Coming out of a series that saw Belleville sweep the Heat, all eyes were on this squad to build upon that momentum. Unfortunately, the BSens ran up against the hottest team in the North and couldn’t bring home a single point in their three game set with the Rocket.
In this series, Belleville’s best chance to add to the win column came in the opening contest which Laval took 5-4. Just a few minutes into the first frame, Mark Kastelic opened the scoring with the fourth goal of his rookie season.
The next forty minutes, however, were all Laval all the time and before we knew it, the BSens were down 5-1 early in the third. In an attempted comeback, Belleville did make it interesting with three third period tallies, including two powerplay markers by rookies Angus Crookshank and Cole Reinhardt. Unfortunately, the comeback started too late and the BSens weren’t able to finish it, despite scoring two goals in the final three minutes of the game to make it a 5-4 final.
Filip Gustavsson had the start in this one, stopping 32 of 37 (0.864 SV%) shots in the process.
In game two, the Rocket completely silenced Belleville’s recently hot offense with a decisive 3-0 win. While the BSens were perfect on the penalty kill, they allowed themselves to get outshot 25 to 12 in this one. Averaging four shots per period is no way to win a hockey game, and I’m sure the BSens coaching staff would agree with that. Gustavsson was in the crease again, and he stopped 22 of 25 (0.880 SV%).
The final game was more of the same from the Rocket. Led by AHL veterans Joseph Blandisi and Jordan Weal, Laval completed the sweep with a 4-1 win. Belleville’s lone goal came in the second period from none other than the team’s leading scorer Egor Sokolov, who may be a secret baseball star with how this one went down.
What more is there to say about our Russian teddy bear? Sokolov had a goal and an assist in three games against Laval, bringing his season totals to 12 goals and 5 assists through 26 games. To give you an idea, a normal AHL season is 76 games long. If Sokolov could continue this kind of scoring pace across a full season, he’d be a 30+ goal scorer in his rookie year.
After signing a contract recently, Reinhardt’s play has got even better. In this series, he contributed a goal and two assists and has two goals and four assists in his last eight games.
Lassi Thomson has continued to improve his play away from the puck over the past few weeks, although there is still room for improvement there. Against Laval, Thomson had a pair of assists and threw seven pucks on net.
Brown returned to action last week and now has four games under his belt following his most recent injury. He had two assists against Laval and looked more comfortable every shift. In the 4-1 loss, in particular, Brown looked closer to the player we were used to seeing last year in Belleville.
Filip Gustavsson was in the net for two games while Kevin Mandolese got the start in the other. There wasn’t a game in this series where either goalie cleared a 0.900 SV%. The Rocket did keep both goaltenders busy, but more stops needed to be made, particularly in the first and second games, for Belleville to have a chance against the top team in the North.
For the better part of the last 15 games, the rookies have led the way in scoring. It’s no surprise that that continued in this series but the noticeably quiet offensive contributions from veterans like JC Beaudin, Matthew Peca and Cole Cassels was likely the difference maker in at least one of these games. We can’t expect these players to contribute all the time but this was a series where any production would have gone a long way.
While Belleville scored four goals in the first game of this series, they only managed a goal in their final 120 minutes of play against the Rocket. To make matters worse, the team only managed 12 (!) shots on net in their 3-0 loss. In this series, Laval outshot Belleville by 34 shots. While players like Sokolov, Crookshank, Brown and Reinhardt came to play, the players around and behind them were quiet.