Laval had a strong start to their week but a pair of disappointing results at the end sent them to the All-Star break on a bit of a low note.
The Week That Was
Jan. 22: Rocket 3, Crunch 2 (OT) – Special teams for Laval weren’t great in the first period as Syracuse scored both shorthanded and on the power play to get the Rocket down early. However, Laval picked up a power play goal of their own as Phil Varone picked up his second of the season to tie it. While the game ultimately made it to overtime, it didn’t last long as off the opening draw, Charles Hudon got the puck, skated up the ice, and sent it to Jake Evans who potted the winner; it took about as long for that to happen as it did to read this sentence.
Jan. 24: Americans 5, Rocket 2 – Keith Kinkaid hasn’t come up with a big game for a while and this didn’t buck the trend as he coughed up the first three goals of the game, effectively putting it out of reach relatively early on. Charles Hudon was ejected for a blindside interference hit in the third period shortly after Rochester made it 4-1. Laval actually managed to kill the penalty but the damage had already been done.
Jan. 25: Devils 3, Rocket 2 (SO) – Things were looking up early on. Hudon and Laurent Dauphin scored in the second period to give Laval a 2-0 lead heading to the third. However, the inability to preserve leads has been a huge issue for the Rocket this season and it bit them again as Binghamton tied it up. Laval was completely dominant in overtime but couldn’t get the winner past Gilles Senn and it came back to bite them as they dropped the shootout 2-1.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Charles Hudon (20)
Assists: Jake Evans (21)
Points: Jake Evans (30)
+/-: Noah Juulsen (+5)
PIMS: Otto Leskinen (51)
Shots: Charles Hudon (122)
News And Notes
– Dale Weise was recalled as expected to Montreal on Sunday. He didn’t report to Laval while on assignment and the Habs were onboard with that.
– Matthew Peca’s offensive struggles with the Habs have carried over to Laval. He has just three goals in 23 games while his 0.53 point per game average is lower than any of his three full seasons with Tampa Bay’s farm team in Syracuse.
– Gustav Olofsson’s goal against Rochester was his first goal (at any level) since April 4, 2017.
Last Game’s Lines:
Hudon – Evans – Cox
Peca – Varone – Barber
Alain – Vejdemo – Jevpalovs
Pezzetta – Dauphin – Lynch
Alzner – Ouellet
Leskinen – Brook
Olofsson – Folin
The Week Ahead
Jan. 26/27: All-Star Weekend – Despite a lengthy list of players from the North Division withdrawing, Laval still only has just one representative at the All-Star Game in winger Charles Hudon. The Skills Competition goes on Sunday and the divisional three-on-three games on Monday.
Jan. 31/Feb. 1: vs Belleville – The Senators have given Laval fits this season, taking three of four matchups (while losing the other in a shootout). They’re the hottest team in the East at the moment with a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 which has propelled them to the top spot in the conference. The Rocket will likely catch a break though as Drake Batherson was among those recalled back to the NHL on Sunday; he is one of the top scorers in the league this season.
Pretty soon, the Habs and Rocket are going to have to make a call when it comes to Keith Kinkaid. Their original plan for him to back to Laval and get some games in before rejoining the team appears to have gone by the wayside. He hasn’t been much better with Laval than he was with Montreal.
With the Rocket being in a push for a playoff spot, how much longer can they afford to keep alternating starts when there isn’t much cause for optimism that Kinkaid will rebound? How much longer can they justify keeping Michael McNiven in the ECHL when his performance in the past with Laval was better than what Kinkaid has done this season? At some point, they’ll need to decide whether or not to apportion more starts to Cayden Primeau or if it’s time to go back to three goalies with McNiven coming up and taking over the number two role.
They’ve been patient with Kinkaid but the results aren’t there. At some point, the playoff race has to take priority over veteran respect. That point has to be coming soon.