LAVALLE – The chemistry is clear to see. On the ice, the Laval Rocket players hug, tease and bicker during practice like brothers.
Behind the scenes, they provide the communications staff with the necessary materials to feed the team’s accounts on various social media sites on a daily basis, to the delight of the fans.
Recently, in a video shared by the club, defenseman Logan Mayoux thanked his blue line partner Arber Chicaj for giving him a discounted Costco membership card, the best Christmas present he received. A clever joke references Xhekaj's job at a big box store during the pandemic.
– Rocket Laval (@RocketLaval)
December 28, 2023
Therefore, such evidence is abundant. After having a difficult start to the season due to the arrival of around fifteen new players, the Rocket are a tight-knit family more than ever. As in any good family, we share everything. Even viruses.
“I accept whatever the players take,” the team's coach, Jean-François Holly, said in a hoarse voice on Tuesday, at the end of his team's training, jokingly.
Following Joshua Roy and Riley Kidney last week, the Laval strategist is the latest injured player on the list. But he will be in place tomorrow night behind his bench in Bell Arena as the Habs affiliate begins a three-game series in four days at the rink.
The Utica Comets, from whom the Rocket pulled off two shootout victories in their last two games on Friday and Sunday, will make their first stop in Laval on Wednesday. Then the Manitoba Moose, which ranks 30thH In the general classification, he will be stationed in the visitors' locker room for the duels on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.
This will be a great opportunity for Team Rocket to extend their five-game winning streak.
“We've found more chemistry between players lately,” Holley says. Players respect our playing system a little more, and we're finding a way to win now. It's nice to come to the arena when you win. I think we are on the right track. »
The team's nine-game losing streak, which ended a month ago, seems already far away. In the last 10 confrontations, the Rockets won eight times.
“In this losing streak, we've had several games that we've lost on penalties or overtime (four games, editor's note). We've maintained a positive attitude throughout,” Holly recalls. “Everyone is pushing in the right direction and it shows the guys are on track.” “On the right path and they are currently developing well. We hope that it will continue like this.”
This happy stretch has for now put the Rocket back into the playoff picture, where they are just one point behind the Toronto Marlies and fifth place in the North Division ensuring a spot in the playoffs.
“We're trying not to look too far ahead because we have a young team. We're trying to focus on what we have to do on a day-to-day basis and every game, but certainly finding ourselves in a position where the playoffs are within our reach, it helps the players mentally to see that at the end of the game.” .The tunnel, there might be something there.”
Among the young Rocket players currently having good times, Mailloux particularly stands out with an improvement in his defensive game leaving something to be desired in the opening weeks of the calendar, as our colleague Nicolas Landry reported on November 1.
This is progress that was also confirmed by Canadian general manager Kent Hughes in the group waiting room Monday evening, which Hall also praised Tuesday.
“I like the way he wants to improve. He and Shikaj are a good duo, they are physical and difficult to play against. At the beginning of the year, it was all for him again, it wasn't easy defensively, he was often flailing on the ice »
Partnering with Xhekaj from the latter's second match with Rocket, Mailloux collected 10 points in 11 matches alongside Cherif and above all concluded two of these matches with a negative margin.
“They're both big guys who can be physical,” Hall appreciated. He is both left-handed and right-handed, and also helps with getting out of the zone and restarting. The two have a lot of energy right now and are enjoying playing together. »
Paralysis in attack
If the defense is complete and has good depth which will only be enriched if Gustav Lindstrom is not claimed on waivers in the coming hours, Laval's offense lost some weapons at the weekend.
Sean Farrell and captain Gabriel Burke did not complete the final clash against the Comets and it is already certain that they will not be in uniform on Wednesday night. Nathan Legari, who is also injured, will also not train. Veteran Philippe Maillet can also be added to the list of absentees, as he did not participate in his team’s training on Tuesday in order to undergo treatment. The younger generation therefore risks having to work harder soon, especially if Emil Heinemann continues to stay with the big club.
“The two players who will benefit from this will be [Jared] Davidson W [Riley] Kidneys, they will move up the hierarchy, informs Holly while adding Jan Misak to the candidates. It will give them more ice time on special teams. »
Davidson, who has played just 15 games so far this season, his first as a professional, doubled his goal tally last weekend against the Comets by scoring twice, including one that pushed the game into a tiebreaker on Sunday.
Kenny added an assist to his tally on Sunday, his first point in four games. The rookie's last goal dates back to Dec. 15 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was then the third goal in two matches for Choice 2H Canadian tour in 2021.
“These are young men who are learning and will have more. It will be interesting to see if they are able to do more to help the team,” expects Holly, who will also have at his disposal Jakov Novak and Alex Olivier Foer, who were called up from the Lions of Trois-Rivières in the morning.
Jacob Dubisch, who is currently having his best moment in front of the Rocket cage, will be the starting goaltender against the Comets.
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