Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket News: Week in Review, Charles Hudon at All Star Activities, Playoff Push, ECHL Affiliation in Trois-Rivières
ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The Rocket played three games last week and collected three of the six available points in the standings. Laval headed into the All Star break sitting in fourth place of the North Division, two points ahead of Toronto and three ahead of Syracuse. The Marlies currently have two games in hand on the Rocket.
The week began on Wednesday night at Place Bell as Laval beat Syracuse 3-2 in overtime. Laval came back from a 1-0 and 2-1 deficit for the win. “It was a playoff game, a game that we needed the two points and we showed that we can play against a team like that,” said Charles Hudon who got the assist on Jake Evans‘ winning goal only six seconds into the extra period.
On Friday, Laval trailed 3-0 in the second period in Rochester and weren’t able to recover as they went on to lose 5-2. “I actually think we started fairly well, like we came on and we kind of put our identity on the game and then they took over a little bit with a couple power plays and it’s obviously huge getting that first goal for them and they get that momentum and get the crowd behind too. But I think we got to find a way to play better consistently like we played good for 10 minutes and then we’re playing bad for five minutes and sometimes when you do that it’s going to cost you the game,” said Christian Folin to 91.9 Sports after the game.
On Saturday, the Rocket had a 2-0 lead heading into the third period before Binghampton tied the game and went on to win 3-2 in shootout. Xavier Ouellet left the game during the second period with a lower body injury and will be re-evaluated this week.
The Rocket will return to action this weekend as they host the Senators on Friday and Saturday. Belleville is currently first place in the North Division.
Hudon at All Star Weekend
On Saturday, Charles Hudon scored his 20th goal of the season before headed to Ontario, California to represent Laval at the AHL All Star game. His family including his daughters attended the festivities.
Hudon won the accuracy shooting competition by hitting the four targets in five shots, and took part breakaway relay competitions on Sunday. Hudon scored one goal for the North Division team on Monday in three games.
“He has an A on his jersey. I don’t put A just to put an A. He earned it,” said Joel Bouchard. “He didn’t play a lot last year, and I think it was a very emotional end of year for him. My message to him was ‘you have a lot of potential, but you have things that we need to work on together for your future because you’re still young and you will get another chance in the NHL’.”
The Rocket are currently the closest that they have ever been in their short history and the coach made it clear that they’re trying to get into the post season. “Not only do I want to make the playoffs, but I want us to be ready for a long run. The goal is to win and not just stop at making into the playoffs. It’s more than that for me,” Bouchard told 91.9 Sports on Friday.
With the Canadiens out of the playoff race, I expect attention from Habs fans to turn to Laval. The upper bowl of Place Bell has been opened for this Friday’s game, which hasn’t been frequent since the team moved to Laval.
ECHL Affiliation in Trois-Rivières
In August, Dean MacDonald, current owner of ECHL’s St. John’s Growlers, visited a brand new facility that is being built in Trois-Rivières. The facility will be ready over the next couple of months and it will be able to host 4,500 fans and 20 suites. MacDonald would like to own a second ECHL franchise and have it play in that venue.
There was a lot of back and forth between city council and MacDonald since his visit that has led to an ECHL missed deadline in mid-December to have a team put in place on time for the 2020-2021 season.
The Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes have expressed interest to move their university hockey team in the new arena as of September, and have presented their business plan to the city. MacDonald has been given February 7th as deadline by the city to present his plan to the council.
The UQTR has put together a committee of volunteers with a mission to build the reputation of university hockey in Canada. The committee is led by Daniel Lamarre, CEO of Cirque du Soleil, an international well-known entertainment company.
Early indications are that the city will need to choose between both projects as UQTR has no interest in sharing the venue with an ECHL team. “We can’t have two major teams in a market like Trois-Rivières; you have to think about sponsorship and have to think about ticket sales,” Lamarre told 91.9 Sports on Friday. In order for the venue to be shared by two major teams, the facility would require work to build a second dressing room at a cost that is estimated to $2-million.
Along with the 14 Patriotes home games, the UQTR is planning to host exhibition games and tournaments against NCAA teams. The committee would like to demonstrate that the calibre of Canadian university hockey matches the NCAA level.
Canadiens Interest in ECHL
The Canadiens sent a letter dated January 16th to the city council committing that they would associate themselves with the group lead by Dean MacDonald if Trois-Rivières obtains an ECHL franchise.
“It’s a shame right now that everyone is implying that it’s a farm-team of the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens have around 50 players under contract; 23 at the Bell Centre, 23 with the Laval Rocket, that leaves between two and five players. So we’re talking about two to a maximum of five players that will be in Trois-Rivières,” added Lamarre.
Lamarre has his doubts on the Canadiens interest level in the ECHL project. “It’s not the Canadiens that are requesting the franchise. It’s a privately owned company in St. John’s that is making the request and the Canadiens have said that they would send their two to five players if there was a team in Trois-Rivières. It’s the only commitment that they have made. If the Canadiens would have made it [franchise request], it’s certain that my position would be different.”
The Canadiens organization has had business relationships with both groups. When the team’s AHL affiliate was located in St.John’s from 2015 to 2017, they had worked with Glenn Stanford, MacDonald’s associate. Lamarre has worked with the Groupe CH as Cirque du Soleil has been renting the Bell Centre for 21 nights annually for their shows.
Impact of ECHL Affiliate
The Canadiens haven’t had a sole affiliation with an ECHL team since the 2016-17 season, splitting an affiliate with Ottawa in 2017-18 and have had no ECHL affiliation at all for the past two seasons. In my opinion, I don’t feel that the organization feels that it’s critical to have an affiliation. The Panthers, Blue Jackets, Sharks, Ducks, and Kings are the only other teams without an ECHL affiliation.
The situation drew some extra attention this season as Michael McNiven is currently playing on his third ECHL team of the year, due to lack of playing time. “It’s a situation that’s particular. It’s not like this every year, but it’s especially like this for a goalie, it’s there where it [ECHL affiliate] would help a bit. For players, it’s easier to place them cause you need a lot of players in the ECHL,” Bouchard told 91.9 Sports.