With only three points separating the two teams in the AHL’s Northern division, a playoff-like atmosphere emerged from the beginning of the game. The Rocket’s players played with intensity and distributed multiple big hits, all while obtaining excellent scoring chances. As a result, Brett Lernout was able to find the back of the net just seconds after a near-goal from Hayden Verbeek. The veteran defenseman slapped his third of the season from the blue line 3:27 into the period, with the assists on the play going to Daniel Audette and Alexandre Grenier. The intensity and the physical play increased the tension between the divisional rivals which resulted 18 penalty minutes being distributed in the opening frame, including a fight between Carter Bancks and Antoine Waked. The Rocket and the Comets weren’t able to take advantage of their powerplay opportunities however, and LaCouvee was solid in net with 12 saves.
LaCouvee continued his brilliant night in the second period, which was dominated by the Comets. LaCouvee faced 14 shots in the second period while Utica’s Michael Leighton faced only two, but the Rocket held on to their 1-0 lead after 40 minutes of play regardless. LaCouvee was particularly strong on a sharp shot from Zack MacEwen, who was left alone in the slot. The Rocket’s lack of discipline halted their momentum in the second period, but Laval’s penalty killers did an excellent job at keeping the Comet’s powerplay at bay. Despite the difficult period for the Rocket, Alexandre Alain was able send a great shot on Leighton at the end of the period, though the Utica goaltender made the glove save to keep his team’s deficit to one.
It was a weird bounce that finally got the better of the Rocket’s goaltender, as halfway through the third period a bounce off the glass to LaCouvee’s left came back directly in the slot and Brendan Gaunce simply had to slide the puck in a near-empty net to tie the game at one. Sixty minutes proved to not be enough to determine a winner, and the two teams ended the overtime period still tied at one. It was in the shootout that the Comets took the extra point, as Alex Belzile was the only goalscorer for the Rocket which allowed Utica’s Lukas Jasek to give his team the victory.
LAV: Lernout (Audette, Grenier)
UTI: Gaunce (Kero, Chatfield)
LAV: Shinkaruk (X) | Audette (X) | Belzile (goal) | Evans (X) | Pezzetta (X)
UTI: Gardiner (X) | Malone (goal) | Kero (X) | MacEwen (X) | Jasek (goal)
Goaltenders: LAV: LaCouvee (35/36) | UTI: Leighton (13/14)
Rocket Powerplay: 0/2 | Rocket Penalty Kill: 6/6
Three Stars: 1. Lukas Jasek – UTI | 2. Tanner Kero – UTI | 3. Brett Lernout – LAV