty call against Simoneau, who had tripped up a Senators defenceman on his way to the net for his goal. Instead of a goal, the Rocket had to contend with another Senators power play, which they survived thanks to some great saves from Strauss Mann.
The Rocket’s speed gave the Senators fits, and after a strong power play the game suddenly turned on its head. Roy broke up a Belleville rush in the defensive zone, transitioning the play up the ice for Gignac. The speedy centre waited and fed a trailing Galipeau in the offensive zone, and Galipeau picked his spot to make it a two-goal game.
Just 21 seconds later the Rocket struck once again, with the defence making the difference from the blue line. William Trudeau grabbed a lazy clearing attempt, passing it to Nicolas Beaudin and getting an instant return feed. Trudeau stepped up and snapped his shot right through the five-hole and it was suddenly a one-goal contest.
As Laval continued to swarm and drive the Senators back, they drew another power play. Roy and Farrell, mixed with a few heavy shots from Joel Armia, threatened to tie the game, but the Sens held strong, then benefited from some extremely suspect officiating at the other end of the ice.
Egor Sokolov plowed through the crease, hitting Mann in the head, then found himself grabbed by Galipeau who had come to Mann’s defence. Sokolov wasn’t called for the hit on Mann, and at the end of it Galipeau was the only one in the box giving Belleville another power play. The penalty thankfully was not capitalized on as the Rocket held the line, and then drew a power play of their own to end the period.
With a healthy dose of momentum and an abbreviated power play still remaining, the Rocket entered the second intermission primed to make a quick impact in the third period.
The quick start came faster than anticipated as the top power play unit for the Rocket finished off what they had started in the previous period. Roy put a shot on goal and the rebound fell right into the path of Farrell, who buried it to erase the four-goal deficit for Laval.
Laval nearly gave the lead right back on the following shift as Trudeau leisurely tried to carry the puck through the neutral zone. His pocket was picked, sending Josh Currie in alone on goal, but a strong save by Mann bailed out his defender and kept the game level.
Roy again put his side in a crucial spot to do damage to the Senators as he drew a penalty during a period of four-on-four, creating a four-on-three advantage for Laval. The advantage wasn’t able to convert this time, but again it wasn’t for a lack of trying as the Rocket were inches away on a few occasions from tallying their fifth goal of the night.
A miscommunication between the defence shortly after forced Trudeau to take a poorly timed penalty in order to prevent a prime scoring chance against. The penalty-killers gave the Senators zero space to operate and took the puck down ice at will to kill of Trudeau’s minor penalty.
Then, a moment of brilliance struck as they did at many points late last year for Mitchell Stephens. He took a puck, stormed into the offensive zone, then dragged the goalie out of his crease with a fake shot to open up the net up. Stephens tightly circled the cage, depositing the wraparound in and giving the Rocket an improbable lead.
Laval did not sit back on the lead. They continued to pressure and prod the Senators which in turn created more errors from the trailing side. Their efforts were again rewarded as Tobie Paquette-Bisson picked off a passing attempt in his own defensive zone to start an odd-man rush the other way. Bisson dished off to Lucas Condotta, who returned the puck on a centring pass in front of goal, and Bisson finished it off, securing a crucial two-goal lead.
The Senators pulled their goaltender to try to salvage any possible points, but Mann and the Rocket defence refused to yield as the final horn sounded. It ended with a six-goal run from Laval as they overcame a four-goal deficit to beat one of their toughest rivals.
Final Score: Laval 6, Belleville 4
Laval has Thursday off before welcoming the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to Place Bell for the first time this season.