MONTRÉAL – The Laval Rocket closed out an eight-game homestand Saturday afternoon. The Rocket also wrapped up a four-game series against the Manitoba Moose on a back-to-back set Friday and Saturday with back-to-back wins.
The third meeting between the Moose and the Rocket started with the same pace as the last two – hard and fast. The Moose draw first blood in the opening five minutes of the game. Declan Chisholm took a feed from Nathan Todd and found the back of the net through traffic at the blue line. However, less than a minute later, the Moose found themselves on the penalty kill against the Rocket for the first time since Monday. Kristian Reichel tripped up Laurent Dauphin as he crossed into the offensive zone and put his team a man down. The Rocket power play came up short, and the teams returned to even strength with no changes on the scoreboard.
Play continued how it had gone in the previous two matchups between these two opponents – trading both time in one another’s zone and hits. In the closing minutes of the period, both squads focus most of their efforts on chasing one another out of their respective zones. In the midst of this, Corey Schueneman knocked a stick out of an attacker’s hands and spent two minutes in the box for slashing. This time around, special teams did change the score, but not for the team with the man advantage.
Gustav Olofsson buried a puck behind Moose goaltender Mikhail Berdin thanks to a smart pass by Joseph Blandisi and a strong shorthanded forecheck. The Moose and the Rocket took a one-all tie to the dressing rooms for the first intermission.
When the puck dropped for the second period, the Rocket still had a little time left on the penalty kill but held the Moose power play scoreless. No changes were made to either team’s play style, both sides continuing to play high-intensity, fast-paced hockey. The Moose went down a man once again early in the period when Jonathan Kovacevic served two minutes for tripping. The Rocket made no mistakes on the ensuing power play when Jesse Ylönen caught a loose rebound and rifled it past Berdin.
With that goal, the Rocket ramped up the pressure, taking shots from just about anywhere. At the same time, the Moose stuck to their guns and played the way they had been – the way that made them successful against the Laval squad in their two previous meetings.
Just over halfway through the period, Lukas Vejdemo took a holding penalty through the neutral zone. The Rocket were once again on the penalty kill. In the waning seconds of their second power play, Cole Maier capitalized on the man advantage. He evened the score back up with a shot off of Cayden Primeau’s stick that made its way across the goal line.
There are a handful of things you can count on in life: death, taxes, and these two teams closing out a period by magnifying the physicality they’ve played the entire game with. The Rocket broke the mold just a touch by camping out in the offensive zone to wait out the siren that sent them back to the dressing room.
The puck dropped on the game’s final frame, and once again, both troupes began the same way they closed the previous. Rocket forward Kevin Lynch again breaks the tie with his first of the season with help from a strong forecheck by the Swedes, Olofsson, and Vejdemo. The go-ahead goal seemed to be permission enough for the Rocket to heap more pressure in the offensive and neutral zones. They launched as many pucks as possible at Berdin, jumped on the rebounds, and became nuisances around the front of the net.
The Moose pushed back, searching for the equalizer. Thirteen minutes into the period, they found it when Cole Perfetti intercepted a pass and beat Primeau to level the score. Thirty-eight seconds later, Josh Brook puts one past Berdin to regain the lead, and the race to the finish line begins. The Moose searched desperately for yet another goal to force overtime. Still, they were met by a goalie determined to deny them the satisfaction. Manitoba pulled Berdin in favor of an extra attacker, and still, Laval refused to bend.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Rocket had beaten the Moose for the first time this season, 4-3, and finally had some momentum to carry into the next meeting; they wouldn’t have to wait long – the teams squared off again Saturday afternoon.
Une belle victoire de 4-3 pour le Rocket contre le Moose. On reprend ça demain après-midi!
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 27, 2021
Friday marked the last game of the season for defenseman Kaiden Guhle, who was on loan to the Rocket from the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League. While waiting for the WHL to resume play, Guhle suited up for three games with the Rocket this season after a dominant performance with Hockey Canada at this year’s World Junior Championships.
After the game, Guhle packed up his gear and cleared out his stall to make his way back to Prince Albert. He was named the 44th captain of the Raiders on Tuesday.
At the start of the first period, it was evident that both teams were on the tail-end of a back-to-back set. The short break between games wasn’t enough to keep both teams from playing with the bruising style we were accustomed to seeing throughout the series.
As both sides settled into the game’s pace, the speed and physicality picked up, and the game looked almost like a carbon copy of Friday night’s tilt. Both squads let themselves get comfortable in the other’s defensive zones. The Rocket launched a barrage of pucks at Moose goaltender Arturs Silovs. It wasn’t long before Vejdemo buried a pass from Alex Belzile and Otto Leskinen through traffic to give the Rocket an early lead.
The Rocket choked the Moose, not allowing a shot on goal by the visitors until well into the 14th minute of the game.
The period seemed to fly by, uninterrupted by whistles until Jordan Weal was assessed the game’s first penalty for interference in the last five minutes of the period. The Rocket penalty kill kept the Moose off of the scoresheet and the period came to a close with the Rocket holding the lead.
The second period was barely underway when Olofsson took Laval’s second penalty of the afternoon. The Rocket once again stymied the Moose’s man advantage. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard connected with Ryan Poehling as the penalty expired to extend the lead. The Moose gave the Rocket another chance on the power play when Kovacevic took a slashing penalty – the penalty killers came out victorious.
The Moose used the momentum they gained from holding off the Rocket to press harder. Still, Laval continued to stifle Manitoba’s shooters.
Reaffirming Laval’s penchant for late penalties, Cale Fleury – back in the lineup after spending some time on Montréal’s taxi squad while recovering from an injury – was sent to the box for interference. The Moose were once again unsuccessful a man up, and the buzzer sent the two clubs off with the Rocket still holding on to a two-goal lead.
The third period picked right up where the second left off, with both teams continuing to push for goals and meeting the other with the same intensity. This drive led to the Moose’s best scoring chance of the game. Rocket netminder Charlie Lindgren over-committed to a play and found himself too far out of the net. The visitors were denied, however, when fellow St. Cloud State alumnus Poehling covered for Lindgren and denied the Moose the chance.
As the period progressed, the exertion of playing such hard-hitting and fast-paced hockey started catching up with both squads. Both sides gassed, the play starts showing the tell-tale signs of exhaustion – skaters slowed down, and passes stopped connecting. Even still, as the final minutes rapidly approached, the Moose ratcheted up the pressure on the Rocket. The Rocket continued to skate with them and dish back the hits they receive.
In a bid to break the shutout, the Moose pulled Silovs and added an extra attacker. This time, they were successful. Tyler Graovac buries the puck, and Manitoba pulls within one with two minutes left in the game. As the Moose looked to add another and even up the score, the Rocket held them off.
In the final minute of the final frame, Leskinen shot the puck over the glass and out of play, and the Moose had less than a minute to pull out a special teams miracle. They were ultimately unsuccessful, and Laval came away with their second win against the Moose in as many days to maintain their position atop the Canadian Division, with a 2-1 win.
Le Rocket complète son séjour de 8 matchs au Centre Bell avec une victoire de 2-1 contre le Moose.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 27, 2021
The Laval Rocket play their next game on March 8 at 7 pm EST against the Belleville Senators at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. The next tilt against the Senators will be the Rocket’s first game away from the Bell Centre this season.