Two Lions are ready for takeoff with the Rocket
The Rocket just got its most spectacular win of the season against a division rival on the road. By coming back from a 5-1 deficit and winning 6-5 in the shootout against the Toronto Marlies, the organization just sent a strong message to the rest of the North division; Laval is never out of a game.
The stars of this game for Laval were Cole Caufield, (who scored the equalizer while getting 9 shots on goal which got him a recall to Montréal), Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, (who scored the game winner in the shootout), Louie Belpedio, (who was named the first star of the game thanks to his two points), and Lukas Vejdemo, (who also registered two points before keeping the Rocket alive in the seventh round of the shootout).
That being said, in order to accomplish that kind of a feat, you also need obscure heroes and there are two who had their own message for Rocket fans; Kevin Poulin and Cameron Hillis.
The two were playing in their first game of the season with the Rocket after beginning the campaign in Trois-Rivières with the Lions in the ECHL. One of the motivating factors that led to the creation of that franchise was to give an additional opportunity to the players in the organization to further their development and grow as a player. It’s exactly what Poulin and Hillis did in Trois-Rivières to start the season.
Kevin Poulin played in five games with the Lions while Cameron Hillis was playing over 20 minutes per game in the white and blue uniform. That ice time clearly made a difference because both players were ready to help the Rocket when Jean-François Houle called their number.
We most assuredly would not be talking about this spectacular Rocket comeback without the work of Kevin Poulin. He was called in to take over while the score was 5-1 Toronto, which goes to show that you never know when the chance to impress will present itself.
After arriving in the game, Poulin was perfect in front of the Rocket net by stopping the 14 shots he faced. He kept his biggest save for the last minute in overtime where the Marlies seemed to have the win in their grasp.
The goalie from Montréal, Quebec continued to shine during the shootout where he only let in two goals on nine Marlies attempts to allow the Rocket to get out of Toronto with the two points in the standings. The only two players who were able to score on him in the tiebreaker were Josh Ho-Sang and Joey Anderson, two guys who each played 53 career NHL games. That’s the kind of pedigree that you needed to put a puck past Poulin on Wednesday night.
The other hidden contributor from the Trois-Rivières Lions was Cameron Hillis. He obviously enjoyed his ice time with the Lions which seemed to have allowed to arrive with full confidence with the Rocket.
Since Laval did most of its damage on the special teams, Hillis ended up being the only forward of the team to end the game with a positive +/-. What’s even more encouraging is that when you dive into the number, you see it’s not only because of the good work of Kevin Poulin
When you focus on the 5 on 5 play, you see that Hillis also led the Rocket forwards in terms of scoring chance differential. When it comes to the %Corsi, he finished the game second among Rocket forwards, tied wtih Jesse Ylönen. The only one who did better in that category was Rafaël Harvey-Pinard.
It’s good company to keep in Laval and that confidence he got with the Lions got him back close to a level that a lot of fans were expecting from him after the Canadiens drafted him in the 3rd round in 2018. For now, he’s doing without much fanfare but if he keeps playing that way, it’s only a matter of time before the quality of his play gets noticed.
There are obviously a lot of positive to get out of this spectacular win in Toronto but there is no doubt that one of them is the contribution of the arrival of the Trois-Rivières Lions in the development structure of the Rocket. It sure seems positive that the rewards show themselves this quickly in the season.