The Laval Rocket were too nervous in Game 1
The Laval Rocket lost their only home game in this best-of-three series against the Utica Comets, and have only themselves to blame.
The Laval Rocket lost their only home game in their best-of-three series against the Utica Comets, and have only themselves to blame.
The energy of the sellout crowd of 10,275 at Place Bell was impressive at the introductions and national anthems. The Rocket should have fed off of this energy, and overwhelmed their opponent as they had done so many times during the season. Clearly that was the directive, as they were hitting everything that moved, but then players began to chase hits. Utica's first chance of the game came off of a play where Norlinder decided to play the body, missed, and opened a shooting lane.
"Lots of us were gripping our sticks. You have to play with an empty head and not be afraid to make mistakes," admitted Anthony Richard after the game. "The young guys were excited to play in front of a crowd like that, but you can see that for the first few shifts our young defenceman were scared to make mistakes. For the first five to 10 minutes they were way better than us. We never found our rhythm,"
The team struggled to keep its shifts short, with the Comets taking advantage of tired Rocket players on two of their goals.
Utica controlled the pace of the game, playing a cautious, quiet first period, and completely took the crowd out of the game, with the Rocket giving their fans no reason to get involved.
"We should have taken more direct shots," Raphael Harvey-Pinard said when he was asked whether the Rocket looked too much for the perfect shots. "We should have also put more traffic in front of the goalie. He made some good saves, but we made his life too easy."
Players who got the fans out of their seats during the rush for the playoffs, like Jesse Ylönen and Emil Heineman, didn't make noticeable contributions, and the top line of Richard, Peter Abbandonato, and Harvey-Pinard generated little, with the offence shooting directly into blocked lanes over and over.
By the time the Rocket settled down it was the third period, they were down 3-0, and the crowd was simply reacting to the plays on the ice rather than encouraging things to happen. The seventh man was removed entirely from the game early.
"When you don't score, it's tough to get the crowd in there. We tried to get them going with some big hits, but you have to score. We had a few good chances, but we didn't have a consistent chance after chance after chance, with four good shifts in a row. There was a lot of one shift and done. That's something that we need to learn from."
It could have been nerves, or it could have been inexperience, but the Rocket dropped this game by their own doing: long shifts, gripped sticks, and missed shots. It's easy to point to the numerous injuries plaguing the team, missing important elements like Mitchell Stephens, Danick Martel, Nicolas Beaudin, and Madison Bowey, but for the team to come out to such an important game without their usual fire is concerning.
Houle adjusted his lines by the third period in order to try and find a "spark," and he may need to select from his pool of scratched players for the next game on Friday.
"I think that there will be some changes.," Houle offered. "I felt that we didn't win enough battles, and we will need to look at putting other players in the lineup."