Less than 24 hours after a thrilling overtime victory on Friday, Laval was back at it on Saturday for Game 5 against Springfield. They got off to a good start but couldn’t hold on from there, eventually falling 3-2 in overtime.
Following an eventful Game 4, Jean-Francois Houle opted to make one change by choice as he went back to a usual 12/6 alignment. That means that Gianni Fairbrother came out of the lineup with Kevin Roy (not Joshua) drawing in. Nate Schnarr was unable to play due to injury so Jean-Christophe Beaudin drew in for him as well. All four forward lines changed as well and were as follows:
Harvey-Pinard – Paquette – Belzile
Bourque – Dea – K. Roy
Teasdale – Martel – Ylonen
Condotta – Beaudin – Smith-Pelly
Ouellet – Belpedio
Schueneman – Paquette-Bisson
Niku – Dello
Things didn’t get off to a good start for the Rocket as Alex Belzile tripped Dakota Joshua on the opening shift and Springfield had plenty of puck control on the delayed penalty before the whistle went mistakenly about a minute later. The power play was relatively quiet, however, although Sam Anas had a good backhander late that Cayden Primeau was able to swallow up.
Less than a minute after the penalty ended, Laval had their first good chance. Jesse Ylonen set up Cedric Paquette with a quick drop pass but his shot drew iron and stayed out.
Just past the eight-minute mark, the Thunderbirds were called for too many men but the Rocket had a quiet first man advantage of their own. As the power play was expiring, Will Bitten and Nikita Alexandrov went in on a two-on-one with Bitten feeding Alexandrov for a good shot that Primeau got a piece of. Alexandrov poked away at Primeau after the whistle, earning himself a slashing penalty for his troubles.
On the ensuing power play, Springfield went in on another two-on-one but Rafael Harvey-Pinard hustled back to break it up. That proved to be critical as moments later, Sami Niku’s point shot went off Harvey-Pinard and past Charlie Lindgren to open up the scoring.
The Rocket looked like they were going to double their lead a minute later when Joel Teasdale sent a perfect saucer pass to Ylonen on a two-on-one. Ylonen had a well-placed redirect but Lindgren stretched out and just got a piece of the shot with his left pad.
With four minutes to go, Klim Kostin high-sticked Niku, giving Laval another power play. This one was short-lived, however. Springfield got control early with Mackenzie MacEachern getting a shot off ten seconds in. Primeau covered it up but Joshua’s skate hit Primeau, setting off a bit of a scrum, one that saw Belzile shove Joshua to the ice and then started swinging. Joshua got two for goalie interference and Belzile received four for roughing, ending the advantage early. Laval killed off the eventual 10-second Springfield power play to make it 20 straight kills to start the series and headed to the room with a 1-0 lead. Shots on goal in the opening period were 11-8 for the Thunderbirds.
Laval had a rare five-on-two break in the opening minute of the second but didn’t execute it well as all they got out of it was a weak shot from Louie Belpedio. To be fair, that’s not a play that teams practice.
Roy didn’t exactly reward Houle’s faith in him as he took a completely needless boarding penalty on Calle Rosen just 30 seconds later. Brady Lyle made a nifty move to get from the point to the slot but couldn’t get a shot off as Laval killed off the penalty.
The Rocket then got another crack on the power play just shy of the eight-minute mark when Nikita Alexandrov was called for a hook on Belpedio. Jean-Sebastien Dea had a good chance from the slot halfway through that was stopped while Primeau came up big on a two-on-one the other way, stopping former Hab farmhand Matthew Peca.
With eight minutes left in the period, Xavier Ouellet’s point shot bounced to Harvey-Pinard who was on a tough angle. Knowing that, he quickly fired it towards the crease and was rewarded for it as his pass went off Lyle and in to double Laval’s lead.
On the next shift, Dea went off for a high-stick on Bitten, giving the Thunderbirds another power play although it was once again quiet. They were able to score a minute later, however, as James Neal set up Nathan Todd for a one-timer at the top of the faceoff dot that beat Primeau. Springfield nearly tied it up on the next shift when MacEachern’s backhander caught the post.
