The Stage is Set for the North Division Final
After defeating the Syracuse Crunch in the divisional semifinals, the Rocket will face the Rochester Americans, the Buffalo Sabres’ affiliate, in what promises to be a thrilling series!
After losing the first game in Syracuse, the Rocket escaped with the win in Game 2 thanks to a late goal by Brandon Gignac. Back at Place Bell for Game 3, Laval won the first game in the history of the series in Laval. The Crunch players forced a Game 5 by shutting out the Rocket in Game 4. The two teams returned to Syracuse to face each other once again in the final game. With the home team leading until the end of the game, the Rocket, through Cedric Paquette, tied the game. A Gabriel Bourque goal in overtime gave the Rocket the win. After entering the series in Game 2, Cayden Primeau was outstanding throughout the series and posted impressive statistics (0.940 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against-average).
In the previous round, the Americans defeated the Utica Comets in five games after playing in the “play-in” round. After an opening game won by Utica by a score of 6-3, the Americans posted two overtime wins. They lost game 4 before winning the final game. They now travel to Laval to play the first game this Sunday (05-22).
Head-to-head Rochester vs. Laval
This season, the Rocket and the Americans have played against each other eight times. The Rocket has won four of the games and picked up points in two losses. (4-2-2)
After some tougher performances before the holidays against Rochester, the Rocket bounced back with a big win on February 20. The Laval forwards beat Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen four times and added a goal in an empty net for a 5-1 win.
A few weeks later, the Rocket’s offense had another blast in a 7-2 win! After a scoreless first period, Jesse Ylönen beat goaltender Aaron Dell early in the middle frame and started a scoring spree for Laval.
In the first week of April, the two teams met on two occasions at Place Bell. The Rocket managed to win both games (6-2 and 4-3 in OT.) Rafaël Harvey-Pinard was named first star of both games with 2 game winning goals and 4 assists.
Keys to the Rocket’s success
Throughout the season, the Rocket has been able to bounce back from losses. Jean-François Houle’s men have shown character. It’s hard to win two games in a row in the playoffs and this strength of character will be useful for the Rocket as they move forward.
The games against the Americans this season have been high scoring games. The offensive talent of both teams will, without a doubt, be on display in this series. On 22 occasions this season, the Rocket have scored 5 or more goals in a game.
Against Rochester, it’s going to be a more open game. They have a lot of skill. It’s going to be an offensive series for sure! Our defensive play and our special units are going to be very important and if it goes well, our offensive instincts will come out.Jean-Sébastien Dea
The role of the defensemen will be essential in this series, not only to stop the opposing attack, but also to help restart the rush.
They’re a really skilled team (Rochester). When we played hard, fast and got in their face, that’s when we had success against them.Tobie Bisson
The depth of this team will be a real asset in this round. With very little time between games and travel days, the Rocket will be able to benefit from fresh legs when needed.
The experience and leadership that is present in the locker room is a strength for this team. Veterans Alex Belzile, Xavier Ouellet, Gabriel Bourque and Cédric Paquette had a definite impact in the series against the Crunch.
We have a really good group. We have a lot of players with character in the locker room. We have a good combination of good veterans and good young guys who work hard.Xavier Ouellet
The table is set for the first game of this series which will take place on Sunday May 22nd at 7pm in front of a full house at Place Bell.
The second game will take place on Monday, May 23rd at 7pm. Link for tickets: bit.ly/39y40VL