It has been over a week since the Laval Rocket were last in action when they were shut out by the Toronto Marlies last Saturday. Since then, there’s been some positive news on the injury front with Jared Davidson returning to the lineup, and Emil Heineman beginning to practise with the team again.
Davidson slotted in with Riley Kidney and Lucas Condotta on the third line, and on defence Mattias Norlinder found himself as the odd man out in the starting lineup. Logan Mailloux joined Tobie Paquette-Bisson on the first pair, while Jayden Struble paired up with Olivier Galipeau on the third. Jakub Dobeš earned the nod in net, with Strauss Mann backing him up as usual.
It was a quick start for the Rocket, something they haven’t had many of this season. Just 47 seconds into the game Xavier Simoneau was able to force a puck back to Mailloux at the blue line. Mailloux corralled the puck and snapped a shot through traffic for his third goal of the season.
The fourth line and first pair caused the Moose troubles in the first period as well, finding the back of the net just under three minutes later. Jan Mysak broke into the offensive zone, firing a rising shot off Oskari Salminen’s blocker that bounced free on a rebound. Paquette-Bisson charged forward, through an unaware defence and smashed the rebound home to double Laval’s lead.
The Moose mustered a few good looks on Dobeš after the second Rocket goal, but good defensive coverage allowed Laval to clear any rebound chances away and keep the lead intact. Laval, however, soon began to wrest control back from there, with the fourth line jamming pucks on Salminen over and over as the Moose failed to clear out their goalmouth area.
Even with the Rocket controlling the first period of play, they had to kill the game’s first penalty as well with Galipeau heading to the box for cross-checking behind his own net. It was the Rocket who took advantage of the Moose power play, using a quick short-handed counter to increase their lead. Nathan Légaré jumped on a loose puck and scooted down the ice, then fired a low shot that fooled Salminen and made it a three-goal contest.
Laval fended off the remainder of Galipeau’s penalty without much issue, and continued to hound the Moose in all three zones. Another quick counter saw Joshua Roy rip one right by Salminen, but according to the officials it didn’t cross the goal line after hitting the crossbar. Without a review it’s hard to say if it did or not, but it would have an impact on the end of the period.
Manitoba got on the board as Brady Keeper tracked back on a cleared puck. Jeff Malott pressured Keeper as the Rocket defenceman tried to clear the puck behind his net. Malott caught part of the backhand pass, fooling Dobeš and squeaking a puck by the Rocket goaltender on the post to end the period.
The second frame started much like the first, with Rocket striking early and this time chasing starting goaltender Oskari Salminen. Roy entered the offensive zone, dishing off to William Trudeau as he approached the faceoff circles. Trudeau fired the puck right back across to Roy who buried the feed and restored the three-goal lead.
The teams then began trading penalties back and forth, with Mitchell Stephens taking a seat for cross-checking, then before he was out of the box Danny Zhilkin went off for interference. Before Zhilkin’s minor was up, Ashton Sautner went to join him. While the Rocket had a two-man advantage, Stephens went back to the penalty box as well.
Somehow, during all of the penalties, there were zero goals scored on either side, and the Rocket seemed wholly unbothered as they continued to dictate the flow of the game. The Moose were getting more control of the puck as the period ticked on, but Dobeš remained sharp as the Rocket chipped the puck off the boards to kill off the clock effectively.
Another late penalty put the Rocket back on the penalty kill, but again an aggressive showing and some quick pads from Dobeš allowed Laval to enter the final period with a three-goal advantage and plenty of momentum.
Laval successfully killed off the remaining time on Kidney’s penalty to start the third, but as Kidney exited the box he was replaced by Keeper who had been called for a holding penalty. A chance by Nikita Chibrikov rebounded right to Malott, who buried his second goal of the game.
Laval was lucky to not see their lead reduced to just a single goal when Malott picked up a pass from behind the Rocket’s net. He fired a quick shot that forced Dobeš into a quick toe save against his goalpost to deny the Moose forward a hat trick. It ended up being a massive save, as shortly after the save Brad Lambert took a tripping penalty and put Laval back on the power play.
The first wave was methodical, picking their spots at will against Thomas Milic, but the young goaltender refused to yield a goal. That was until the second wave took over for Laval, with Mailloux again working as the catalyst. Philippe Maillet won the puck back to Mailloux, who hammered a shot on goal. Davidson charged into the fray and poked the rebound home for his first professional goal.
Davidson’s goal took whatever wind was left out of the Moose’s sails, leaving Strauss Mann a fairly easy workload down the stretch. Mann had entered the game cold due to what looked like a cramping issue for Dobeš.
As the Rocket pushed the pace a bit, they drew another penalty allowing them to end the game on the man advantage. A frustration penalty from Jeffery Viel made it a five-on-three for the final minute, and Laval made sure to slam the door from there.
A power play goal for Sean Farrell made it a 6-2 game, and should have been a quiet end to the evening. However, as the final horn sounded, Nikita Chibrikov took a few two-handed whacks at Keeper, and Keeper responded with a cross-check to the head/neck of Chibrikov. Things turned into a large kerfuffle as both teams had jumped on the ice at the final horn. After several minutes, things were sorted out.
Keeper was hit with a match penalty and will likely miss a game or two for his actions.
Final Score: Laval 6, Manitoba 2
These two sides will clash again on Monday at 11:30 Eastern for a school-day game, one that is sure to be extremely feisty after the end of this contest.