Rocket vs. Crunch recap & highlights: Rem Pitlick, Jesse Ylönen steer Laval to a dominant win

For a second straight game, the Rocket kept their composure to secure a big divisional win.

After these two sides met earlier in the week with Laval securing an emphatic win, it meant that Friday night’s game with the Syracuse Crunch was sure to be heated. The Rocket made no lineup changes, while the Crunch opted to start Jack Lafontaine and inserted forward P.-C. Labrie in the mix.

The pace through the opening seven minutes was frenetic for both sides as the Rocket used active sticks to pick off errant passes and create chances on the rush. The Crunch preferred to try to set up a cycle against Laval’s makeshift bottom six. Both Kevin Poulin and Lafontaine were sharp, calmly stopping shots thrown their way to keep the game without a goal.

After the Rocket failed to capitalize on the game’s first power play, the Crunch swung the momentum in their own favour. A shot was saved by Poulin, then slowly trickled toward the line but the Rocket netminder was able to sweep it away with his stick. The Crunch weren’t done though as Declain Carlile fired a shot that appeared to hit the crossbar and bounce away from goal. However, after a stoppage in play, the officials went back, reviewed the shot, and ruled the puck had crossed the line, making it 1-0 Syracuse.

The stoppage that led to the review was due to a Crunch penalty though, giving the Laval power play a chance to tie the game up with a response. Despite the best efforts of Pierrick Dubé, the man advantage came up short, leaving the Rocket still trailing by a goal entering the final minutes of the opening period.

Then, as most games between these two clubs do, the game turned nasty with Labrie getting his pre-game wish by drawing John Parker-Jones into a lengthy tussle, with the big rookie getting the better of the long-time AHL vet.

The following shift, William Trudeau took exception to an extra poke at Poulin by Jack Finley, kicking off another scrum and both players taking a seat for roughing. While at four-on-four, the speed of Peter Abbandonato drew a third power play for the Rocket, and it was inches from converting at the horn as Jack Lafontaine got his arm on a blistering shot from Jesse Ylönen.

While the power play didn’t cash in to start the period with their abbreviated advantage, it gave them all the push they needed to tie the game. Tory Dello put a shot on net, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard dug it out from under Darren Raddysh, and lifted a shot short-side.

The Rocket goal seemed to rattle their opponent enough to take full control of the game rather quickly. Lafontaine was strong against the offensive attacks, while the Rocket did an impeccable job of supporting each other in the defensive zone to get pucks out quickly.

Eventually the Crunch took another penalty against Peter Abbandonato, however the man advantage never got on the ice. A long stretch pass from William Trudeau hit Joël Teasdale in stride, and Teasdale made a quick move to cut to the net and leave his defender in his dust. Teasdale was then able to quickly snap a shot under Lafontaine’s glove and put Laval in the lead.

Laval was flying to end the period, with William Trudeau dangling through the Crunch defence and just missing a shot high, which was then followed by Ylönen hammering a shot just wide of goal as well. Just after Teasdale missed a cross-ice set up from Mattias Norlinder, the Rocket came unglued enough to take a cross-checking penalty with two seconds left in the period. A big third period loomed for Laval with a penalty to kill, made more difficult without one of their top penalty-killers as Tory Dello left the game with an injury.

Laval’s penalty-killers put in a heroic effort to get through the opening minutes for the third period. It was made more impressive without Dello, and with Corey Schueneman sitting in the penalty box. Santino Centorame blocked a huge shot, shattering his stick in the process, and playing bravely without a stick in the face of the Crunch power play.

Then, as these games have often done before, things turned ugly in all facets. As Harvey-Pinard went for a puck in the defensive zone, Gabriel Fortier hammered him face-first into the boards. A massive melee broke out as Harvey-Pinard was helped off the ice and Fortier was sent to an early shower with a game misconduct for the hit.

The Rocket power play didn’t need much of the major penalty to add to their one-goal lead. Ylönen and Norlinder commanded the puck around the zone, with Norlinder firing a low shot-pass to the net and Pitlick popping home the rebound.

Syracuse continued to take penalties, eventually resulting in a Rocket five-on-three power play. Ylönen again was the catalyst, running the two-man advantage like a seasoned pro, and his feed to Belzile quickly made it a 4-1 game.

The Rocket kept their composure as they attempted to see out the rest of the game. A late penalty kill threatened to let the Crunch back into the game, but an attempted goalie goal by Kevin Poulin seemed to stymie the momentum. Eventually Olivier Galipeau fired home an empty-net goal to firmly secure a second straight win for the Rocket.

Final Score: Laval 5, Syracuse 1

There’s a short break for the Rocket as they don’t play again until January 3, against the Manitoba Moose at Place Bell.

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