Laval had a rare week with a weak opponent on the schedule and they took advantage of it, beating Cleveland twice but the victories came at a cost.
The Week That Was
Mar. 5: Rocket 5, Monsters 2 – It took a while for Laval to get going but they woke up early in the second period and scored three quick ones to stake themselves to a lead that wasn’t really in jeopardy after that. Jesperi Kotkaniemi finally picked up his first AHL goal with a last-minute empty netter while Yannick Veilleux’s hot streak continued with a two-goal game.
Mar. 6: Rocket 5, Monsters 1 – Laval’s defence really shut down Cleveland over the first half of the game which allowed them to overcome another slow start offensively. This time, it was Jake Lucchini coming up big with a pair of goals in the third to help them pull away while Michael McNiven got the win, his third in as many starts.
Goals: Charles Hudon (27)
Assists: Jake Evans (24)
Points: Jake Evans (38)
+/-: Antoine Waked (+6)
PIMS: Michael Pezzetta (58)
Shots: Charles Hudon (161)
News And Notes
– Jesperi Kotkaniemi suffered an injury to his spleen in the second game against Cleveland and is out for the season. Ryan Poehling missed both games last week and there’s no word on how much longer he’ll be out. To make matters worse, Cale Fleury suffered an undisclosed injury in the warmup on Thursday and sat out both games.
– There was some good news on the injury front at least as Joseph Blandisi and Will Pelletier both returned.
– Defenceman Justin Woods was released from his PTO with Noah Juulsen getting cleared to return.
– Winger Andrew Sturtz was recalled from Maine of the ECHL as a result of Kotkaniemi’s injury. The forgotten part of the Mike Reilly trade had a goal and three assists in seven games with the Mariners.
Last Game’s Lines:
Veilleux – Kotkaniemi – Lynch
Lucchini – Blandisi – Jevpalovs
Alain – Dauphin – Cox
Pezzetta – Sturtz – Waked
Olofsson – Brook
Leskinen – Halbert
Culkin – Lamarche
The Week Ahead
Mar. 11: vs Belleville – After managing to go a whole week without playing the Senators, they’re back on the schedule. (Get used to seeing them a few more times too by the end of the season.) Marcus Hogberg’s return to Ottawa means that Filip Gustavsson has now returned to Belleville who remains tied for the conference lead in points and are the top-scoring team in the league by a mile.
Mar. 13/14: vs Binghamton – Laval is four points behind the Devils for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division so getting a pair of four-point games against them is a good opportunity. Or so it seems. Binghamton has won six straight and 11 of their last 12 games to go from the basement to holding down a postseason position. The Rocket may get a break as Janne Kuokkanen, part of the Sami Vatanen trade, was recently recalled by New Jersey. On the other hand, Zane McIntyre has allowed one goal in three starts since being acquired from Vancouver.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s time in Laval this season has come to an end earlier than anyone would have hoped but it was still a useful experience. He got a lot more ice time than he would have with the Habs and was used in situations he wasn’t before. The results were up and down but that’s to be expected for someone that would be too young for the minors if he was drafted out of the CHL.
For me, the lesson here is that his time with the Rocket shouldn’t be up even though his season is now over. While there were some positive signs, he could certainly still benefit from some time down there to start next year. I’d rather him go through that early and come up midseason over a repeat of what happened this year. All is not lost and it’s not time to call him a bust yet. (Remember, from day one, this was the longer-term projected pick; we all knew Brady Tkachuk would make a more immediate impact.) But with his injury issues this season, his development has been slowed at the very least. Slowed development should mean more AHL time even if it will be in his third pro season. It should be worth it in the end.