Laval’s lengthy homestand to start the season wrapped up last week with a four-game set against Manitoba. While they were the better team in all four games, they still only managed to come away with two victories.
The Week That Was
Feb. 22: Moose 3, Rocket 2 (OT) – Jesse Ylonen scored his first AHL goal in this one on a top-shelf shot. Unfortunately, it was past Vasili Demchenko who is one of Laval’s goalies; a failed clearing attempt wound up being a well-placed shot on goal to give Ville Heinola his first official AHL goal. The blueliner scored his first real AHL marker in overtime as they were unable to kill a late Kevin Lynch tripping penalty.
Feb. 24: Moose 4, Rocket 2 – The third period was the problem spot for Laval. After allowing just eight shots over the first two periods combined, they allowed eight in the third alone. That’s not a problem in itself but it is when three of them go into the net. One bright spot was Ylonen actually scoring on Manitoba’s net this time, a goal that gave the Rocket a chance to get back in it but they couldn’t get the equalizer.
Feb. 26: Rocket 4, Moose 3 – Josh Brook had sat the last two games which was notable; while there are too many defencemen, the fact remains that lesser players have been in the lineup every game. Anyway, Brook was back for this one and played like a player who was motivated to not be a healthy scratch again. He was Laval’s best player in this one and picked up the game-winning goal for good measure.
Feb. 27: Rocket 2, Moose 1 – Charlie Lindgren made his second start of the week on his conditioning assignment but with how well Laval played defensively, he wasn’t exactly tested a lot. A shorthanded goal from Ryan Poehling early in the second period wound up being the difference-maker in this one with Manitoba making it interesting late with a goal with two minutes left before Otto Leskinen took a late delay of game penalty.
Goals: Harvey-Pinard/Vejdemo (3)
Assists: Jordan Weal (5)
Points: Vejdemo/Weal/Ylonen (5)
+/-: Otto Leskinen (+10)
PIMS: Baddock/Blandisi (8)
Shots: Jordan Weal (21)
News And Notes
– While Kaiden Guhle and Gianni Fairbrother were able to play early in the week, they had to be sent back to the WHL with that league now getting underway. Even with the moves, they still have nine blueliners on the active roster.
– Kevin Lynch was granted his release at his request in order to be back with his family.
– Michael McNiven and Charlie Lindgren flipped roles at the beginning of the week to get Lindgren some game action. Those moves were reversed on Monday.
– Alex Belzile and Cale Fleury were sent back down from the taxi squad when they were cleared to play. Joel Teasdale and Brandon Baddock were recalled at the time; they’ve since been returned with Hayden Verbeek being recalled to the taxi squad.
Last Game’s Lines:
Blandisi – Weal – Ylonen
Lucchini – Poehling – Harvey-Pinard
Dauphin – Vejdemo – Belzile
Pezzetta – Mysak – Lynch
Olofsson – Fleury
Ouellet – Leskinen
Schueneman – Brook
The Week Ahead
Laval is off this week, a scheduling quirk with them getting eight games in last month. The rest of the 36-game schedule is back out and there actually is a longer break than this one in the second half of April. Since there won’t be a Rocket Weekly piece next week due to them not playing, let’s look at the following week of games.
Mar. 8/10: at Belleville – The Rocket did well in their first stint against Ottawa’s farm team and in another scheduling quirk, the Sens haven’t played since then so there isn’t really much to dig into here. Their starting goalie, Joey Daccord, is currently up with the NHL team (and may start against Montreal).
Mar. 12/14: vs Toronto (one home, one away) – If you wonder why the Habs are carrying six goalies on NHL deals, look no further than Toronto. With injuries in both the NHL and AHL, the Marlies have been forced to use ECHL signings and an ATO between the pipes to get through the season so far. Finding good goalie help is hard to do and depth is crucial. They’re not having much trouble scoring – they lead the division in goals – but they’ve also allowed the most so far.
Kaiden Guhle’s professional debut was short-lived – just three games – but he certainly impressed. Did he do anything to really call attention to himself and stand out? No, but that’s not his game. For someone that’s not truly AHL-eligible until 2022-23, a realistic goal would have been just holding his own on the third pairing. In his first game, it’s clear that was Joel Bouchard’s plan as he was on the third pairing with Xavier Ouellet dropping down to give him some insurance. By the time the second game came around though, he was on the top pairing with Otto Leskinen, a role that was reprised for his final game.
He passed both tests with flying colours by simply playing a simple game. Guhle was steady in his own end, joined the rush at the right times, and made some good decisions on when to pinch and when not to. There weren’t any ‘wow’ moments but that’s fine. He more than fit in as someone that was one of the youngest players in the league. It’s hard to glean much from a three-game sample size but there are certainly no complaints on my end with his performance.