After another loss in a game just minutes from victory Wednesday night, the Laval Rocket rolled into a two-game weekend series that saw the Rochester Americans desperate for a way to put the ship back in order. The Rocket hadn’t played badly in the previous games, but a distinct lack of completion hampered their overall strong effort.
J.-F. Houle was still trying to shake up the line-up to achieve those results, starting with the promotion of Xavier Simoneau to the front row along with Brandon Gignac and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. Jesse Ylonen formed a new trio with Anthony Richard and Mitchell Stephens on row two, and on row four Peter Abbandonato and Danick Martel joined the fight. In defense, William Trudeau slipped back while veteran Tory Dello had a night off, behind them Cayden Primeau was back in the net again.
The new lines made themselves felt very early in the game, as the top line pushed the Americans through the neutral zone and deep into the offensive zone, while the second line used its speed to dodge any contact while advancing the puck. The real standout in the early minutes was Mattias Norlinder, who kept the game alive in the offensive zone on several occasions.
Finally, with the puck deep in the Rochester end, a clearing pass was picked up by Danick Martel and Peter Abbandonato was able to collect the loose puck. He came in and scored his first goal of the year through Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to open the scoring.
The Rocket almost gave up the lead when Otto Leskinen sat down to hook and gave Rochester the first power play of the game. Laval’s penalty survived two heavy shots from the post to escape the kill and was still leading the Americans when the period passed halftime. After that, the rocket’s speed made itself felt, first Richard broke in alone and was foiled only by the crossbar, and then Simoneau’s rush forced his opponent to take a penalty behind the net.
Rocket’s power play struggles continued from the previous game as they failed to extend their advantage on their first power play of the night. They finished the period strong, and despite the tied shot counts, it was Laval who carried the game mostly in the opening frame.
A strong start to the second half resulted in an unfortunate goal for Rocket as the Amerks ended the game within two minutes. With Trudeau trapped deep, Rochester quickly countered and despite a dive attempt to stop a pass from Madison Bowey, Brandon Biro was able to convert his chance for a 1-1 draw.
The rocket didn’t let up after the early goal and the bottom six got back to work to regain the lead. Alex Belzile kept a play alive in the offensive zone, then quickly cut back to create a gap in front of him. The Rocket captain advanced at the net before firing a pass straight at Jan Mysak’s tape, which steered him to the back of the net.
After driving teams crazy for most of the year, Simoneau finally found a willing dance partner in the form of 6ft 5in tall Brett Murray. Despite a huge size difference, Simoneau held his own as he scored a judo takedown to end the fight.
It was all Rocket following the fight and they used that momentum to further extend their lead. A thrown-in puck had Richard on his heels and he found Justin Barron open in the gap where he scored his first goal of the year behind Luukkonen to make it 3-1.
The Amerks’ frustration boiled over, resulting in Mitch Eliot being pitted. It took Laval’s power play just 11 seconds to concede as Jesse Ylönen put a pass straight to the tape of Simoneau’s racquet for his first professional goal.
Xavier Simoneau scores his first professional goal on the power play!
He now needs an assist to complete his Gordie Howe hat trick tonight! pic.twitter.com/pMC476jXbS
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 29, 2022
The burst of three goals allowed the Rocket to go into the third period with a solid cushion as they attempted to end their losing streak. The team refused to ease the pressure early in the third period and soon saw their lead dwindle to four goals. A big hit from Madison Bowey on one end allowed the Rocket to launch into an odd rush in which Abbandonato set up Lucas Condotta for a fifth goal.
Just a few minutes later, they scored a sixth goal thanks to Simoneau’s renewed effort in the attacking zone. Corey Schueneman collected a pass from Brandon Gignac and turned it in for Simoneau. The forward quickly returned the puck to Schueneman, who flicked his first of the season.
Even a four-minute penalty couldn’t stem the Rocket’s attack, Richard snagged an intercepted pass and broke away on his own before burying the shorthanded goal.
Lastly, Laval added a four-on-three power play goal in the last minute and Barron completed a skillful passing play for his second goal of the evening to emphatically end the game for the Rocket.
After a frustrating series of games that resulted in losses, the Rocket finally pulled off a full three-way game against Rochester, ending their losing streak in the process. Houle’s line-up changes paid off in large measure, with every single line contributing a goal throughout the game and the new players each dropping three points that night.
Final result: Laval 8, Rochester 1
Laval will face Rochester again today with a puck drop scheduled at 3pm at Place Bell, Kevin Poulin likely to get the start for the Rocket.
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