It’s been a grind of a month for the Laval Rocket with only two of 13 games at the Bell Centre and the final eight played out over a span of a mere 12 days. The Rocket proved to be road warriors though as over the eight game swing in Alberta and Manitoba, Laval took 15 of 16 points as they were 7-for-8, with the only loss coming in a shootout with the Moose.
That loss to the Moose came in the opening game of their four game set, then Laval rolled off a trio of wins to close out the road trip. The Rocket return home in first place in the Canadian Division with 32 points, well ahead of the second place Stockton Heat with 19. In the conference, Laval sits in fourth place.
In the second game of the series Cayden Primeau earned his first shutout of the season in a tight 1-0 win where Joel Teasdale’s tally at 2:47 of the first period stood the test of time. Primeau turned aside 19 Manitoba shots to record the clean sheet but shares the effort with his defence corps. “They were in our zone quite a bit but we kept them to the outside,” Cayden Primeau said. “We definitely got the blocks when we needed to, the D (defence) played huge tonight.”
Game three showed a lot of grit on the part of Laval as they reeled off four goals in the final six minutes of play to take a 5-3 win. Down 3-1 as the clock ticked away, Ryan Poehling started the comeback at 14:01. Hayden Verbeek pulled Laval even at 3-3 with his goal 11 seconds from the resumption of play. Jordan Weal delivered the game winner 2:02 later then Joseph Blandisi notched his eighth goal of the campaign, a shorthanded empty netter with 22 ticks on the clock remaining.
In a scrappy game to close out the road trip the Rocket took a 3-1 decision over Manitoba. Corey Schueneman knotted the score at 1-1 with his goal in the opening minute of the middle frame. Michael Pezzetta delivered the game winner 2:01 into the third. Laval survived a late game push by Manitoba and Blandisi hit for the empty net insurance marker with 45 seconds to play. “The guys really wanted to win,” Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said. “You could tell, down 1-0 they stuck with the plan. We made some adjustments in the second period, the guys bought in and we had some success. It’s fun to see everyone pushing in the same direction.”
Rocket netminder Michael McNiven collected his fourth win of the season and has only one loss in a shootout. McNiven stopped 35 of 36 shots and was the game’s second star. Michael Pezzetta earned the first star nod. “It felt pretty good,” Michael Pezzetta said. “I had a couple of tips earlier that could have squeezed through but it was definitely nice to bang one in there.”
The Rocket returns home to launch the month of April with a trio of contests against the Stockton Heat. Tomorrow night, Sunday evening and next Tuesday Stockton will provide the competition at the Bell Centre with 7:00 pm puck drops. “We’re going to take a day to reset, clear our minds,” Bouchard said. “We have a tough week with five games before we get a few days. It’s a grueling schedule (but) the guys are fit and they’re handling it very well.”