Laval got off to a nice start to their 2020-21 season as they picked up a pair of high-scoring victories over Belleville with a good mixture of returnees and newcomers leading the way.
The Week That Was
Feb. 12: Rocket 5, Senators 1 – Laval got off to a strong start in the first period but it was quickly negated when former Hab Logan Shaw tied it up in the first minute of the second at one apiece. However, the Rocket took over from there, scoring four unanswered goals including Joel Teasdale scoring in his first professional game after missing nearly two years due to injury and the COVID-related season delays.
Feb. 13: Rocket 5, Senators 1 – This time, a last-minute goal in the first from Belleville squared up the score at 1-1. The good news for Laval is that the rest of the game followed a similar script. Once again, the Rocket put up four answered with Rafael Harvey-Pinard scoring his first professional goal. Lukas Vejdemo scored in the second straight game as well and had the fourth tally that really put the game out of reach both times.
Goals: Blandisi/Vejdemo/Veilleux (2)
Assists: Jordan Weal (3)
Points: Vejdemo/Weal (3)
+/-: Fleury/Leskinen (+4)
PIMS: Baddock/Blandisi (4)
Shots: Yannick Veilleux (8)
News And Notes
– Michael McNiven opted to change to a rather unique goalie number, wearing number three. It corresponds with the date his daughter was born. McNiven is also the last player remaining on the team that was with Laval for their inaugural season.
– Ryan Poehling was sent down to get some playing time but suffered a minor injury in the season opener that kept him out of Saturday’s contest. Alex Belzile and Kaiden Guhle are also day-to-day.
– Montreal assigned Michael Frolik to Laval to get into at least one of their two games this week. He will be recalled in time for Montreal’s next game so his stay will be short.
Last Game’s Lines:
Veilleux – Weal – Harvey-Pinard
Baddock – Dauphin – Lucchini
Teasdale – Blandisi – Ylonen
Pezzetta – Vejdemo – Lynch
Ouellet – Brook
Leskinen – Fleury
Olofsson – Schueneman
The Week Ahead
Feb. 16/19: vs Belleville – Yep, them again. To cut down on travel costs, expect a lot of multi-game matchups this season. The Senators lost Joey Daccord, their starting goalie, to recall with Matt Murray out in Ottawa. Laval has done a good job holding Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, and Filip Chlapik off the scoresheet so far but those three have had considerable AHL success in the past and will probably be heard from in these two games.
After nearly a full year, Laval is back in action and what a strange year it’s going to be. At this point, it’s not even known if there will be a true postseason – there may be some divisional rounds just for playing time but that may be it – so the focus is going to be different. Add to that the fact that there is no ECHL feeder team for the Rocket which has resulted in a 34-player roster although some of those are only allowed to play for a limited amount of time. Some of those extras will hardly play but it’s going to be an interesting balancing act for head coach Joel Bouchard. There are prospects that need playing time for development and others who need to be played to be evaluated for contracts. In the meantime, there’s still hockey games to try to win. I’ve been writing about the AHL since the site launched back in 2003 and I’ve never seen a situation remotely like this. It’s going to be a delicate balancing act for Bouchard and a fascinating situation to follow as a result.