The Laval Rockets kicked off their season on the right note with back-to-back convincing win over rival Belleville. Fittingly, Joseph Blandisi started the scoring for the Rocket who managed to put 10 goals behind Belleville’s goalies. Blandisi, Veilleux and Vedejmo all notched 2 goals a piece while a couple former Memorial Cup winners got their first career AHL goals!
The pace of play was high early on despite the fact that both team’s had player’s clearly working off the rust. The Rockets took an early lead when Joel Teasdale earned his first AHL point of the season. He moved the puck out of the corner back to Xavier Ouellet for a snap shot from the Blue Line that deflected off a defender an in the net.
Belleville quickly got back in the game with an early goal to start the second. They had a chance to take the lead when Ryan Poehling and Gustav Olofsson took penalties 18 seconds apart to give Belleville an extended 5on3.
This would prove to be the first of the two-prong turning point in the game. The Rocket managed to kill off both penalties before Blandisi potted his first of the night. The goal was assisted by Jesse Ylonen to give him his first career point in North America!
The second prong came on the subsequent Face Off when Vitaly Abramov took a tripping penalty. Jonathan Aspirot took a hooking penalty 30 seconds later to give the Rocket their own 5on3. Blandisi managed to pot his second of the game to double the Rockets lead.
From that point of the Rocket’s controlled the play for the majority of the game. The team managed to extend their lead with two more goals in the third period. Lukas Vedejmo scored his first of the season and Joel Teasedale capped off a great game with a beautiful individual effort to get his first goal of the season.
It was a quick turnaround as the second part of the back-to-back took place Saturday afternoon. Michael McNiven got the start this time producing similar results. McNiven faced 26 shots (13 Slot shot) compared to Primeau’s 22 (10 from the slot). Strong starts from the goalie tandem as the Rocket look continue to build of the late season success before the pandemic.
The first period was very even, neither team showed too much fatigue despite the quick turn around. It wasn’t until the second period where the Rockets dominated the period scoring 4 unanswered goals.
The Rockets won the face off back to Ouellet on the point who fed Jordan Weal on the half boards. Weal in turn dished the puck back to Veilleux on the side of the net before he walked out for his first of the season. He doubled the team’s lead with his second goal mid way through the period. Weal factored in again as he caused the turnover in the Offensive Zone, finding Veilleux in the Slot for the 1-timer and the two goal lead.
Lukas Vedejmo, who has looked great all weekend, picked up his second goal of the season in as many games. Finally, before the period was over, rookie Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored his first career goal in the AHL. I loved seeing him rewarded for his great play in the two games this weekend.
GAME NOTES AND PROSPECT HIGHLIGHTS
As always, those not in the line up are just as interesting as those suited up. Habs fans will be sure to keep an eye on Cam Hillis, Kaiden Guhle and Jan Mysak, to see if they get on the ice. The latter two will be leaving for their respective CHL clubs soon, but it would be fun to see them get at least one game in with the Rockets before doing so.
Cayden Primeau was solid in his first game back. He looked a little shaky early but once he got settled into his crease his confident exponentially grew as the game progressed. He seemed to be making more of an effort to challenge shooters rather than sitting a little further back in his crease and relying on his athleticism.
McNiven looked great as well, finally getting some starts in the AHL that he has certainly earned. While he may not have the pedigree or the fan intrigue of Primeau, he has been a solid goaltender in the Habs system that has paid his dues. He will serve as a back up this season, but I get the feeling more so in the sense of a Jake Allen with a higher percentage of the workload.
The goalies were well surrounded by talent on the back end of the Rocket’s roster. The team has four defenseman who got a stint in the NHL last season. This doesn’t include Josh Brooke who is arguably the team’s most intriguing prospect currently on the team’s Blue Line. If he can take a step forward in his development this year there’s no telling what this defensive core can achieve.
Ryan Poehling had some encouraging signs, but more importantly, he appears to have an important role on the team. Poehling was set up along the left hand boards on the second Power Play unit, while also getting time on the Penalty Kill. Admittedly his time on the PK was a bit rough but he get’s the benefit of the doubt for now.
Teasedale/Blandisi/Ylonen got my vote as the most exciting line to watch early on. The obvious prospect factor in Teasedale and Ylonen will get the attention of most Habs fans. Both players entered the season overcoming varying levels of adversity to make the team. Teasedale is back from an injury that cost him nearly two years of hockey.
As for Ylonen, it was good to see him get on the scoresheet early as his lack of production in Finland was a point of contention among Habs fans. Ylonen is now in an environment conducive to his skill set and he is surrounds by better talent. Let’s see what he can do.
Last but not least, my favourite player on the weekend, Rafael Harvey-Pinard. Slotting onto the first line to replace the injured Alex Belzile, Harvey-Pinard came to play. He dramatically waited until the last minute to get his first career point (a goal no less) in the AHL, but it was well deserved. His energy and compete levels were on full display, completely seizing his moment. Whether or not this will translate into a full time position is to be seen, but here’s to hoping he can maintain this level of play.