While the week ended on a disappointing note, it was still a good showing for Laval in the second half of their road trip as they managed to pick up three of a possible four points off the top team in the AHL.
The Week That Was
Feb. 2: Rocket 4, Comets 2 – It wasn’t a good start for Laval as they were down by a pair after 20 minutes. However, this team has shown a knack for coming back (perhaps the NHL team could take some notes on that front) and Danick Martel was able to cut the deficit in half heading into the third. From there, Alex Belzile tied it (plus added an empty-netter) while Rafael Harvey-Pinard’s power play marker gave them the win. The Rocket had four shots in the final frame and scored on three of them, that’s something you don’t see very often.
Feb. 4: Comets 3, Rocket 2 (OT) – Things got off to a very similar start in this one – Utica scored twice in the first and a Laval goal in the second (this time from Tory Dello) cut the gap in half. Corey Schueneman’s point shot just before the halfway mark of the third tied it up, allowing them to get a point. However, Alexander Holtz scored just 21 seconds into overtime, resulting in a celebration that eventually drew the ire of Brandon Baddock who then initiated a bit of a brawl, one that resulted in 85 penalty minutes and a misconduct penalty given to Utica head coach Kevin Dineen.
Feb. 5: Senators 6, Rocket 1 – Laval was banged up and tired and it showed basically from puck drop. Laval only had 11 healthy forwards available – in related news, Jake Lucchini scored for Belleville in this one, a forward the Rocket gave away for free – so the lines were jumbled once more. Jesse Ylonen had a goal on the power play in the third to stop Mads Sogaard from getting what would have been his first career AHL shutout.
Goals: Dauphin/Dea (11)
Assists: Jesse Ylonen (12)
Points: Jesse Ylonen (19)
+/-: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (+10)
PIMS: Brandon Baddock (77)
Shots: Danick Martel (80)
News And Notes
– Lukas Vejdemo returned after being sent down from the taxi squad – which no longer exists, by the way – but his return was short-lived as he was injured in the first game against Utica. Alex Belzile and Jean-Sebastien Dea were injured in the second game against Utica. There’s no timetable for a return for any of them.
– Cam Hillis was recalled from Trois-Rivieres of the ECHL which will bring Laval back to 12 healthy forwards.
– The timing for these injuries aren’t great as Laval has the most games remaining of any team in the division and that’s including teams that opted to play 76 games instead of 72 (yes, teams had a choice of how many games to play this year).
– With a plus/minus rating of -17, Gabriel Bourque has the seventh-worst mark of anyone in the AHL this season, a group that spans 1,148 players. (Five of the six ahead of him all play for San Jose.)
Last Game’s Lines:
Bourque – Martel – Roy
Harvey-Pinard – Abbandonato – Ylonen
Baddock – Beaudin – Teasdale
Fortin – Smith-Pelly
Ouellet – Belpedio
Fairbrother – Paquette-Bisson
Schueneman – Dello
The Week Ahead
Feb. 9/11/12: vs Syracuse – It will be a battle for seeding in the Atlantic with fourth-place Laval hosting Tampa’s affiliate who sits fifth in the North Division. The Crunch continue to be led by former Montreal farmhands Gabriel Dumont and Charles Hudon while former NHL defenceman Jason Garrison signed with them recently. The Rocket will be getting Syracuse at basically full strength as aside from Jimmy Huntington, none of their other regulars are presently up with Tampa Bay.
While Laval is once again banged up when it comes to their forwards, they’re about to get a big boost defensively with Sami Niku set to report now that the NHL’s All-Star break is over while Josh Brook is getting close to returning as well. All of a sudden, Laval’s back end will be among the strongest in the AHL and head coach J-F Houle is going to have some fun trying to keep everyone happy. Who comes out?
Gianni Fairbrother could take a game off here and there just as some rest as he works his way through his rookie season but it’s not as if he has done anything to warrant being sat down. Corey Schueneman is someone that they need to get a longer look at to see if he’s someone that can be in consideration beyond this season, and Tobie Paquette-Bisson has been one of the unsung heroes for Laval this season. At this point, he might be the odd man out based on organizational orders (prioritize the NHL-signed players) but he deserves to stay in as well.
The good news is that the logjam should be short-term. Ben Chiarot, Brett Kulak, and Chris Wideman are all rentals that could be moved and who knows what happens with Jeff Petry, he could be gone as well. That will result in a few guys having to come up from Laval (unless other defencemen are part of the return for salary cap purposes) so it’s an issue that will eventually settle itself. But boy, over the next few weeks, the battle for ice time on Laval’s back end could certainly be interesting.