Laval Rocket Advance to Calder Cup Conference Final With Thrilling Victory

LAVAL, QC - MAY 12: Goaltender Cayden Primeau #31 of the Laval Rocket. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - MAY 12: Goaltender Cayden Primeau #31 of the Laval Rocket. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens had a long playoff run in 2021 and their top affiliate, the Laval Rocket are going on a deep postseason run of their own in 2022.

While the Canadiens made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before bowing out to the talented Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rocket have quickly secured a berth in the AHL’s final four. They were crowned North Division playoff champions last night after a thrilling back and forth contest.

The Rocket began their postseason with an exciting first round against the Syracuse Crunch. The Crunch had home ice advantage in the series, and won Game 1. But Cayden Primeau entered the series for the second contest and turned the tide.

The Rocket rallied for consecutive wins before losing Game 4 in Laval to force a deciding game in the Best-of-5 opening round series. The Crunch jumped ahead to a 2-0 lead in that game, but Primeau slammed the door on them after that and allowed his offence to get them back in it.

With just 39 seconds left in the final game of the series, veteran centre Cedric Paquette tipped home a puck to tie the game and send it to overtime. The Rocket advanced to the Division Final round when Gabriel Bourque knocked a puck into the Crunch goal ten minutes into the extra frame.

This set up a series with the Rochester Americans, and though the series itself was not as back and forth, the final game sure was.

The Rocket opened up the series with a definitive win, taking a 1-0 series lead in a 6-1 blowout game. Game 2 was tighter, but Primeau stopping 31 pucks on 32 shots gave the Rocket the edge they needed in a 3-1 win.

That put the Americans on the ropes in Game 3, in another Best-of-5 format, and they played like it. But the Rocket had an answer at every turn.

The Americans jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Mark Jankowski and JJ Peterka. With seven minutes remaining in the second period, the score remained 2-0, but then came an offensive explosion from Laval.

Brandon Gignac, Danick Martel, Xavier Ouellet and Jean-Sebastien Dea all scored within four minutes of each other to completely swing the score of the game in the Rocket’s favour. Some tremendous passing in the offensive zone by Jesse Ylonen and Louie Belpedio would result in the fourth goal of the game by Dea.

But, the Americans had an answer in the third period. Just 1:32 into the third, the Americans had scored twice to tie the game, and before the middle of the frame they would be leading 3-2. A late slashing penalty against Rochester gave the Rocket a power play for the final two minutes.

Jesse Ylonen would capitalize on this opportunity and send this game to overtime. The goalie was pulled, the Rocket had a 6-on-4 advantage and one of their best prospects on the team gave them the big goal they needed.

Though Primeau allowed five goals for the first time in the playoffs, he was sharp in overtime. The first extra period solved nothing and neither did the second. The Rocket got another power play chance in the third overtime due to a delay of game penalty.

This time, veteran Jean-Sebastien Dea would walk into the slot and snipe the game and series winning goal. He stepped to the middle of the ice after receiving a pass from Ouellet and then fired an absolutely perfect wrist shot into the top corner.

Down 2-0 after the first and down a goal with about a minute to play, the Rocket never panicked. They were able to come back each time and eventually won the game in triple overtime. They now advance to the Calder Cup semifinals.

Laval will face either the Springfield Thunderbirds or the Charlotte Checkers. Springfield is leading that series 2-0.