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Rocket @ Canucks recap & highlights: Frustrations continue to mount for Laval

Credit: Arena du Rocket, Inc.

After a frustrating American Thanksgiving week that saw the Laval Rocket lose three straight games outside regulation, the team headed on the road to Abbotsford for a two-game series with the Canucks. Laval again found itself missing key pieces of the offence as Sean Farrell was ruled out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, while Mitchell Stephens was a late recall by the Montreal Canadiens.

In good news for the Rocket, they received three returnees from the injured list with Gabriel Bourque, Emil Heineman, and Philippe Maillet all slotting back into the lineup. Strauss Mann got the nod as the starter for J.-F. Houle, with Jakub Dobeš likely to start on Saturday.

It looked like the Canucks were going to run away with the game early on as Vasily Podkolzin and Sheldon Dries both rang shots off the iron behind Mann inside the first few minutes of the game, but after Dries was denied the Rocket found the back of the net first.

Lucas Condotta fed the puck off a faceoff to Brady Keeper at the point. With a mountain of traffic in front of Arturs Silovs, Keeper was able to put a shot though the bodies and blocker side past Silovs to make it a 1-0 game.

The Canucks stormed right back down the ice following the goal however, forcing Jan Mysak to take a holding penalty and putting the Rocket on a penalty kill. Mann had to be sharp as the Canucks swarmed along the goal line and created multiple chances. Thankfully, Mann was quick to paddle away loose pucks, and the penalty-killers cleared pucks with authority to deny Abbotsford any second chances.

Laval settled into a better rhythm after their successful penalty kill, keeping Abbotsford to low-danger areas and beginning to pressure Silovs more regularly. A long offensive-zone shift saw the Rocket get a change in, and Bourque forcing a puck toward the front of goal. Jared Davidson jumped into the play, forcing a turnover and he followed that up by feeding a backhand pass across the crease. Philippe Maillet was wide open on the receiving end of the pass and easily buried his third goal of the season to make it a two-goal Rocket lead.

Then the Canucks took the game back over, and Laval was totally powerless to slow it down. Off a faceoff, Arshdeep Bains was given all the space in the world to operate and John Stevens had no trouble beating Mann to make it a one-goal contest. That lead soon evaporated as well with Dries driving through the defensive zone, and with Logan Mailloux pulled out of position, Dries buried his chance.

Laval did end the period with a power play that would end up carrying over into the second frame, and a chance to try to take the momentum back in their favour with a potential goal.

That power play goal didn’t materialize for the Rocket as period two got under way. As the play returned to even strength, the Canucks continued to relentlessly push the Rocket around. Even with time and space, the Rocket weren’t able to generate a strong breakout attack, leaving them often defending on their back foot. Even with two power play opportunities, the Rocket found themselves lacking a consistent offensive punch to threaten the Canucks as the game remained tied.

That was until Podkolzin blitzed into the offensive zone with Lucas Condotta defending him one-on-one toward the net. The Rocket forward appeared to have kept Podkolzin to a safe area, but the Canucks forward flicked a shot toward goal that found a gap in Mann’s coverage and put Abbotsford on top 3-2.

Now trailing by a goal, and also down another defender with Nicolas Beaudin exiting the game, the Rocket were trying their best to just get to the intermission. The Canucks continued to bear down on them, and even in the dying seconds forced Mann into a desperation save after a bad turnover in the neutral zone.

Laval got a bit of a break to start the final period as the believed injury to Beaudin turned out to be an equipment malfunction, and the defence was back to full strength for the final 20 minutes. Neither side really seemed interested in wresting control in its favour, but the Rocket presented their opponents with a huge chance thanks to Brandon Gignac taking a cross-checking penalty well away from the play.

The Canucks continued to put the pressure on Mann on the following power play, with Podkolzin trying to add to his goal total. Mann kept it a one-goal deficit as he swallowed up any potential second chances as the game crossed into the final 10 minutes.

Despite getting Beaudin back, the Rocket would then lose Keeper with around eight minutes left to play. Keeper was tracking back to collect a loose puck in the neutral zone, but was tripped up, leading to an awkward fall into the boards, and he needed help to the locker room.

Abbotsford remained content to just chip time away off the clock, as the Rocket struggled to find consistent offensive-zone time to find a tying goal. With just under two minutes left, the Rocket were finally able to get Mann to the bench for an extra attacker. Laval never found a threatening attack as the Canucks hit the empty net to seal another loss for the Rocket.

Final Score: Abbotsford 4, Laval 2

These two sides will meet again on Saturday night with another 10pm Eastern puck drop. Dobeš will likely get the start in net on what is also Abbotsford’s Teddy Bear Toss game.

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