Rocket News: AHL, Laval Rocket, Jean-Francois Houle, Danick Martel, Sami Niku, Springfield Thunderbirds, Calder Cup Playoffs, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Conference Final
ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. —On Monday morning, the Laval Rocket will hit the ice at Place Bell for the first time since eliminating the Rochester Americans on Wednesday.
Forward Jean-Sebastien Dea clinched the sweep for Laval with the winning goal in triple overtime. The Rocket’s 6-5 victory featured a rollercoaster of emotions as both teams each blew a two-goal lead during the contest.
“There was a lot of highs and lows, but we saw tonight the strength that momentum brought to both teams. For us in the second, and them in the third. It’s a good team that we beat, and we’re very happy with that,” coach Jean-Francois Houle said post game.
“It’s a good feeling right now. The guys are very happy, and once again we showed a lot of character to get back into the game, and win it in overtime,” added captain Xavier Ouellet.
It was a special moment for Dea to score a pair of goals, including the series winner against his former team. “We play hockey for moments like that, and it’s really fun to end the series that way. I couldn’t ask for anything better. What a team effort, we worked hard until the end, and the boys earned it.”
The Rocket has won six of the eight games in the organization’s first playoff appearance, outscoring the opponents 28-20. Laval continues to have success in closing games, winning all four matches that they’ve led through 40 minutes in the playoffs. During the regular season, Laval won 28 of the 31 times in that situation.
The Rocket outshot their opponents four times through two series, and won all four matches. During the regular season, Laval outshot opponents in 34 of 76 games, and won 20 times.
Special teams have significantly improved in the postseason. Laval’s power play climbed from 17.9 percent in the regular season to 27.6 percent. The penalty kill increased to 86.2 percent compared to 80.7 percent in the regular season.
Place Bell has been an intimidating arena for opponents. Laval leads the AHL with an average of 9,836 fans in the playoffs. The fans aided the Rocket win three of the four matches in the arena.
“This is the best crowd I’ve played in! I’ve played in the NHL a little bit as well, but in terms of energy, I’d take this rink over that any day,” defenceman Louie Belpedio said following game 2 win against Rochester.
Danick Martel leads the team offensively with six goals, and eight points through eight games. Martel collected five of his goals in the three-game sweep against Rochester, and selected the first star in game 1 of that series after scoring four times. The forward prides himself on taking a lot of shots on goals. Through eight games, he’s registered a team-leading 32 shots, while playing a bottom-six role, and with power play time on the second unit.
Sami Niku co-leads with Martel with eight points in the postseason. Three of his eight assists were collected in the opening game of the playoffs against the Syracuse Crunch. The defenceman has been paired with Tory Dello on the third duo, and on the power play and penalty kill units.
Thunderbirds Host Rocket
By winning 5-1 on Saturday, the Springfield Thunderbirds completed a three-game sweep against the Charlotte Checkers, and punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final. Game 1 of the seven-game series begins on Saturday in Springfield. The teams split the two matchups during the regular season, with the visiting team winning both times.
Springfield is undefeated so far in the postseason. Forward Sam Anas is tied for first in scoring during the AHL playoffs with 13 points in six games. Former Canadiens forwards Matthew Peca, and Will Bitten are second and third in team’s scoring with nine and eight points respectively. After spending a week with the St. Louis Blues, Canadiens alumni goalie Charlie Lindgren has rejoined the Thunderbirds for the Eastern Conference Final.
Springfield’s power play is ranked first amongst active teams in the AHL playoffs with 37.9 percent success rate. While shorthanded, the Thunderbirds have killed 86.4 percent of the power plays.
The Rocket announced that all three games at Place Bell for Eastern Conference are sold out.
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