At this point, the Thunderbirds were in control and forced the fourth line into a long shift late in the period that they were able to escape. However, in the final minute, Belzile was called for his fourth minor of the night as he tripped Tommy Cross. While Springfield didn’t score, they were able to carry over more than a minute of power play time into the third. Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds doubled up the Rocket on the shot counter at 16-8 for the period; Laval was fortunate to still be up the way they were playing.
Springfield was quiet on the carryover power play though so Belzile was off the hook. The Thunderbirds got another chance soon after when Paquette was called for a high-stick on Joshua. Havey-Pinard had the best chance of the two-minute stretch but the puck was poked away on his net drive. While Springfield didn’t score on the advantage, they had extended pressure for several shifts afterward.
Just past the midway mark, Gabriel Bourque made a nice spin pass to Lucas Condotta who quickly sent it to Tobie Paquette-Bisson on the rush but his shot went wide. It wound up being Laval’s best chance of the period.
The Rocket got another power play when Kostin went off for interference on Dea. The power play looked decent but Niku missed badly on a hit on Bitten, sending him in on a break. Fortunately, he fumbled the puck but seconds later, Niku hooked Bitten, negating the rest of the advantage. Once Springfield got their chance, Bourque made a big block that shook him up.
Laval killed it off but on the next shift, Joshua’s wrister hit Paquette-Bisson and changed direction. Primeau wasn’t able to pick it up quick enough and the puck slowly flew over his glove to tie the game with less than five minutes left in regulation.
Springfield kept up the pressure as Laval was in their own end for long stretches at the end of regulation. The Rocket did have one chance late, however, as Danick Martel had a good shot through a screen with less than two minutes left but Lindgren tracked it and made the stop. The buzzer sounded with the game tied at two and just like the night before, off to overtime they went. The shots on goal were 9-4 for the Thunderbirds in the period.
Just past the one-minute mark of overtime, Dea’s clearing attempt failed, allowing the puck to work its way to Kostin who had some time to step into one but Primeau made the stop. The Thunderbirds continued to carry the play early – similar to how things went in regulation – but Laval held on.
A little before the halfway point, the Rocket looked like they were going to end it. Bourque did a quick drop pass to Corey Schueneman who, instead of shooting, sent it cross-ice to Martel who had a wide-open net but couldn’t get a shot off.
Three minutes later, Schueneman had another key pass but it went right to Nathan Todd in the slot but Primeau made the stop and got the rebound as well. Three minutes after that, Devante Smith-Pelly led a two-on-one with Dea but his pass missed. Seconds later, Dea was sprung on a break but Lindgren made the pad stop.
That proved to be a key save as with less than two minutes left in overtime, Springfield started to pressure again and this time, the Rocket couldn’t hold on. Peca was able to slide a quick pass to an open James Neal in the slot and the veteran was able to fire it past Primeau to give the Thunderbirds the lead with the series heading back to Springfield for Games 6 and 7 (if necessary). The shots in the extra frame were 11-6 for the Thunderbirds.
HW Rocket 3 Stars
1st Star: Rafael Harvey-Pinard – It has taken a while but Harvey-Pinard has figured out how to make his mark in this series. He had both of Laval’s goals in this one and made the key defensive play that led to his first goal. He was shaken up a couple of times in this one which will be worth remembering for Monday’s contest.
Stats: 2 goals, even rating, 4 shots
2nd Star: Cayden Primeau – This was a game that Laval had no business being in. None. They were trying but they were clearly out of gas after the first period. Primeau did everything he could to keep them in it and it’s hard for the Rocket to ask for anything more out of him.
Stats: 44 saves on 47 shots, 2.29 GAA, .936 SV%
3rd Star: Louie Belpedio – The top pairing of Belpedio and Xavier Ouellet had some rough moments on Friday but they were much better in this one. Belpedio made some good reads on when and when not to force the issue offensively and in a game where Laval once again struggled with breakout passes, he got most of his through.
Stats: 1 assist, even rating, 3 shots
Honourable Mention: Xavier Ouellet – Basically, it’s the same blurb as Belpedio. The captain was much better after making some brutal giveaways over the last two games and they’ll need that stability as they look to win two straight on the road to keep their season alive.
Stats: 1 assist, even rating, 2 shots