LAVAL – After winning, in extremis, an emotional and intense series against the Syracuse Crunch, the Laval Rocket resumed training with the desire to continue their ascent in the next round.
In the aftermath of a welcome day off, the Rocket members are now waiting to find out their next opponent. The mystery will be solved, in the evening, during the ultimate match between the Americans of Rochester and the Comets in Utica. (Editor’s note: Rochester defeated Utica 4-2).
“We’re definitely going to see what’s going to happen. We can’t wait for the next round, it will be another great challenge,” commented Rafaël Harvey-Pinard.
“It was a good series against a very solid opponent. It was tough and the day off allowed the guys to rest so they are mentally ready to go again,” said defenseman Louie Belpedio, who had a goal and three assists in the first round.
The smile on the faces of the Rocket players was easily explained. First, they had the last word against the very tough team of Benoît Groulx, which relies on a ton of Quebecers. Then, they managed to win away from their supporters and, moreover, in overtime, having overcome a 2-0 deficit in the game.
“We had a short day off to recover. We are really happy with what we managed to accomplish. In the third period, it’s not easy to complete a comeback, especially on an opposing rink. We are very happy to move on to the next round,” said forward Brandon Gignac.
During what constituted the second round, the Rocket knew how to maintain its composure. The team was unfazed by the challenge of winning the deciding game in Syracuse and the circumstances of it.
“Guys like (Alex) Belzile and (Cédric) Paquette have gone far in the playoffs. There is also (Xavier) Ouellet when he was with Grand Rapids. We were calm and, even when we lost 2-0, I felt that we would make a push and it ended well, ”described coach Jean-François Houle.
Paquette, or rather the Rocket Packet, as our colleague from RDS.ca, Guillaume Pelletier, had fun calling it for an evening, scored the tying goal with 38 seconds to go in the final third. For that to happen, Harvey-Pinard had to use all his flair around the net after a sensational save from Maxime Lagacé.
“It’s a bit in my identity, to be close to the goal and to want to concretize chances around the opposing goalkeeper. I saw the puck and, honestly, I don’t think many players had seen it. It allowed us to create an opening and I was able to take advantage of it. Cédric was asking me for the puck, he couldn’t wait for it to arrive, it was easy to give him the pass, ”recounted RHP with pleasure.
As for the goal of the persevering Gabriel Bourque in overtime, it was already a great story in itself. Except that’s not all, Danick Martel was behind this success. Remember that Martel had been damaged earlier in the game by a contact from Pierre-Cédric Labrie.
“I knew he was in pain, but he told me he was able to play in certain situations. We had chosen to go there with 11 attackers (for this match) so we did not want to go down to 10. We sent him in the good moments in which he could play and it was he who made the big play for Bourque . We are very happy with that, ”said Houle.
Still 7 defenders in uniform?
Thursday, Martel was undergoing treatment and Houle said he didn’t know if he could start the next round Saturday night in Utica or Sunday night in Laval against Rochester.
As for this approach of employing seven defenders, Houle could keep it.
“It is possible that we continue like this. I like it because you can use your best offensive elements more often with the fourth line players and therefore gives you a more attacking fourth line. Then, in a physical match, we can better share the use of defenders and not overuse them,” said Houle.
The Rocket already have solid depth on the blue line and Gianni Fairbrother would like to add to the equation. He trained with his own but needs some contact practice as he hasn’t played since March 4 due to injury.
Note that Nate Schnarr is sufficiently recovered for the next round. Schnarr and Gignac would not say no to cross swords with Utica, their former organization which is the school club of the Devils.
“It would definitely be fun and a great challenge, I played three and a half years there. But it would be the same mentality regardless of the opponent. We know how they play, they have a slightly different system from other teams and we know it. We know where their little weaknesses are,” noted Gignac.
This season, the Rocket went 4-4 against Rochester and 3-3 against Utica. If he insists that his team concentrates above all on what it must execute against its opponent, Houle thus decides between the two potential opponents.
“Rochester has a lot of talent, good young people have come back from the Sabers (like Peyton Krebs and Arttu Ruotsalainen). Utica has been a good club all year and it’s more physical training,” he summed up.