Laval drops a goalie duel in Cleveland

Jan 28, 2023 - 11:00 AM
Laval Rocket

Following a hard-fought 2-1 loss to the Belleville Senators on Wednesday night at Place Bell, the Rocket headed out on the road for a two-game stint in Ohio against the Cleveland Monsters.

They did so without Kevin Poulin and Gabriel Bourque, both of whom were nursing minor injuries after a busy month of games. While Riley McKay was called up as a spare body, he was left out of the lineup in favour of John Parker-Jones, while Philippe Desrosiers served as Cayden Primeau’s backup.

Laval jumped all over the Monsters right out of the gate, firing multiple shots on Jet Greaves before Cleveland managed to clear their lines. Then, it was two of the hottest players on the team who combined to give the Rocket an early lead.

William Trudeau sent Brandon Gignac ahead into the offensive zone, and Gignac left the puck off for Joël Teasdale. The Rocket winger grabbed the puck, circled back toward the slot, and snapped his 12th goal of the year past Greaves for a lead just over four minutes into the game.

Following the Teasdale goal, the teams ended up trading power plays with varying degrees of success. The Rocket had their looks, but gave up two short-handed rushes that were stoned by Primeau. The Monsters saw their man advantage stymied by the Rocket penalty-killers, leaving Laval leading as the period neared its final minutes.

Fresh off the penalty kill, the Rocket drew their second call of the night thanks to the hustle of Xavier Simoneau in the offensive zone. Again the Rocket man advantage was all over the Monsters, but Greaves was quick with the pads to frustrate Laval’s attackers and to keep the lead at just one goal.

It seemed that Laval was going to enter the first intermission with a solid hold on the game. Parker-Jones, however, took a penalty giving the Monsters a power play with 31 seconds left. The Rocket nearly escaped the period, but Trey Fix-Wolansky blew a shot by Primeau’s glove with one second left on the clock to spoil a strong period.

The late goal gave Cleveland the momentum heading into the second period, and if not for Primeau being absolutely dialed in, the Monsters likely would have jumped ahead by at least two goals. The wind even appeared to be taken out of the sails of the Laval power play as they struggled to establish an attack while the Monsters continued to push them back down the ice.

With the Monsters pushing, a delay of game penalty on Anthony Beauregard put the Rocket in a high-leverage situation, and in need of a strong penalty kill. The Rocket put in a strong shift against an aggressive Cleveland man advantage, with Primeau doing a great job of preventing any sort of second chance in front of goal.

It was then Greaves’s turn to deny the Rocket with some incredible last-second saves, first denying Lucas Condotta on the power play, then following that up by going post to post and stonewalling Ryan Francis on an odd-man rush to leave the game tied heading into the intermission.

The Rocket broke the deadlock early in the third period thanks to some hard work from Simoneau once again. He battled for the puck, got it in his possession, and fed it to a wide-open Mattias Norlinder in the offensive zone. Norlinder walked into the faceoff circle and rifled a shot just under the bar for his first goal of the year.

The lead was short-lived for the Rocket. Just over two minutes later Joona Luoto circled deep in the offensive zone searching for a wraparound chance. His shot ramped up off of Primeau’s stick and into the back of the net to make it a 2-2 game.

What followed the second Monsters goal is what many describe as “throwing everything but the kitchen sink” at the goal. The Rocket attacked in wave after wave, creating havoc in front of the Cleveland net. Greaves refused to budge, denying multiple chances with a quick gloves and even quicker pads to keep the game tied heading into the final minutes of regulation.

Despite the Rocket’s best pushes, the game went to overtime with a second point on the line. With the Monsters pushing in overtime, a penalty on Anthony Richard left the Rocket short-handed and without their most dangerous penalty-killer. Improbably, the Rocket survived the penalty kill, with a huge assist to the crossbar for deflecting a Fix-Wolansky shot out of play.

The luck wasn’t there for the Rocket as Richard exited the box. Josh Dunne was able to deflect a point shot with his skate by Primeau to steal a second point for Cleveland. The officials reviewed the play to make sure it wasn’t a kick, and at the end of it the result was the same, sealing a tough defeat for the Rocket.

Final Score: Cleveland 3, Laval 2 (OT)

There isn’t long for the Rocket to dwell on the loss, as these two teams will meet on Saturday night to close out the weekend series.

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