(Laval) Is it an advantage for the Rocket to play a playoff game at home? The answer is not obvious… because it never happened.
That’s right: Game 3 of the series between the Laval squad and the Syracuse Crunch, played Thursday night at Place Bell, will be the first home playoff game in club history.
A story that remains brief, should we specify; the Rocket was born from the remains of the IceCaps of Saint-Jean, in 2017, and since then, the club named in honor of Maurice Richard had never reached the playoffs… before now.
Which brings us to that big premiere night.
“Each game is important and each game is different,” replied Jean-François Houle on this subject, at the end of Wednesday’s training in Laval. Whether you’re at home or on the road, you have to approach a match and prepare your players in the same way. For sure, playing at home and in front of our fans will be special. But we’re going to have to deal with our emotions…”
This end is sometimes the most complicated end, perhaps even more so for a club that has never been there. This means that the locals will have to, on the whole, avoid doing too much, or avoid doing too much in lace in order to try to satisfy the Laval public, already accustomed to spectacular things like the saucer on the edge of Highway 15 or again the parking lot of the Carrefour.
But the Rocket loves home, and it should be noted that the team has a .722 winning average in its home games this season, the fifth best record among the 31 teams in the American League.
“There is a danger when you play in front of us,” added the coach. Sometimes emotions take over, and you can get some bad punishment. So it’s going to be important for us to have good positive energy, but also to manage it well. The start of the match will be important, we will talk about all this to our players.
“But the crowd will have a big impact, and we had some of the best crowds here on the circuit. We must pay tribute to the people who come here, and who make it a beautiful family atmosphere. It will be fun for our players, for the city. We look forward. »
This three-of-five series is tied 1-1, and the next two games will be presented in Laval, including the fourth Saturday afternoon. Should Game 5 ever be needed, it would be presented to Syracuse on Tuesday night.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time,” added defender Sami Niku. It’s going to be noisy in the place and also it’s going to be an incredible atmosphere. »
Incredible ? The word is very well chosen, since in recent seasons, the Canadiens’ school club has not often set foot in AHL playoff territory. The 2016-17 IceCaps made the playoffs but suffered a quick first-round exit. Previously, the little CH had missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, including four years in Hamilton, when the club was called the Bulldogs.
This lack of success does not look very good, but Jean-François Houle swears that the members of the management of the Canadian do not add any form of pressure to him these days.
“They let me do my job,” he replied. I chat quite often with (assistant general manager) John Sedgwick, but I don’t really chat with Jeff Gorton or Kent Hughes. They let me do what I have to do to get this team to where it needs to be. »