Home ice was kind to Laval last week as they returned to their friendly confines and picked up a pair of victories to put them up into second place for the time being in the North Division.
The Week That Was
Mar. 18: Rocket 7, Wolf Pack 4 – It was quite an eventful opening 20 minutes in this one with Laval grabbing the lead on three separate occasions (chasing Keith Kinkaid from the game in the process) only to have Hartford tie it back up within a few minutes. From there, however, Cayden Primeau settled down and took control with a trio of unanswered goals that gave the Rocket some breathing room. Joel Teasdale had his first career hat trick in the victory.
Mar. 19: Rocket 5, Bears 1 – Zach Fucale came into this one with three straight shutouts for Hershey and kept that up for one period before Laval solved him and when they got the first one in, the floodgates opened up as the Rocket scored four times in the second. Cedric Paquette had his first AHL goal since November 1, 2014.
Goals: Jean-Sebastien Dea (17)
Assists: Xavier Ouellet (21)
Points: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (34)
+/-: Tory Dello (+21)
PIMS: Louie Belpedio (71)
Shots: Danick Martel (124)
News And Notes
– Cayden Primeau was sent back by Montreal which led to Tristan Berube being released from his tryout deal. Louis-Philip Guindon was also let go after the games over the weekend.
– Defencemen Nicolas Mattinen and Dominic Cormier have signed tryout agreements. Mattinen has never played in the AHL while Cormier got into one game with Springfield three months ago. With their injuries, Laval had only been carrying six healthy blueliners.
– That number will dip as well as Sami Niku has taken a leave of absence with the pending birth of his child. There’s no timetable for his return. Louie Belpedio is likely to return this week although Tory Dello isn’t 100%. Justin Barron won’t be joining Laval right away either as he will be recalled to Montreal on Wednesday.
– Laval has assigned Alexandre Fortin and Shawn St-Amant back to Trois-Rivieres of the ECHL.
Last Game’s Lines:
Harvey-Pinard – Dea – Roy
Martel – Paquette – Ylonen
Bourque – Gignac – Teasdale
Ducharme – Abbandonato – Beaudin
Ouellet – Belpedio
Niku – Galipeau
Kielb – Amorosa
The Week Ahead
Mar. 23: vs Belleville – The Senators have dropped out of the play-in series but this matchup should appeal to them with Belleville taking five of the first eight games and generally causing Laval some grief. They have a new goalie in their system, one that many should be familiar with as Michael McNiven was acquired at the trade deadline. Michael Del Zotto was brought up which is a nice bonus for the Rocket as the veteran blueliner is averaging over a point per game this season.
Mar. 25: vs Lehigh Valley – These two teams met up less than two weeks ago with the Phantoms pulling off a multi-goal comeback to get the win. Not a lot has changed since then – German Rubtsov was traded away as part of the Claude Giroux deal and the centrepiece of that return (Owen Tippett) went straight to Philadelphia. Lehigh Valley has the lowest points percentage in the conference so this is one Laval needs to get.
Mar. 26: vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – The Rocket caught the Penguins in the second half of a back-to-back earlier this month (it didn’t go well) and they’ll do so again here. Their roster really didn’t change at the trade deadline either as Pittsburgh actually moved away a pair of roster players to get Rickard Rakell, effectively leaving their farm team intact. Valtteri Puustinen and Alex Nylander lead the way offensively for the Pens.
The Habs managed to add a little bit for Laval at the trade deadline although Justin Barron going to Montreal put a damper on that a little bit. Nevertheless, the addition of Nate Schnarr in the trade for Andrew Hammond is a nice pickup for the Rocket, especially considering it was Brandon Baddock – a fourth line tough guy – that they gave up to get him in the first place.
Schnarr got off to a strong start to his season before being injured but still is technically one of Laval’s leading scorers. That said, I think he’ll be more of a checker with the Rocket when everyone is healthy but still play an important role, especially since he’s strong at the faceoff dot. Skating is a concern, however, although it’s better than it was when he was in junior when he was briefly Nick Suzuki’s teammate.
He’s a restricted free agent this summer so he won’t have a lot of time to make an impression on Montreal’s management but he doesn’t automatically come in as someone that’s a likely non-tender in the summer either. That’s a decent return for Hammond who was likely going to be on the outside looking in for playing time when he returned to health. Of course, this deal also helps Utica in that it will allow Nico Daws to return to the minors soon enough. Considering the Comets are in the same division as Laval, it’s a trade that could wind up both helping and hurting the Rocket in the end.