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Rocket vs. Wolf Pack recap & highlights: Smiles all around as Laval snaps long losing streak

Photo by Laurent Corbeil / Arena du Rocket Inc.

After nine straight losses, the Laval Rocket were finally able to come away with a victory, defeating the Hartford Wolf Pack 5-1 on Saturday afternoon at Place Bell.

The weight of getting their first win off their shoulders was a fitting metaphor for the over 12,000 bears launched onto the ice from the 10,268 fans in attendance for the game. In the end, they take three points out of four against one of the hottest teams in the entire AHL. The Rocket ended Hartford’s eight game point streak (7-0-1).

Hartford opened the scoring 2:14 in when a shot from Blake Hillman bounced around before dribbling past Jakub Dobeš. It was the Wolf Pack’s first shot on goal. The young Czech goaltender bounced back from the bad start, making 25 saves in his best game of the season. It was the first time the Rocket allowed one goal or fewer all season long, in the team’s 23rd game.

The Rocket tied the game just over two minutes later. After a Logan Mailloux shot hit the post, Riley Kidney found the loose puck and put the puck past Olof Lindbom. It was Kidney’s fourth goal of the season. The goal caused the record 12,402 teddy bears to rain down on the Place Bell ice surface on the team’s annual collection drive.

Laval kept momentum after the lengthy delay, with their best scoring chance happening when Brandon Gignac sent half the crowd into a frenzy as his shot hit the side of the net and appeared to have gone in. The Wolf Pack did end up pushing back as well, but Dobeš was solid, responding to his unlucky goal allowed early.

The Rocket had a golden opportunity to take the lead late in the first period. Matt Rempe jumped and hit Xavier Simoneau in the head. Initially, there was no penalty on the play and the whistle only went because Simoneau stayed down. After a long discussion between the officials, Rempe was eventually ejected with a game misconduct and five-minute major for checking to the head. Simoneau came back for the second period.

On the power play, the Rocket had some chances, but nothing that really challenged Lindbom. They only had two official shots on the advantage. In fact the best chance may have been a Hartford shorthanded chance, when Adam Edstrom broke in on Dobeš but the Rocket goaltender made the save.

Dobeš once again came up big early in the second period on a sprawling rebound save on Bobby Trivigno, just getting his pad across in time.

The Rocket went on the penalty kill shortly after. Mac Hollowell and Emil Heineman were battling in the corner when Hollowell’s elbow caught Heineman. The Swede retaliated with a couple of cross checks, the last of which was called.

On the penalty kill, it was Laval who capitalized. Brandon Gignac broke in on the left wing and snapped a shot past Lindbom to give the Rocket a 2-1 lead. It came seconds after a big Dobeš save on Edstrom.

The Rocket doubled their lead 2:29 later when Arber Xhekaj fed Philippe Maillet with a zone entry. Maillet then took a hit to feed a wide open Kidney who made no mistake for his second goal of the game.

Laval continued their strong play with another big play from Gignac and Kidney. Kidney started the rush which sprung Gignac, who then made a perfect pass to Nolan Yaremko, who made no mistake on the shot to give the Rocket a 4-1 lead. It was Yaremko’s first AHL goal of the season.

Dobeš was solid throughout the period, making 10 saves in the second 20 minutes. He was helped by Lucas Condotta, who made a great defensive play to strip Cristiano DiGiacinto on a partial breakaway before he could get a shot off in the period’s dying seconds.

Early in the third period, Maillet had a great chance, but his tip in front hit the post. The iron was struck midway through the period by Emil Heineman. In between, the Wolf Pack had a power play but were unable to capitalize.

Hartford had their best chance to get back into the game with around eight minutes to go in the third period when they had 1:23 of five-on-three power play time. The Rocket did a great job on the kill, not allowing a single shot on goal. There were several blocked shots and getting into passing lanes.

The best chance on the power play came at the end when Lucas Condotta had a great chance in front but was unable to capitalize. Condotta was one of the key penalty killers and made several defensive players throughout the game in addition to getting five shots on goal.

Laval extended the lead to 5-1 when the team won a faceoff to start off the power play. The puck went from Logan Mailloux to Joshua Roy, and Roy’s shot was tipped past Lindbom by Jared Davidson for his second goal of the season.

The Rocket now look to win two games in a row when they head to Pennsylvania for two games next Friday and Saturday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears. It is the start of three straight road games.

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