While they dropped their last game on Monday, Laval still managed to pick up five points on the road recently as they creep closer to clinching their first-ever playoff berth although some work still needs to be done on that front.
The Week That Was
Apr. 13: Americans 4, Rocket 3 (OT) – Laval didn’t have much going right for them early as they were down by two after 20 minutes and getting considerably outplayed. To their credit, they were able to bounce back with a pair of power play goals including one from Xavier Ouellet in the third to tie the game and force overtime. Unfortunately, Rochester’s only shot of the extra session eluded Kevin Poulin to give the Amerks the extra point.
Apr. 14: Rocket 6, Monsters 0 – An NBA play-in game in Cleveland moved this game up a day early and it didn’t seem to faze the Rocket at all. They took advantage of a rookie goalie making his first career start for an opponent that sat at the bottom of the conference; Jean-Sebastien Dea led the way with a pair of goals.
Apr. 16: Rocket 4, Monsters 2 – Once again, a big third period made a difference for Laval as they could only muster up a single goal in the opening 40 minutes. They were actually outplayed in the final frame but still managed a trio of goals (one empty-netter) with Nate Schnarr picking up the winner, his second out of three goals in a Rocket uniform. Things got a bit chippy in this one with 78 penalty minutes handed out.
Apr. 18: Senators 4, Rocket 1 – Laval put forth one of their best efforts of the season in this one but their struggles against Mads Sogaard continued. Meanwhile, Cayden Primeau had a tough outing in his first game back on assignment from the Canadiens and that was basically the difference in this one; a 23-shot third period yielded nothing as there were no late-game heroics to be found this time.
Goals: Jean-Sebastien Dea (25)
Assists: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (32)
Points: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (51)
+/-: Dello/Harvey-Pinard (+28)
PIMS: Louie Belpedio (86)
Shots: Danick Martel (165)
News And Notes
– Laval will be without Lukas Vejdemo for a while as he was spotted in a walking boot following the second game against Cleveland. There’s no word yet on how long he’ll miss but he recently underwent an MRI.
– Cayden Primeau was sent back down but that was hardly the only goalie news of the week. Tristan Berube was released from his PTO with Gabe Mollot-Hill serving as the backup for two games. Laval then brought in Owen Savory, an undrafted college player (and teammate of Lucas Condotta) on a tryout deal and he backed up Kevin Poulin for a game as well. Laval is now currently carrying four netminders.
– Rafael Harvey-Pinard was recalled to Montreal on Wednesday, a well-deserved promotion as he’ll get a few games to make an impression on the new coaching staff. Meanwhile, Corey Schueneman was sent back to Laval, giving him a few games to get settled in before the playoffs (assuming they qualify). Meanwhile, Peter Abbandonato was sent back to Trois-Rivieres of the ECHL while defenceman Olivier Galipeau was released from his PTO, permitting him to rejoin the Lions as well.
– Jean-Sebastien Dea has already set a new career-high in goals with 25 and is three points shy of matching his best in that department, set back in 2017-18 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Week Ahead
Apr. 22: vs Toronto – The Marlies haven’t played badly lately (a .500 points percentage in their last 10 games) but with how everyone else in the division has played, Toronto now finds themselves on the outside looking in at a playoff spot. Michael Hutchinson recently returned, giving them a capable goalie (injuries have hurt them on that front this season) while Brett Seney continues to pace the way offensively.
Apr. 23: at Syracuse – No North Division team is playing better lately than the Crunch and Laval lost both road games to them earlier this season. Alex Barre-Boulet has caught former Hab farmhands Gabriel Dumont and Charles Hudon to take over the scoring lead while Max Lagace has carried the lion’s share of the workload over the past six weeks to really help propel Syracuse into a good battle with the Rocket for positioning.
The magic number for Laval to clinch a playoff spot is five – points that they earn or that Toronto doesn’t. That in itself is simple enough but it’s worth noting what that number represents.
The AHL is going with expanded playoffs this season and five teams from the North Division will get in. Three teams get a bye to start while the fourth and fifth teams will face off in a best of three play-in series. That’s what the magic number represents for the Rocket. Technically, they could clinch as soon as this weekend (a regulation win against Toronto almost does it on its own) but even after that, they have a long way to go to lock in the second or third seed (first isn’t happening, Utica will clinch that this week). They have a shot at home-ice advantage in the first round (which is a best of five series) but even after they get an ‘X’ beside their name in the standings, they have a lot to play for in these final couple of weeks.