The Laval Rocket traveled to Toronto to face the Marlies at the Coca-Cola Coliseum in a preseason contest in front of an empty arena, defeating their divisional rival 3-1. The decision was made to hold an empty arena game because of the costs associated with opening an arena (vending, security, game-day staff, etc…) were considered higher than their expected audience for a Thursday afternoon AHL exhibition game.
The Rocket started the first period off slowly, as the Marlies were controlling the play with ease. Laval’s fourth line of Nolan Yaremko, Alex-Olivier Voyer, and Jakov Novak, in their first presence on the ice about nine minutes into the game were tasked with winning a DZ face-off, and did so, muscling the puck out to centre ice where they drew a call to stop the Marlies’ momentum. The power play was fruitless, but set the pace for a penalty-filled game on both parts. After then killing their own penalty, the Rocket returned to the man advantage when the Marlies took a too many men penalty. This time the Rocket did not waste their opportunity. They won the faceoff, sent the puck to the blueline for control and position, then Riley Kidney passed the puck to Nathan Légaré who spun around in front of the Marlies’ net and tucked the first goal of the game.
Laval started the second period on fire, holding the puck in the Marlies end for a good two minutes before drawing a call. The Rocket then converted a second power-play goal in the game when Jared Davidson blasted a shot from the point that found top corner for the two-goal lead. Olivier Galipeau took exception to a board battle between Nolan Dillingham and Filip Mešár and went after Dillingham who was unwilling to engage. This drew a call on Galipeau, stopping the Rocket’s momentum and giving the Marlies a power play which they used to convert on their first goal, scored by Jackson Berezowski, to close the gap to one goal. The Rocket continued to get into penalty trouble, first with Galipeau taking his second penalty of the period on a tripping call, then Légaré getting called for slashing. The Marlies had a 90-second two-man power play, but they couldn’t beat backup goaltender Strauss Mann who shut down a few good opportunities to finish off the second period. He took over from Jakub Dobes who started the game but wasn’t really tested in his half of the game.
The third period was all Mann, making save after save, staving off the Marlies’ relentless attack and gripping on to Laval’s one-goal advantage. Finally, eight minutes into a period that was not going their way, the Rocket got their chance on a power play. This led to a goalmouth scramble and, with the goalie down, allowed for Davidson to recover a loose puck and flip it into the net for his second goal of the game to give the team a two-goal lead once again.
Kidney put up three points for the Rocket, where all their goals were scored on power plays, in a strong showing for a player who appeared in control of the game. After the game, head coach Jean-François Houle praised his young player: “Really happy with his game. He’s a skilled player who had a lot of points in junior, we’re going to see if he can do it at the AHL level, he’s very poised with the puck. Davidson also had a lot of points in junior. He scored a couple tonight, he also scored a couple with Montreal, so it’s nice to see those guys produce.”
Mešár and Sean Farrell weren’t factors in this game, but coach Houle liked their game, even though they played limited minutes due to lack of 5v5 play because of all the penalties in this game (12 in total). “I thought that they had a good showing. Both are very skilled players. It’s hard sometimes at the pro level and you may want to get a bit stronger, but those two players have a lot to offer.”
There was some praise for the fourth line from the coach as well saying, “They played a strong game. They are three big boys, pretty physical. It’s nice when you have a fourth line like that who can go in and hit people, they played very well. That’s what you want to see from your depth players.”
Tobie Paquette-Bisson wore a letter for the game. Coach Houle mentioned how they are glad that he is back with the team this season, and that his leadership and experience was missed last year. He is clearly someone that the coach will rely on for his leadership core on such a young squad.
Houle mentioned that these preseason games are an opportunity to see some players at the AHL level to see who can crack the lineup, see what depth the team has, and see who we can be called-up from the ECHL Lions. The Rocket will host the Belleville Senators in their second and final preseason game on October 8.