LAVALLE, QC — No one in the Laval Rocket locker room was complaining about the idea of taking advantage of five days off before taking action again next Thursday in Belleville. This is even if the team is experiencing its best moments this season.
Buoyed by their defenders and their best performance of the season on the power play, the Rocket gave themselves — and their fans — a great Christmas gift by defeating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 5-2, on Friday night at the Bell Place.
“It's good to win the last game this way. It's easier to take a short break of three or four days, to free your head for a while,” coach Jean-François Houle noted.
“I think it was a good game for us tonight,” he continued. “Over the course of 60 minutes, it was the toughest game we’ve played all year.”
The Rocket achieved its fourth victory in its last five matches against difficult competitors.
The Penguins came to Laval on a four-game winning streak. On Wednesday, Jean-François Holly's men overthrew Syracuse in its castle.
Friday, Laval took control of the game in the second half thanks to three quick goals scored by one man.
Defenders Logan Mylox (5th) and Arber Shikaj (1st) scored two of these goals. The other goal was the work of midfielder Brandon Gignac (10th), who blocked a high-quality pass from Myloux.
William Trudeau (third) set the tone for this explosion among the defenders, at the beginning of the second half, by thwarting Magnus Helberg, who blocked 38 shots.
“They have good shots, they attack,” Hall said of his defenders.
“It's a combination of a few things, but our defense has been playing very well the last five games,” Holley admitted.
Sean Farrell (fifth) also scored in the third period.
Philippe Maillet had a solid game, with three assists, and Gignac also had an assist to extend his streak of games with at least one point to eight.
At the other end of the ice, goaltender Jacob Dubis had another reassuring performance, even if he wasn't called upon often.
He made 24 saves, surrendering only Alex Nylander in the second period and Dmitry Samorukov in the third.
This is not always the case, but on Friday evening, the numbers displayed on the central scoreboard were intended to reflect the first period; The game was a fairly communal affair, slightly dominated by the Rocket players and two goalkeepers who were by no means generous, despite the Christmas atmosphere that prevailed throughout the evening at Place Bell.
The Penguins, who played 24 hours earlier in Belleville, were the first to threaten the rival Citadel. However, Dobis was strong against Mark Johnston and then against Jonah Kopanen.
On the other end of the ice, Helberg made some of his best saves of the period on back-to-back shots from Joshua Roy and Gignac.
The first ten minutes of the second half looked a lot like the first period except this time there were goals.
The first came from Trudeau, who tipped off Jan Misak's pass at 3:19.
After Nylander tied the score by tipping over Ty Smith's shot, the Penguins suddenly became undisciplined.
They took three penalties in just over three minutes, and the Rockets converted all of them in less time.
Mylox broke the tie for the first time with a cannonball that beat the Penguins goaltender in the upper right at 13:53.
Less than two minutes later, Shikaj imitated his teammate with a less powerful shot, but with the same accuracy. Gignac completed the reverse score at 4:50 p.m.
“That's exactly where I was aiming for,” Mayo, sitting next to Shikaj in the locker room, said of his shot.
This was the first time this season that the Rockets scored at least three goals in a single match.
“There's been a lot of changes to the advantage this year. Obviously it's great that we can implement our five-man attack. We'll have to make sure, when we come back from the break, that things continue in that direction,” Mayo noted.
Farrell's goal at the start of the third period put the game out of reach for the visitors once and for all.
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