Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket News: Joel Bouchard, Ryan Poehling, Vasili Demchenkov, Cayden Primeau, Jesse Ylonen, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Kaiden Guhle
ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The Belleville Senators visited the Bell Centre twice last week to face the Rocket. On Tuesday, Jordan Weal gave Laval a 1-0 lead before allowing four unanswered goals to allow the Senators to win 4-1.
“I don’t think our structure was bad. I don’t think we looked terrible, to be honest. They barely got anything the first half of the game in scoring chances. We didn’t give anything and we weren’t even playing that great,” Joel Bouchard said.
Claude Julien and Marc Bergevin took advantage of a quiet week in the Canadiens schedule to watch the contest on-site. “It was a very average game for them. They had a bit of tough night,” evaluated Julien.
Laval and Belleville concluded their four game series on Friday night. The Rocket took control of the match in the second period by scoring three times, and went on to a 5-2 victory.
“I think we were good on the forecheck, and also in the neutral zone. We had speed everywhere on the ice. Every time our [defence] touched the puck at our blue line, they were giving it to the forwards pretty fast, and helped us to gain speed and go in the offensive zone quickly,” said Rafael Harvey-Pinard.
Series against Moose
The Moose arrived in Montreal to face the Rocket four times in six days. On Monday, the Rocket dominated the second period and outshot their opponents 21-5 in that frame. Moose goalie Mikhail Berdin was named the first star of the game, making 39 saves leading his team to a 3-2 win in overtime.
“It was one of those nights. We showed a lot of maturity after the first period. I was happy about the second period. I was able to feel it on the bench that it was one of those nights,” Bouchard said after the game. “The effort was there, the ideas were there, the scoring chances were there. We’re going to take the point, and move one step forward.”
Joel Bouchard and Manitoba’s coach Pascal Vincent have known each other for a long time. The two were teammates for the Verdun College-Francais in the QMJHL and won a championship together in 1991-92.
Bouchard, along with Dominique Ducharme, were Vincent’s assistants when he was coaching the Montreal Junior in the QMJHL starting in 2008.
“He’s a good man, I really like him,” Bouchard said about Vincent on Sunday. In the pre-COVID world, Bouchard would get together with Vincent ahead of the game in order to catchup, but that won’t be possible this week due to protocols.
Good Start for Poehling
Ryan Poehling has had a good start to the season. Friday night was the best game that I’ve seen him play with the Rocket. He recorded one goal and one assist during that match, and made his presence felt on both sides of the ice.
“This year, I love playing hockey, I love showing up to the rink, and I think it’s helped me a lot. Not to say I didn’t do anything in the off-season, it was one of my better off-seasons, that obviously helps too. Loving the game and showing up, I think is one of the biggest things for me,” Poehling said.
“I think this year he came back to where I saw him at the end of the year, last year. He’s definitely engaged. I see him more assertive. Ryan is going to be a guy that’s going to have to be good on 200-feet. I’m playing him on [penalty kill], and on [power play], and on 5-on-5, and I double-shifted him a couple of times [Friday] to give him that mileage. I feel he’s more free than last year, where maybe he was putting a lot of pressure on himself,” the coach said on Friday.
The plan in goal is clear that Cayden Primeau will get the bulk of the starts this season. Bouchard mentioned that the objective is to give Primeau at least two starts per week.
Primeau started three games of the four-game series against Belleville and performed well. In three starts, he has a 2.34 goals against average and a .897 save percentage.
“I feel good. I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt playing wise. I feel strong,” said Primeau on Thursday. “Pretty happy with how things have started.”
Vasily Demchenko started his first professional game in North America on Tuesday. He will always remember his debut and a chuckle about the first goal against him. His teammate Jesse Ylonen shot the puck straight into his own net while attempting to clear the puck around the boards.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) February 23, 2021
“He’s not an oversized goalie. I think he’s competing hard, working hard. It’s his first game, I wouldn’t say he was bad,” Bouchard said on Demchenko who made 22 saves in his debut.
Harvey-Pinard in Dirty Areas
Harvey-Pinard’s professional debut has been impressive. He leads the team with three goals in four games. Harvey-Pinard nearly obtained a hat trick on Friday night, but his shot with one minute remaining in the third period hit the crossbar.
Harvey-Pinard spends a lot of time in the opposition’s crease area. The defencemen haven’t been making his life easy, and that hasn’t stopped him from going back. Bouchard likes that he plays in the inside, that he’s always around the puck, and rewarded him with ice time on the power play and the penalty kill.
On a une impression de déjà-vu en voyant un #11 dans l'uniforme jouer comme Harvey-Pinard.
It's always nice to see a #11 score goals like that. pic.twitter.com/hxyL1YrQA2
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 20, 2021
“I didn’t want to change my identity. In the juniors, I was playing with a lot of intensity, and I was working hard, and that’s what I’m trying to do here too, and up to now it’s going well. I have the coach’s trust, and that helps with my confidence, and my performance,” said Harvey-Pinard on Friday.
Jesse Ylonen’s North American debut is off to a good start. Ylonen joined the Rocket on March 2nd, 2020 to get some games under the belt at the conclusion of the Finnish Elite League, but never got the chance to play before the pandemic due to injury.
He’s shown offensive flashes and has created several scoring chances that has allowed him to obtain four assists through five games. The coach gave him a lot of ice time, including on the power play. Ylonen said that he feels comfortable on the ice, and would like to improve his defensive game and physical battles.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) February 13, 2021
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) February 23, 2021
Kaiden Guhle made his professional debut on Monday night against Manitoba on a pairing with veteran Xavier Ouellet. Guhle looked comfortable on the ice, and got his first taste to the professional level.
“The puck moves quicker, the players are a lot faster. They find little holes in you. Everything was a little bit faster and you got to think quicker. It’s good to be able to play that game and kind of get the feel for pro hockey,” Gunle said.
Guhle suffered an undisclosed injury that prevented him from playing since the start of the season. He had one practice on Sunday before making his debut.
“He didn’t get a chance for the last few weeks to skate with the team. He was doing really well in the scrimmage and then the injury came. He did well, he’s got a presence. I think we all saw the stick, and the body position he’s got” said the coach.
The clock is ticking on Guhle’s time with the Rocket as the Western Hockey League (WHL) is scheduled to begin on March 12th in a hub in Regina. The junior players received special permission to play in the American Hockey League until the start of their respective leagues. There’s been no announcements on when Guhle and Gianni Fairbrother will have to report to their respective WHL clubs.