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Laval @ Rochester recap & highlights: Rocket suffer another frustrating overtime defeat

Credit: Arena du Rocket, Inc.

The Laval Rocket continued their trek through Western New York on Friday as they rolled back into Blue Cross Arena for another game with the Rochester Americans. Laval came up just short on Wednesday night, falling in overtime to the Amerks with a cobbled-together defensive group. The lineup defensively wasn’t changed much, but the forward group got a big shuffling ahead of the contest.

Joel Armia was a late call-up to the Montreal Canadiens, which forced J.-F. Houle into tweaking his lines quite a bit. Xavier Simoneau and Joshua Roy flanked Brandon Gignac on the top line while a returning Mitchell Stephens was the pivot between Riley Kidney and Sean Farrell. Jared Davidson rejoined the lineup on the fourth line with Nolan Yaremko and Alex-Olivier Voyer, while Strauss Mann was given the start over Jakub Dobeš.

The opening minutes of the game were all about the Rocket maintaining control of the puck and methodically chipping away at the Americans in their zone. Laval was cycling Rochester over and over before recovering any cleared pucks that exited the zone. That didn’t slow down as the first period approached its halfway point, but as the Rocket created chance after chance, Devin Cooley stood tall for Rochester in net.

Despite Laval dominating the pace of play, the Americans were the ones to draw the game’s first penalty as Yaremko went to the box for slashing. Laval impressively kept Rochester in check, making life easy for Mann and most importantly kept the game a 0-0 affair.

As the two sides began to trade shots and chances regularly, a budding odd-man rush for the Americans was cancelled out instantly as Rochester was called for interfering with Lucas Condotta on the backcheck. The Rocket might have been better served to decline the minor penalty as the best chances of the power play fell to Rochester. Mann was sharp to deny the short-handed chances, but the momentum was fully shifting in the opposite direction.

Yet again, the Rocket failing to capitalize on the power play immediately bit them. Rochester put Laval back on its heels in the dying seconds of the period, and with less than a second left on the clock, Jeremy Davies beat Mann with a shot to give Rochester a first-intermission lead.

After an early scare in their defensive zone the Rocket began to repeat their cycle and pressure game from the first period, eventually drawing a penalty and getting another chance on the man advantage. Also repeating the first period effort was the Laval power play, with the only real threat coming from a long-range wrist shot from Joshua Roy. The rest of the time it was a frustrating mess and no goals once again.

The hard forechecking work of the Rocket did eventually yield dividends for the offence. Yaremko won a puck on the end boards and kicked a pass back to the front of the net. Nathan Légaré got the first shot off that created a rebound for Jan Mysak to jam by Cooley to tie the game at a goal apiece.

Rochester began their own counter-attack following the goal, and while Laval kept their chances low, the puck was living deep inside the Rocket zone. A great solo rush from Yaremko drew a boarding call, giving a beleaguered Rocket power play a chance to break the deadlock.

Laval’s special teams again failed to threaten Cooley in the Rochester net, and that again came back to haunt them in short order. A tripping call on Olivier Galipeau put the Amerks on a power play of their own, and Michael Mersch was right on the doorstep to jam home a Jiri Kulich rebound.

Against the flow of play, the Rocket managed to find another equalizing goal thanks in part to some heads-up playmaking from Stephens. The Rocket centre held up play heading into the offensive zone, flicking a pass to Kidney, who was charging forward. Kidney dragged the puck to the centre slot, and used a defender as a screen to fire one by Cooley and tie the game up.

Laval kept the pressure on, nearly grabbing a buzzer-beating goal of their own, but settled for entering the second intermission tied with Rochester.

Both sides came out pushing hard, but conservatively as they looked to break the deadlock and find a third goal. Mann was sharp, not allowing any rebound opportunities while the Americans did well to break up any secondary passing attempts deep in their own zone.

The lack of discipline on the side of the Rocket put them back on the penalty kill with Brandon Gignac heading to the box for tripping. The penalty-killers put in an incredible shift, fending off a heavy Rochester attack, and after a hairy 90 seconds they finally had the penalty killed with the game still tied. Both teams settled back into trading chances one for one, with neither team able to convert on any of their rebounds with the final minutes looming large.

Laval did not make the final minutes any less stressful, as Simoneau headed to the box on a slashing call, which had the Rocket upset as it looked like Nathan Légaré was tripped up earlier in the play. The penalty-killers weathered a relentless attack, keeping the game level as the final minute of regulation rolled around.

For a second straight game, Légaré stole a puck at the blue line, broke in all alone, then rang his shot off the left post behind Cooley. Also for a second straight game, these two teams headed to overtime to try to find a winner.

Overtime continued the chaotic nature of the first 60 minutes, with the goalies coming up big on the few chances that came their way. After Logan Mailloux was stoned on a partial break, the puck left the zone with Kidney in pursuit. Kidney was pulled down from behind by Lukas Rousek, creating a breakaway chance for the Americans for Mann to deny.

Rochester cycled back through after no penalties were called and Isak Rosen calmly roofed a backhand shot by Mann to secure the overtime win for the home side for a second straight game.

Final Score: Rochester 3, Laval 2 (OT)

Laval now has to lick their wounds after a pair of frustrating overtime losses to a divisional rival, and then prepare for another game on Saturday. The Rocket will roll into Syracuse looking to avenge a lopsided defeat from earlier in the month.

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