Rocket @ Senators recap & highlights: Depleted Laval team ends road trip with a loss

The injuries to the top three centres and tough travel schedule took a toll as the Rocket finished their road trip with a dud.

There is no rest for the wicked in this COVID-hampered season, especially for the Laval Rocket who rolled into Belleville after losing in overtime to the Utica Comets on Friday night. The Rocket fought hard to overcome the two-goal deficit they dug themselves early in the game, but their comeback came at a price. Laval was without Alex Belzile, J.-S. Dea, and Lukas Vejdemo against the Senators, forcing the team to run with an 11-forward, seven-defenceman alignment on the night.

Terrance Amorosa rejoined the lineup as the extra defenceman, and in net it was Louis-Philip Guindon, getting his second career start in the AHL after a strong win over Texas last week.

Despite the Rocket being without so many regulars, they hung in early with the Senators, trading chances in the opening few minutes, but both goalies stood tall early on. Even with the Rocket looking more than up for the game, the Sens struck first when Egor Sokolov dropped a pass for Rourke Chartier, whose shot fooled Guindon to make it a 1-0 game for Belleville just 4:38 in.

Just as the Rocket began to find their legs and generate some sustained offensive-zone time, a malfunction with the glass put the game on pause for over 10 minutes, cooling off the Laval attack entirely. The Sens took advantage of that, attempting to increase their lead and hemming the Rocket deep in their own zone for several minutes without a change for Laval.

The Rocket managed to survive the full press from the Sens, and once they were able to gain the offensive zone, drew the game’s first penalty as Gianni Fairbrother was roughed up along the benches. The period did come to an end before the power play could get itself sorted, but the Rocket started the second frame with a good chunk of power-play time to work with.

The intermission didn’t help much for the Rocket as Belleville was able to fend off the remainder of the Laval power play to start the second period. The offence did start to find some semblance of itself however, as they found more sustained zone time to begin testing Mads Søgaard more often.

Even as the Rocket spent most of the start of the period hammering chances on net, one defensive lapse by Brandon Baddock allowed Chartier to get free, and he converted a feed by Michael Del Zotto into his second goal of the night to push the Sens’ lead to two.

The Rocket were given a chance to cut into that lead as the Senators were called for interference in front of their own net. The man advantage again failed to truly threaten the Senators’ penalty kill, and the tired legs of the Rocket were apparent as the Sens’ special-teams unit beat them to every puck that was up for grabs. Shortly after the power play expired, the Rocket were tasked with killing their first penalty of the game as Corey Schueneman sat for holding the stick.

The Laval penalty kill stood tall, besting the Senators’ man advantage thanks to some great work from Gabriel Bourque and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard who each created scoring chances while down a man to help out Guindon, who had made several tough saves. Unfortunately the big penalty kill didn’t help turn the tide much, as Chartier fed a pass to Sokolov in the faceoff dot and the big sniper made it a 3-0 game.

Another late Rocket power play presented a chance to stop the bleeding, but Søgaard didn’t break, leaving Laval searching for a miraculous comeback in the third period.

The Rocket quickly drew another call, and on their power play they responded by instantly giving up a short-handed goal to Logan Shaw. The goal seemed to deflate the team, and the rest of the man advantage lacked its normal crisp urgency as the play returned to even strength. They didn’t have long to sulk though, as the Sens were called for a high-sticking double-minor, and then a cross-check shortly afterward, giving Laval a five-on-three opportunity.

After much frustration, Jesse Ylönen finally broke down Søgaard with a laser of a shot. Xavier Ouellet worked the puck in from the point and fed it to Ylönen, who uncorked a slapshot that Søgaard never had a chance on.

While the goal brought some life back into the Rocket’s game, they weren’t able to add to their tally on the power play, and after another strong offensive-zone shift, an errant high stick by Bourque led to the Rocket having to kill a double-minor of their own.

It didn’t take long for the Sens to net a fifth goal, with Jake Lucchini tipping a point shot by Guindon to make it a four-goal deficit once more. With the second minor penalty left to kill, the Rocket weren’t able to keep up with the fresher legs of the Senators as Mark Kastelic made it a 6-1 game on a tic-tac-toe passing play.

It was all a foregone conclusion from there as the Rocket finished their road trip with a 1-1-1 record, a decent showing considering the injuries and players still missing from their lineup.

Final Score: Belleville 6, Laval 1

The team now returns to Place Bell where it’ll open up a big three-game series with the Syracuse Crunch, starting Wednesday night.

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