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Laval vs. Cleveland recap & highlights: A full team effort earns the Rocket a big win

Credit: Arena du Rocket, Inc.

With the trade deadline now firmly in the rearview mirror, it was back to business for the Laval Rocket as they hosted the division-leading Cleveland Monsters at Place Bell.

The Rocket limped into the contest having struggled to string together consistent efforts in the last week, and desperately needed a win for their fading playoff hopes. The newly acquired Jacob Perreault was not yet available as he was still travelling, but team captain Gabriel Bourque did return to the lineup after some time on the injured list. Also back was Kasimir Kaskisuo, who backed up Jakub Dobeš after nursing a lower-body injury.

Struggling to get out of the gate in recent games, the Rocket came out of the starting blocks strong but composed against Cleveland. They timed their attacks well, keeping their defensive structure when the play transitioned, without sacrificing chances on net. Eventually, the consistent waves of pressure, coupled with the rebounds generated by Pavel Cajan, resulted in a Rocket power play.

Laval’s steady attack didn’t provide much opportunity for the Monsters to catch their breath as the puck constantly cycled the zone as the Rocket looked for an opening. It look nearly the entire man advantage, but with 11 seconds left, Philippe Maillet dropped a pass back to Logan Mailloux at the point. Mailloux found his shooting lane, and with a quick snap, blistered the game’s opening goal by Cajan.

Laval’s early goal brought the Monsters out of their slumber as the period progressed, with Cleveland slowly but surely chipping away at the shot advantage. As Cleveland flipped the script on Laval, it was the Rocket’s turn to take a seat in the penalty box as Sean Farrell was called for tripping.

The game continued to mirror itself in the opening period, with the Rocket killing off 95% of the Monsters’ power play only for David Jiricek to uncork a missile of a shot by Dobeš to tie the game with seven seconds left in the minor.

Laval stemmed the tide following Cleveland’s goal quickly, regaining the lead just under two minutes later. Riley Kidney poked a puck off Jiricek’s stick in the offensive zone, creating an odd-man rush down the ice. Kidney fed a pass to the slot for William Trudeau who was trailing the play, with Trudeau returning the puck right back to Kidney at the side of the net. The rookie forward flicked another pass toward the net, catching part of Jared Davidson’s skate or stick and deflecting into the back of the net.

Davidson’s 11th goal of the year was enough to secure a lead for the Rocket heading into the first intermission, with the Rocket also leading in shots 12-9.

After a back and forth opening period, the second one started much more passively as the two teams traded some low-danger scoring chances. In fact there didn’t seem to be much snarl in the game until Trudeau got in the face of a Cleveland player, kicking off a fracas that saw Maillet and Jake Gaudet sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The penalties seemed to snap the Rocket back into action, as less than a minute after the penalties they doubled their lead. Brandon Gignac forechecked hard, forcing a misplay by Marcus Björk inside the offensive zone. Gignac grabbed the loose puck and lifted a backhand chance past Cajan to score his 15th goal of the season and to make it a 3-1 game.

Laval then shut Cleveland down after the goal, denying any real offensive-zone opportunities, and grinding the clock down shift after shift. Before long all that continued pressure resulted in the Monsters being unable to clear their lines, and Gignac teeing up Trudeau to make it a 4-1 game.

The Monsters, now facing a steep climb to get back into the game, ramped up the physicality even further, starting with a combined hit on Farrell. Xavier Simoneau wasted no time in coming to the defence of his teammate, and was also the only player sent to the box afterward.

The penalty-killers swept aside the Monsters’ power play with ease, springing Simoneau on a breakaway as he exited the box, but the outstretched pad of Cajan denied the Rocket forward a goal. However, the pair of goals earlier in the period kept the Rocket firmly in control as the teams entered the second intermission.

With a three-goal advantage, Laval was content to slowly grind out the clock and play keepaway with the puck in the early portions of the third period. The finish line wasn’t far off, but the Rocket decided to make it just a bit more challenging on themselves. First came a holding penalty on Justin Barron, which was dispatched thanks to some excellent shorthanded work from Mitchell Stephens. Just minutes after that, it was Tobie Paquette-Bisson heading to the box for boarding, and he was also hit with a roughing penalty in the scrum that ensued. The penalty-killing units again were up to the task, giving Cleveland nothing to work with, and what space they were allowed resulted in nothing as Dobeš smothered any loose pucks around his crease.

As Paquette-Bisson’s time in the box expired, it was clear the Rocket were going to run the rest of the period out, and they did so relatively easily to secure a much-needed win over a division rival. The big concern, however, is the health of Simoneau, with the forward skating off the ice and right to the locker room in the middle of a power play, all while favouring his shoulder.

Final Score: Laval 4, Cleveland 1

These same two sides will square off again on Saturday afternoon, with puck drop scheduled for 3 PM. It is likely that Kasimir Kaskisuo will get his first start since being injured against Toronto two weeks ago.

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