The Rocket return to the ice after a week off for an important back-to-back at Place Bell this weekend, where they will face off against the rival Toronto Marlies on Friday, December 21, for the first edition of the Toronto Marlies Unappreciation Night (91,9 Sports, TSN 690) and again on Saturday, December 22 for the Christmas Hanging Socks Giveaway Night (91,9 Sports, RDS).
The Rocket is riding a four-game point-streak entering this weekend and have won three of their last four games. Picking up five of six points against divisional rivals last week has closed the gap in the standings and the Rocket (11-14-2-2) is now only six points out of a playoff spot.
The Rocket began last week’s slate of games with a 3-1 victory over the Belleville Senators (13-15-2-0) on Wednesday, December 12, highlighted by Nikita Jevpalovs remarkable spin-o-rama goal to open the scoring late in the first period. Hunter Shinkaruk and Alexandre Grenier also scored for the Rocket, while goaltender Michael McNiven was stellar between the pipes, stopping 18 of 19 shots and earning the game’s first star honours.
The Rocket then faced the high-powered Syracuse Crunch (15-8-2-0) in back-to-game games over the weekend and managed to pick up three out of a possible four points against the Crunch. Syracuse took the first game on Friday, December 14 in a shootout by a score of 3-2. Alexandre Alain and Michael McCarron both scored for Laval, but the Rocket could only get one goal in the shootout before Syracuse ended it in the sixth round.
Laval bounced back the next day with a dominant 4-0 victory, thanks to goals from Alex Belzile, Byron Froese, Nikita Jevpalovs and Brett Lernout. The Rocket continued its trend of minimizing shots on goal, limiting Syracuse to just 12 shots on goaltender Étienne Marcoux, who stopped them all en route to his first career professional shutout. Laval continues to allow the least amount of shots against per game in the league (22.45) by a wide margin.
The Rocket now look ahead to the two massive games against Toronto with a surge of momentum. With only five points separating the two rivals in the North Division, both games will have a significant impact on the standings as the season nears the midway mark. Both games also appear on the promotional calendar. A new chapter will be written in the Montreal-Toronto rivalry during Friday’s Toronto Marlies Unappreciation Night. Fans attending Saturday afternoon’s matchup should arrive at Place Bell in a festive mood for the Christmas Hanging Socks Giveaway Night, where the first 3,000 fans to arrive will get free Christmas hanging socks. The Rocket have had the upper-hand in the season series thus far, with a 2-0-1-0 record against the Marlies. Laval won the most recent battle between the two teams by a score of 3-2 in overtime back on Saturday, December 8 in Toronto.
Joël Bouchard’s players will look to maintain their recent success against Toronto while also continuing its steady climb back into the playoff race. Only seven points separate second and eighth place in the North Division, so a strong effort will be key over the weekend as the Rocket look to close out the calendar year on a high note.
|Buts / Goals||Byron Froese (10)|
|Aides / Assists||Alex Belzile (17)|
|Points||Alex Belzile (22)|
|Tirs / Shots||Alex Belzile (75)|
|MBA / GAA||Charlie Lindgren (2.56)|
|%ARR / SVS%||Charlie Lindgren (.891)|
|1. A trio of newcomers on the blue line have been a boost for the Rocket the past few weeks. Karl Alzner is a +4 in eight games, Victor Mete has collected four points in seven games and Simon Després has picked up two points in four games…
|1. Toronto boasts two of the AHL’s top scorers – Chris Mueller ranks seventh with 28 points, while Jeremy Bracco ranks 19th with 25 points…
|2. Jake Evans continues to produce in his first pro season, with 17 points in 29 games, good for 17th among all rookies…
|2. Trevor Moore is tied for second place in goals (15), while Cale Rosen ranks fourth among all defencemen with 21 points…
|3. The penalty kill unit has had a lot of success lately, managing to shut down the most effective power play in the AHL (Syracuse) during the last weekend…||3. The Marlies powerplay has been especially effective on the road, clicking at 29.3% in opposing arenas, good for the top rank in the AHL…|