LAVAL (January 18, 2019) – The crowd of 5984 at Place Bell on Friday night got to witness Michael McNiven’s first shutout of the season in the Laval Rocket’s 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Monsters, who are in town for a back-to-back against the Rocket. Alex Belzile scored the lone goal for the Rocket, giving him nine points in his last 11 games and putting the Rocket within one point of a playoff spot.
Belzile netted his ninth of the season late in the opening frame to give the Rocket a 1-0 lead over their divisional rival by the end of the first period. Alexandre Grenier fed Belzile a pass that went through two Cleveland players, allowing him to simply re-direct the puck behind Cleveland’s Jean-Francois Berube.
Michael McNiven had a busy second period, stopping all of the 11 shots sent his way. Over the first forty minutes of play he combined for 21 saves, and his performance in goal earned him the game’s first star honours. Lukas Vejdemo came close to making it 2-0 for Joël Bouchard and his players in the second by skating around the Cleveland defender and sneaking his was to the opposite side of the crease, but Berube followed him through and made the save to keep the score locked at 1-0 after two periods of play.
“As a team we played good,” said McNiven after the game. “Whether it was an active stick or blocking shots, it was a good team effort. That allowed me to play my game while they played theirs too.”
The Monsters had two powerplay opportunities to tie the game in the first half of the final frame, but the Rocket’s penalty killers maintained their 1-0 lead and went three-for-three on the night. Berube headed to the Cleveland bench for the extra attacker with 2:45 remaining, but the Monsters took a late penalty and were unable to avenge Laval’s first period goal.
“We never made the second or third mistake,” explained Bouchard post-game. “I find we protected ourselves very well.”
LAV: Belzile (Grenier, Lamarche)
Goaltenders: LAV: McNiven (38/38) | CLE: Berube (11/12)
Rocket Powerplay: 0/2| Rocket Penalty Kill: 3/3
Three Stars: 1. Michael McNiven – LAV | 2. Maxim Lamarche – LAV | 3. Alex Broadhurst – CLE