(Rochester) If the Laval Rocket could remove the Blue Cross Arena from their itinerary for an entire season, they certainly wouldn’t complain.
Brett Murray had two goals and two assists to lead the Rochester Americans to an easy 7-4 victory over the Rocket on Saturday night.
Some teams sometimes have difficulty getting out of a nasty drought abroad and the Rocket (18-16-6) is no exception. The Montreal Canadiens’ farm club suffered a sixth straight loss in Rochester and has not won at Blue Cross Arena since January 18, 2023.
It is also the way in which this defeat was orchestrated which is not enough to please head coach Jean-François Houle. His men committed a lot of turnovers and offered several goals to the Americans (20-14-4), who scored four times in the first period.
“There were too many turnovers in the first half and it quickly cost the game. We were then on our heels and we were not able to come from behind,” observed Houle.
It wasn’t just his skaters who committed turnovers, his goalie starting too.
Undefeated in four starts with the Rocket, Kasimir Kaskisuo obviously had a bad one in the system. The home team’s fourth goal, which actually chased him out of the game, was the perfect example. The Finn played sluggishly behind his net and his turnover allowed Murray to score.
“After four goals in 10 shots, it was important to try to change the momentum. That’s why we took him out of the net,” Houle noted of Kaskisuo.
In relief, Strauss Mann did everything to keep his team in the match and he proved to be one of the few positive elements for Laval during this game. Same story for Emil Heineman, who scored two goals.
Filip Cederqvist, a former Americans, scored his first goal in a Rocket uniform and Jan Mysak added a goal in a losing cause. Brandon Gignac contributed to two goals for his team to set a personal high with 37 points this season.
“It’s ‘cool,’ but personal stats always come second. I try to give 100% for the team in every match,” said Gignac.
Other Americans players had fun during the clash. Viktor Neuchev had a goal and two assists while Nikita Novikov and Linus Weissbach both had a goal and an assist.
Michael Mersch and Justin Richards also scored for the Rochester team, which moved ahead of the Rocket into third place in the American League North Division. Tyson Jost finished the match with three assists.
Eric Comrie probably would have liked to see Heineman’s first goal again, but he added the victory to his record with 31 saves.
The Rocket return to action Wednesday night when they host the Utica Comets in their fifth January game.
A performance to forget
For a second game in a row, the Laval residents were caught during a counter-attack and they allowed the first goal quickly.
Forward Mitchell Stephens was at the point, but he stepped forward to open the door for Mason Jobst. The latter passed the disc to Mersch, who fired a powerful one-timer that beat Kaskisuo.
The Rocket responded just 71 seconds later. Justin Barron intercepted a neutral zone pass from Riley Stillman and Heineman recovered the puck to enter enemy territory. His wrist shot eluded Comrie to tie the game.
The rest of the period was the business of the Americans, who made Kaskisuo and his teammates look bad.
Novikov first gave his team the lead again thanks to his first career goal in the American League, following a great effort from Jost. Then, less than three minutes later, Novikov’s shot hit the skate of Richards, who was passing through the slot.
Kaskisuo’s hazardous exit occurred at 3:16 p.m. and that was the end of his evening’s work.
The Laval team had a much better start to the second period and reduced the gap to 4-2 thanks to Heineman. The Swede drew quickly to deceive Comrie’s vigilance on the blocker’s side.
The Rocket continued to apply pressure, but another turnover opened the door for the Americans. Philippe Maillet saw his pass intercepted and Jost passed the disc to Murray, who left it to Neuchev. His throw was blocked by Mann, but the Russian was able to jump on his return to move the strings.
In his first match against his former team, Cederqvist gave hope to Jean-François Houle’s squad, with only 1:22 remaining in the second period. He jumped on Tobie Bisson’s throw return to find the back of the net.
The Americans put the game out of reach with two goals in the third period. William Trudeau and Olivier Galipeau were initially beaten by Weissbach. Then, Trudeau and Barron were helpless in the face of Murray’s precise shot.
Mysak scored the Rocket’s last goal, shorthanded.