After struggling with injuries in the early months of the AHL season, the Laval Rocket suddenly found themselves in bad shape as they headed for a matchup with the Abbotsford Canucks. Nate Schnarr, Gabriel Bourque and Alex Belzile were absent from the forward group, while Mattias Norlinder and Tory Dello were absent from defence.
For head coach J.-F. Houle, with Alex Green moving into defense alongside William Trudeau while forward lines were also mixed up a bit. At net, it was Cayden Primeau for Rocket while the Canucks chose Colin Delia.
With a lineup reconfigured due to injuries, the rocket didn’t exactly jump out of the gate, but the disorganized defense also managed to keep the Canucks at bay for most of the opening minutes.
Abbotsford ended up having the first real chance of the game when Rafaël Harvey-Pinard went into the box to high-stick. After a disastrous performance the previous week, Laval’s penalty takers wiped out the Canucks’ man advantage and allowed Primeau few safe chances when Harvey-Pinard left the box.
Neither side really did much to take control of the game as the Rocket slowly replenished their shot counts, but they didn’t worry Delia. Indeed, their best chance of the third came with just under two minutes to go when Anthony Richard Brandon Gignac came up on the side of the net for a one-timer, but Delia crossed his goal corner to take away what looked like a safe goal. Furthermore, the last minute of half-time passed without incident, leaving the teams deadlocked going into the first break.
While the first half started sluggishly, the second started disastrously for Laval. Deep in the offensive zone, William Trudeau took a swipe that shattered his racquet, but he was not called out by officials. The ensuing chaos saw the Canucks take off in an odd rush, with Guillaume Brisebois ending the playoff while Primeau did his best to cover his net.
After a goal, the Rocket charged back to try and level the game to one and Jesse Ylönen’s speed saw him draw a penalty. On the power play, the rocket hit hard and fast, and it took Rem Pitlick just 12 seconds to knock Justin Barron off the point with a tee shot.
The Canucks immediately regained control and put the Laval defense on their heels, and much like the Rocket, they also scored a power play for their troubles. Mitchell Stephens was called to trip as the Canucks swamped the Rocket Zone. Much like the Rocket, Abbotsford saw the advantage. While Laval’s penalty killers saved 80% of the power play, a long-range shot from Will Lockwood was deflected off Danick Martel’s racquet and off Primeau to restore the Canucks’ lead midway through the second period.
The two teams traded power plays, with neither finding the back of the net, but as the period progressed it looked increasingly like Laval was poised to tie the game a second time. Instead, the defense lay dormant, first allowing Kyle Rau a clean look Primeau had to deny, but then running Lane Pederson through the middle of the ice from the neutral zone to double the Canucks’ lead.
Trailing 3-1 and missing a few key figures, the Rocket needed a strong third period to secure even a point.
Laval came into the final third with a very lively feeling and immediately set up a strange onslaught. Then Xavier Simoneau slotted into a kerfuffle that put the game down to four-on-four. The Rocket used that extra ice to create a handful of chances, but Delia kept Abbotsford’s lead intact while Laval grew more desperate in his attacks.
The Canucks remained a dangerous presence despite playing mostly backfoot, and two big saves by Primeau on open shooters in the slot kept Laval very much alive as the third third passed halftime.
The Rocket repelled another Canucks power play and kept their comeback hopes alive, and thanks to the youngsters on the team they managed to fight their way back into the game. Ylönen called off a play that went back into the defensive zone, allowing the puck to move back on offense. Ylönen took a feed from Simoneau and ran the outline of the faceoff circle to find a shooting lane. He netted a shot which Peter Abbandonato was able to tip to Delia to make it a one-goal affair.
It was all Laval in the final minutes as they pinned the Canucks deep in their own zone, but like many high-risk chances on the night, the finishing touches just weren’t there. Ylönen and Abbandonato had the best looks, which were either blocked away by Delia or blocked by the defense in front of him until the last horn sounded.
Final result: Abbotsford 3, Laval 2
It’s a frustrating defeat for the Rocket, who had lost some of their key players but put on a strong performance when the pressure was increased late. However, big efforts don’t count in the table as Laval lost the game 3-2.
The Rocket now have American Thanksgiving to recover a bit before opening a weekend series against division rivals Belleville Senators.