Rocket fizzles out as Crunch evens series with 3-0 win at Laval

The decider of the best-of-five Calder Cup North Division semifinal series will be played Tuesday in Syracuse.

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The Laval Rocket couldn’t make it off the launch pad on Saturday, falling a 3-0 decision to the Syracuse Crunch before a packed crowd at Place Bell.

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The victory allowed Syracuse to tie the best-of-five Calder Cup semifinal series at two games apiece. The decider will be played Tuesday at the Upstate Medical University Arena in Syracuse.

Cayden Primeau, who excelled in leading the Rocket to victory in Games 2 and 3, kept the Rocket on the hunt for two periods, but Laval fell victim to a self-inflicted wound early in the third period, allowing the Crunch to take a 2-0 lead.

Primeau had no chance on Syracuse’s second goal, which was scored on a power play. He lost his stick and was taken off the play when Laval defender Xavier Ouellet pushed Gabriel Dumont into the area. That left an open goal for Remi Elie to score his third goal of the series.

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Anthony Richard effectively put the game out of his league when he forced a turnover at the blue line and beat Primeau at 6:24. Primeau finished with 34 saves.

The Crunch came out with more jump than they showed in Game 3 on Thursday and Primeau kept busy in the first period as Syracuse built a 13-7 lead on the shot clock and took a 1-0 lead on goal. by Cole Koepke at 5:36. Richard took the puck behind the net and found Koepke on the other side of the area.

“I thought our guys were a little tired, but (the Crunch) played desperately,” Rockets coach Jean-François Houle said. “They played a good match; they are a good team. And I knew they were going to play well defensively and they did. It’s the playoffs and now we have to regroup.”

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That may mean a change in the line-up, which has seen Laval wear seven defenders and 11 forwards.

“We can change our plan, but it worked for the other two games,” Houle said. “When you lose, you put things in perspective and you are thinking. Our forwards looked a bit tired and didn’t generate as much offense as we should.”

While there were only four penalties scored in the game, it was a physical contest with plenty of hitting and the usual variety of scrums after the whistle.

“So far, every game has been physical,” Rockets forward Alex Belzile said. “It’s the playoffs, that’s why we play hockey. We have to stay positive. We split over there, we split over here. (Losing today is not) the end of the world. Yeah, we wanted to close it out in front of the crowd, which was once again amazing, but we have to have a short memory. They played a desperate game and it’s up to us to ring the bell the next game”.

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Syracuse goalkeeper Max Lagacé was injured midway through the opening period, but the Rocket were unable to take advantage of substitute Hugo Alnefelt. The Rocket had the only two power plays in the first period and, while Rafael Harvey-Pinard was close when he hit the crossbar, Laval was outscored 2-1 when he had a man lead.

Alnefelt, a 20-year-old rookie from Sweden, made 24 saves and shared the shutout with Lagacé, who faced just four shots before his exit.

“We didn’t play well in our zone,” Harvey-Pinard said. “We had a hard time picking up the puck. We didn’t get in front of the goalkeeper and we had time to get the puck into the net. That’s something we have to work on.”

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