Laval Storms Back in a Game 5 Overtime Thriller, Advances to Northern Division Finals
By Matthew Tkatch
Laval was mere seconds away from having their season end after only one round in the playoffs, until the team rallied to victory. The final game in the series versus the Syracuse Crunch came down to the wire, with the Rocket overcoming a 2-0 deficit en route to a 3-2 overtime win. Laval will now face the winner of the series between the Rochester Americans and the Utica Comets.
Game 5 began with Max Lagace, Syracuse Crunch goaltender, returning from injury and starting in place of backup Hugo Alnefelt. Following a lackluster start to the first period, things took a turn for the worse for the Rocket. A Syracuse high sticking penalty ended up backfiring, after the Crunch were able to secure a shorthanded goal. Forward Anthony Richard scored his 4th goal of the series, putting Syracuse up 1-0 in their home at Upstate Medical University Arena.
A Syracuse-led game was compounded by a Crunch goal that was accidentally batted in by Laval Rocket goaltender and fan favourite, Cayden Primeau. The goal, credited to Crunch defenseman Ryan Jones, gave Syracuse the insurance goal they were looking for. Things were looking bleak for Laval, now down 2-0 in a hostile New York environment. It wasn’t until the midway point of the game that Laval got their first break. A tripping penalty for Syracuse made way for a Laval power play goal, deflected in by assistant captain Alex Belzile. This was Belzile’s 4th of the series, and provided the team some much needed hope as they entered the 3rd period.
A back and forth 3rd period was uneventful for both teams, with both goalies performing at extremely high levels. Both Lagace and Primeau were spectacular tonight, acting as safety blankets for their teams. The standstill continued until the waning minutes of the period, when Laval was forced to pull their own goaltender in order to get an extra attacker. By doing so, it left them extremely vulnerable to Syracuse potentially delivering a final blow to end their season. In what felt like a scene pulled straight out of a movie, the Rocket were able to even up the score with a miracle goal by Cédric Paquette. With only 38 seconds left in the match, Laval rallied to save their season and push the game to overtime.
With Game 5 heading into overtime, the next goal between the two teams would be the deciding factor in this epic series between the Syracuse Crunch and the Laval Rocket. A successful overtime penalty kill from Laval highlighted their exceptional special teams play throughout the playoffs so far. Clutch play down the stretch made way for a goal by Rocket forward Gabriel Bourque, clinching the series for Laval. Never backing down from a challenge, this goal resulted in one of the more memorable wins in Laval Rocket history.
Cayden Primeau was simply excellent tonight, locking up the first star of the game (Max Lagace won the second star, and Gabriel Bourque winning the third star due to the overtime winning goal). This win advances the Rocket to the Northern division finals, in which they will play either the Rochester Americans or the Utica Comets, who play a determining Game 5 on May 19th at 7PM EST. Either way, it will be a return to New York state for the Laval Rocket, who earn a much needed rest following a hard fought series.