If the Montreal Canadiens want to draft from their school club to fill out their NHL roster, two players in particular left their business cards on Friday night.
Brandon Gignac and Justin Barron each combined for three points in a convincing 6-2 win for the Laval Rocket against the Rochester Americans at Place Bell.
About ten hours after the Habs traded center Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets, Gignac had three assists to join Alex Belzile and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard as the only players in Rocket history (19-17-6) to reach the 100-point plateau. with the team.
With only an American Hockey League contract in his pocket, Gignac is currently having the best season of his career, with 41 points in 42 games. For now, it appears he has done enough to sign an agreement to help the Canadian at Bateman Arena, but the ball is not in his court.
“I work hard every night, so I tell myself that if it happens, I'll be ready,” he said. I play with confidence and it's easy to do well when you have the coach's trust. »
His coach, Jean-François Houle, raised a good point.
“As I told him before, there are 31 other NHL teams that could come to him. And he has to keep it that way. He has opened the eyes of a lot of teams and we are very proud of him. He played very well tonight and is using his skating skills very well.”
Barron, who was demoted to the American Hockey League about two weeks ago, has performed well in his first four games with the Rockets.
On Friday night, the 22-year-old defenseman collected a goal and two assists and led the first power play unit well. He made some mistakes defensively, but he is working on that side of the game, as the Canadian asked him to do when he was demoted.
“I think I can still be better defensively, but it was good to get back on the scoresheet tonight,” Barron said. I feel more comfortable defensively and my reads are better. I try to play more physical as well. I'm focusing on that. »
Houle had a few weeks to work with Arber Xhekaj in his zone play and the towering defenseman played with confidence in the American League before being called up to the NHL. The challenge is similar for Barron, but it was also important that he darken the score sheet a little.
“He needs to continue to improve defensively, but it's good for him to get some points as well. He kept attacking and made some great passes. It's a good game for him offensively and he'll continue to work defensively.”
Lias Andersson found the back of the net twice while Joshua Roy, Mitchell Stevens and Philippe Maillet added one each for the Rockets, who have lost their last three matches.
Although his teammates put in a great collective performance in front of him, Jacob Dobis made two very important saves and the score was 2-1 in the first half, at the expense of Jiri Kulic and Isak Rosen. The Rocket sailed with that momentum and never looked back.
“We knew they were going to press after we took the lead. My job is to keep the momentum on our side and make sure we give my team a chance to win. “It was a crucial moment,” noted Dobis, who finished the game with 24 saves.
Lukas Rusek and Jeremy Davies responded for the Americans (20-16-4), who suffered their second loss in a row. Dustin Tokarski surrendered five runs on 32 pitches.
The two teams will compete again at Laval's home on Saturday afternoon.
On the steering wheel caps
The late-arriving fans missed out on some of the best moments of the first half, as they scored three goals in 3:34 and had two great saves.
First, in the 27th second, Baron intercepted a pass at the blue line and quickly passed the puck to Gignac. The Rocket forward then passed the ball to Anderson, who completed the tic-tac-toe with ease.
It took the Americans less than two minutes before they returned the two teams to square one. Rusek easily got past Baron and surprised Dobbs with a backhand shot into the top corner.
Jean-François Houle's team recovered just 1:43 later. Gignac quickly entered enemy territory and left the puck behind for Baron. The latter fired a wrist shot that hit the post to Tokarski's left before entering the net.
The rocket immediately experienced a fluttering moment. Rosen offered Matthias Norlender a cup of coffee, but then ran into Dobbs. The Czech goalkeeper also excelled by removing the glove in front of Kolić, while outnumbered.
Dobbs' teammates rewarded him when Stevens pounced on a Norlender rebound to make it 3-1.
The local favorites hurt the Americans at the end of the second half. On the power play, Roy accepted a pass from Mylett and deceived an alert Tokarski on the near side.
The Rocket pulled themselves further apart in the 34th second of the third period. From his own zone, William Trudeau joined Maillet on the other blue line and the veteran hit the target with a wrist shot over Tokarski's glove.
The Rochester team saved face midway through the period through Davis, but Anderson settled the score into an empty net.
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