The Laval Rocket know that their defensive zone issues are costing them games, and Friday night’s 7-4 loss to the Rochester Americans was a perfect example of that. The Rocket had moments of solid play, and scored four goals of their own, but ultimately came up short in regulation for the fourth time in six games this season.
“We need to get tighter,” said Rocket forward Brandon Gignac. “We need to read the play off of one another… It is really difficult defensively, it’s costing us games at the moment.”
Rochester opened the scoring shorthanded. While on the power play, Xavier Simoneau was dealing with an agressive Americans penalty kill and tried to make a short one-handed pass to Mattias Norlinder at the blue line. It was intercepted by Lukas Rousek. Rousek was hounded by Norlinder the entire way down the ice, but still managed to keep one hand on his stick and roof the puck over Jakub Dobeš.
Laval bounced back with two goals and took a 2-1 lead. First, Norlinder took the puck at the blue line, used his skating to get into a better position and rifled the shot past Devin Cooley.
Five minutes later, Logan Mailloux fired a shot from the point past Cooley for his second goal in as many games.
After going into the first intermission down 3-2, the Rocket were able to respond early in the second period. Only 30 seconds into the period, Lias Andersson drove the net and the rebound off a Mitchell Stephens shot bounded off him and in to tie the game 3-3. Olivier Galipeau, making his season debut, earned his second assist of the game on the goal.
Midway through the second period, the Americans scored again on the power play. Brandon Biro’s shot got past Dobeš to make it 4-3. Around five minutes later, Isak Rosen tipped a Kale Clague point shot past Dobeš to extend it to a 5-3 lead.
Early in the third period, Laval started with power play in the first minute. They had a lot of zone pressure and chances, but were unable to beat Cooley.
Shortly after, Matthew Savoie, on a conditioning stint, got behind the Rocket defence and fired a shot five hole past Dobeš to make it 6-3.
With the goaltender pulled for a six-on-four advantage, Andersson scored his second goal of the game and his seventh in six games this season with the Rocket. Joshua Roy earned an assist on the goal to keep his hot start going.
Most of Andersson’s goals have come from right around the blue paint.
“It’s a new thing for me scoring from there, but if you want goals in this league you have to go to the net,” Andersson said.
Laval kept trying to put pressure on the Americans, pulling Dobeš again, but with just under five minutes remaining, a William Trudeau point shot was blocked to give Rochester possession, and Jobst scored his hat trick goal to seal the game at 7-4.
Dobeš made 34 saves on 41 shots. The Rocket outshot Rochester 18-11 in the final period, and 42-40 overall.
“With our young players, it’s not easy to come away with wins,” said Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle. “It’s a good team we’re up against and it’s a good learning experience.”
On Saturday, they will travel to Syracuse to face the Crunch and former head coach Joël Bouchard. Only a handful of Rocket players remain from when Bouchard was the team’s head coach, but more prospects have worked with him at rookie and development camps when he was in charge of those teams.
Houle coached with Bouchard in the QMJHL, and the two are friends.
“It’s a special game. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and have a good game,” Houle said.
After starting the season with a slew of healthy scratches, the Rocket’s depth is essentially gone. They only had one extra forward: John Parker-Jones, just recalled from the ECHL and one extra defender: Nicolas Beaudin. Joel Armia and Gustav Lindström have been recalled to the NHL, Gabriel Bourque, Brady Keeper, and Jared Davidson are injured, and Filip Mešar was sent back to the Ontario Hockey League.