Rocket Recap: Five Biggest Moments from the 2021-2022 Season
By Dylan Buvat
The Laval Rocket’s regular game season has come to a close following Saturday night’s 5-1 win over the Syracuse Crunch, wrapping up what was an impressive year for Montreal’s American Hockey League Affiliate.
A total of 51 different players dressed in the Laval Rocket’s uniform this season, 35 of which had at least one goal with the club. Among the top of that scoring list was fan-favourite Rafaël Harvey-Pinard who broke out this past season with 21 goals and 56 points in 69 games.
RHP also had the opportunity to make his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens this season, and scored his first career NHL goal with the big club.
Despite the impressive offensive production from several players, including 52 points from veteran Jean-Sebastien Dea and 36 points from youngster Jesse Ylönen, it was goaltender Kevin Poulin’s performance that was most felt in the second half of the season.
Poulin, 32, started the season in the ECHL with the Trois-Rivieres Lions before working his way up to a full-time roster spot with the Rocket. The 50-game NHL veteran finished off the regular season with an 18-8-5 record, and a .920 Sv% in 30 starts.
Before heading into playoff hockey, let’s take a look back at some of the most exciting, emotional and entertaining moments from the 2021-2022 season.
5. Mattias Norlinder’s first AHL goal (December 8, 2021)
Mattias Norlinder’s season with the Rocket Laval was short and sweet, but Montreal’s third-round pick from 2019 left his mark in his short time with the team. The smooth-skating Swede scored his first goal in North America on a heavy wrist shot from the point on the power play. The goal would be the difference maker in a tight 3-2 win over the Manitoba Moose.
Despite only playing six games with the Rocket this past season, Norlinder showcased his talent on the blue line and his deep skillset, while also being very well liked by his teammates and coaching staff. The defenseman has without a doubt a bright future ahead of him.
4. Fight night in Laval (October 27, 2021)
In their sixth game of the regular season, the Laval Rocket played against division rivals the Toronto Marlies in a rough and tough first meeting between the two teams. Thirteen fighting majors and a total of 211 penalty minutes were given out in what looked like ‘70s style hockey.
Tough guy Michael Pezzetta was one assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick, as he scored the game-winning goal and dropped the mitts in this wild divisional matchup. The Rocket ended up winning that game 5-0, and outshooting the Marlies 37 to 21. What a night.
3. High-scoring home opener (October 15th, 2021)
After a long offseason without any playoff hockey, the Laval Rocket was ready to welcome back fans with an entertaining home opener. And boy did the team not disappoint.
The Rocket faced the Belleville Senators in what would become an absolute scoring frenzy. Despite the Senators tying up the game 2-2 halfway through the second period, the Rocket would retaliate with four unanswered goals and win their first game of the season 6-2.
All but two Rocket forwards registered a point that night, including five multiple point nights from Paquette-Bisson, Pezzetta, Dea, Roy and Beaudin. The team put on a show and started off the regular season with a bang.
2. Goal of the year by Brandon Gignac (April 29, 2022)
Down by one goal against the Toronto Marlies in the final 8 minutes of the game, forward Brandon Gignac took matters into his own hands and scored one of the nicest goals we have seen all season.
The Quebec native burst down the middle with speed, deked the Marlies defenseman and finished with a one-handed whack, beating Toronto’s goaltender Michael Hutchinson over the shoulder. An absolute highlight-reel goal against one of Laval’s biggest rivals.
1. Four game winning streak in a critical time of year (March 18th-30th, 2022)
The Rocket was buzzing in the month of March as they looked to clinch their first playoff berth in franchise history. In the final seven games of March, the team would grab 12 points out of a possible 14, and finished off the month with a 5-0-2 record.
In that critical seven-game stretch, the Rocket outscored their opponents 23 to 10, including a high octane 7-4 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack, in which forward Joël Teasdale scored his first career AHL hat trick.
Near the end of the regular season, every point matters, and players know that. This seven-game point streak was a huge confidence booster for a team looking to play some meaningful playoff hockey in a month’s time.