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Laval vs. Rochester recap & highlights: An offensive explosion ends the Rocket’s losing streak

Credit: Arena du Rocket Inc.

The Laval Rocket entered into Friday night’s clash with the Rochester Americans in a spot that was suddenly unfamiliar to them: an extended losing streak. After climbing up into third place in the AHL’s North Division, the Rocket lost three straight games and found themselves just barely clinging to the last playoff spot in the division.

Jakub Dobeš got the nod from J.-F. Houle for another start after losing to Utica on Wednesday night. Philippe Maillet was back in the lineup after missing the previous game, and took over the top centre spot between Xavier Simoneau and Joshua Roy. There were some concerns about Logan Mailloux missing out due to the illness going around the team, but he slotted into his usual spot on the top pair, while the recalled Chris Jandric was a healthy scratch.

With the harsh reminder of the loss to Rochester last week still fresh in their minds, the Rocket came out of the gate fast to make an early statement. Off an offensive-zone draw, Justin Barron was able to snag an errant clearing attempt, keeping the puck deep in the zone. He passed the puck over to Brandon Giganc who fed it right to the tape of Lias Andersson for a tap-in goal.

The Amerks answered right back not even two minutes later on their first shot of the game. Lukas Rousek skated around an attempted poke-check from Barron, before lifting a backhand over the glove hand of Dobeš to tie the game up.

After a pair of roughing penalties to Justin Richards and Mailloux, the Rocket used the extra space and their speed to retake the lead two minutes later. William Trudeau sent Barron toward the offensive zone with a leading pass, with Barron passing it off to Gignac. The Rocket’s leading scorer put the puck back into the slot for Barron, who snapped it over Dustin Tokarski’s glove to restore Laval’s lead.

While it was still four-on-four after Barron’s goal, it soon became a four-on-three situation as Olivier Galipeau was called for roughing, giving the Americans the game’s first power play. Dobeš ended up being the star of the penalty kill for the Rocket, with his diving glove save being the only reason Laval’s lead was still intact after a clear one-timer from Jiri Kulich.

Penalty trouble threatened to put the Rocket’s lead in danger again after the first kill, with a dubious interference call going against Mailloux. Again Dobeš and the penalty-killers were locked in, forcing Rochester into low-percentage chances as they killed off the minor penalty. Seconds after Mailloux exited the box, Giganc drew a call of his own, but was also called for embellishment, creating another four-on-four stint.

Laval again used that extra space to increase its lead, taking advantage of a passive defence in the offensive zone. Xavier Simoneau dropped a pass for Mattias Norlinder, with the Swede knifing his way into the slot and creating a huge rebound opportunity. Mitchell Stephens swept in, collecting the puck and neatly tucking it around the pad of Tokarski to make it a two-goal lead for Laval.

Despite a man advantage of their own, Laval was not able to further their lead as the first period came to a close with the Rocket flying high and a feisty air hanging over the game.

After the frenetic pace of the first period, the second one started off relatively quietly as the sides traded scoring chances but neither really committed to putting its foot down. Then, as most divisional games do, things began to come unglued in rapid fashion. Joshua Roy closed in around Tokarski’s net, earning him a cross-check to the face from Kale Clague. In the scrum that immediately ensued Simoneau grabbed Brett Murray in a tussle while Dobeš exited his own net to stare down Tokarski and lay down a potential challenge between netminders.

When everything was settled and the penalties sorted out, it was the Rocket heading to the power play once again. Laval’s man advantage mixed up the lines a bit between the penalties and just trying to find a spark, but Rochester’s penalty kill had an answer at every turn as the 3-1 scoreline held midway through the second period.

Things returned to their relatively quiet ways following the Rocket power play, with Laval piling up shots, and the Americans being frustrated by Laval’s tenacity on defence. Rochester eventually drew a power play of their own with Riley Kidney going off for tripping, but before they were able to even win the faceoff they took a penalty of their own. Mason Jobst went off for tripping, and it was again a four on four situation for the Rocket, who already had a pair of goals early in the game in the same spot.

The speed of Gignac turned the four-on-four into a four-on-three as Jeremy Davies grabbed him and pulled him to the ice. Davies’s penalty ended up being a backbreaker, as the Rocket again used the extra space with the man advantage to find a fourth goal. Barron saved a puck on the blue line, passing it to Maillet at the goal line. Maillet paused for a moment, then fed it to Roy in the faceoff circle and the rookie winger buried his 13th goal of the year to make it a 4-1 contest.

The third period reverted right back to the insanity of the first period, with Olivier Galipeau and Michael Mersch throwing off the gloves just 15 seconds in. Nineteen seconds after their fight, William Trudeau threw an incredible banked pass through two zones to Maillet, who buried his 11th goal of the year to make it 5-1.

Laval continued to control the flow of play, just content to run out the clock and not put themselves at risk ahead of their game on Saturday. The passiveness wasn’t really punished, even with Davies adding a second Rochester goal off a rebound by Joseph Cecconi.

That was about all the effort Rochester had left in their legs as Laval continued to bleed large chunks of the clock away in the final period. Tokarski was pulled for the extra attacker, and Laval nipped that quickly as Lias Andersson tapped in the empty-netter to close out the night.

Despite the feisty tone of the game all night, the final two minutes passed with little incident, allowing the Rocket to halt their losing streak at just three games.

Final Score: Laval 6, Rochester 2

Laval and Rochester will see each other when the puck drops in a rematch between the two sides at Place Bell today. It is likely that Kasimir Kaskisuo will get the start for the 3:00 PM game.

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