After knotting up the series over the weekend, Laval returned home to continue their series against Springfield on Wednesday. However, they had by far their worst effort of the postseason, falling 6-3.
The Rocket made a pair of lineup changes in this one. Cedric Paquette took the place of the injured Gabriel Bourque while Joshua Roy made his pro debut in place of Jean-Christophe Beaudin. The team lined up as follows:
Harvey-Pinard – Gignac – Ylonen
Martel – Dea – Belzile
J. Roy – Paquette – Teasdale
Condotta – Abbandonato – Schnarr
Ouellet – Belpedio
Schueneman – Paquette-Bisson
Niku – Dello
Corey Schueneman’s adventurous opening period started off with a tripping penalty. Laval didn’t allow much on the power play and successfully killed it off; as it ended, Schueneman chased down the loose puck in the offensive zone and sent a pass for Joel Teasdale that just missed the mark.
Two minutes after the kill, Sami Niku skated up the left side and did a quick drop pass to Rafael Harvey-Pinard at the top of the faceoff dot. The winger one-timed it and it beat Joel Hofer clean to get the Rocket on the board.
Three minutes later, Schueneman had a brutal giveaway in the defensive zone that proved costly. Nathan Todd intercepted the puck and worked a quick give-and-go with Nikita Alexandrov before lifting it past Cayden Primeau to tie the game. On the next shift, Schueneman blocked a hard slapper with his hand and likely saved a goal as Primeau was out of position. That was a pretty eventful first ten minutes for a blueliner who isn’t typically all that noticeable.
Laval got their first attempt on the power play not long after the midway mark when Dakota Joshua grabbed Alex Belzile’s face and threw him to the ice after the whistle. The Rocket couldn’t do anything with their opportunity and surrendered a high-danger chance when Niku completely whiffed on hitting Will Bitten, allowing the former Hab to skate in on a two-on-one with Alexandrov. Alexandrov received the pass and fired one that Primeau had to sprawl out to get a piece of. Both teams traded chances not long after the penalty came to an end.
The Rocket got another man advantage when Brady Lyle was called for a retaliatory slash on Lucas Condotta. Considering how many other slashes both teams got away with before this call, this felt like a message-sender to tone it down. Harvey-Pinard had a good chance in front seconds into the advantage but Laval couldn’t muster up anything after that.
With just 32 seconds left in the period, Nate Schnarr basically cross-checked Tyler Tucker in the face, earning himself a four-minute penalty for his trouble. Laval killed off the first few seconds, allowing the two teams to skate to the room tied after an eventful opening 20 minutes. The shots on goal were 15-12 for the Rocket.
Laval was doing a good job killing off the carryover penalty before Schueneman was called for delay of game, giving the Thunderbirds a one-minute two-man advantage. Sam Anas had a good chance in close early on but that’s all they had. The Rocket killed off the rest of the penalty but were on their heels after as Springfield was all over them.
Just before the eight-minute mark, Roy decided to keep on a two-on-one and made a nice delay play to get a shot off but Hofer got the pad across.
Then the penalty trouble returned. Danick Martel was called for a needless roughing penalty after the whistle (it was a weak one but it was completely unnecessary). Laval was doing a nice job playing keep-away but as the puck was sent back to the defensive end, Tory Dello’s clear-out landed in the netting above Hofer. Another puck over glass penalty and another two-man advantage, this time for 90 seconds. Springfield had lots of pressure but Primeau stood tall once again.
Unfortunately for the Rocket, all the penalty killing had them on their heels, even at full strength. Eventually, it came back to bite them as with just over five minutes left, Joshua skated out from behind the net right to the slot. His shot was stopped but Hugh McGing was there for the rebound.
Two and a half minutes later, Laval once again was too nonchalant in clearing the puck and the attempt went right to Steven Santini. Primeau stopped his point shot but Bitten was right there to pot the rebound.
However, Schueneman’s adventurous game continued, this time in a good way. After nearly falling and turning it over in the defensive zone, he hustled up the ice where Martel found him with a quick pass in stride and the blueliner skated in and wristed one past Hofer to get the Rocket within one. Considering how poorly they played in the period (beyond the seven minutes of penalty killing), that wasn’t a bad outcome; the shots were 23-8 for the Thunderbirds in the frame.
Unfortunately for Laval, things went downhill pretty early in the third. Just 35 seconds in, a shot from MacEachern on the side boards hit Bitten and went past Primeau. It might have been goalie interference but that’s not challengeable in the AHL.
The Rocket got a golden opportunity on the power play as Santini and Tucker were called for cross-checking 39 seconds apart, giving Laval a long two-man advantage. Aside from Paquette hitting the post early, they didn’t do much. After Santini’s penalty ended, Harvey-Pinard turned it over in his own zone, sending Springfield in a two-on-one. Alexandrov made a perfect saucer pass to a rushing Bitten who tipped it past Primeau for the hat trick.
With the game effectively out of reach, Laval picked up the after-the-whistle activities. Belzile came up out of a scrum throwing punches toward Joshua, earning an extra minor in the process while seeing his night end early. The penalty kill once again did their job although Springfield didn’t exactly have their foot on the gas at this point.
Teasdale was then called for roughing on Santini not long after the Belzile penalty came to an end. Martel had the best chance in the sequence but his shot went wide as Laval’s penalty kill improved to 8/8 on the game.
Houle decided to pull Primeau after the penalty with the hopes of getting something going. However, the lack of attention on defensive zone passes hurt them once again as Jean-Sebastien Dea threw the puck out blindly right to Bitten who potted his fourth of the game into the empty cage to seal the victory. Schnarr added one late to make it look a little more respectable, digging the puck out of a scrum and sending it through Hofer’s pads with 11 seconds left.
HW Rocket 3 Stars
1st Star: Louie Belpedio – He logged the most minutes on the penalty kill and did yeoman’s work in the process. You won’t find him on the scoresheet but it was a very strong performance from the veteran.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 2 shots
2nd Star: Alex Belzile – You can more or less copy Belpedio’s blurb here. He led all forwards in penalty kill ice time and was very sharp in doing so.
Stats: 1 assist, +2 rating, 2 shots, 14 PIMS
3rd Star: Rafael Harvey-Pinard – I didn’t like the giveaway that led to the shorthanded goal which was the nail in the coffin but Harvey-Pinard was much more noticeable in the offensive end. His one-timer goal was impressive and for someone that needs to be better offensively, this was a small step in the right direction.
Stats: 1 goal, -3 rating, 3 shots
Honourable Mention: Joshua Roy – I haven’t mentioned him much thus far so let’s put him here. He didn’t look out of place at all in his professional debut, making some good decisions on the offensive side of things. He also rarely played on his planned line and saw some time with Laval’s top-six forwards. I’m not sure he stays in if Bourque is ready to return Friday but he did well.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 3 shots