(Laval) The Laval Rocket managed to steal home-ice advantage at the Syracuse Crunch by winning one of their two road games last weekend. He now hopes to shine in his playoff debut in front of his fans.
The North Section semi-final series between the two teams is tied 1-1. The third and fourth games of the best-of-five series will take place Thursday and Saturday at Place Bell.
“Every game is important and whether we’re at home or on the road, we approach games the same way,” Rocket head coach Jean-Francois Houle said. It will be special to play in front of our fans, but we will have to manage our emotions well.
“Emotions can be too high and that can lead to bad punishments,” he added. It is important to draw positive energy from it and to manage it well. The start of the match will also be important. This is what we are going to talk to our players about. »
The Rocket is in its fifth season. The Montreal Canadiens farm club was crowned champion of the Canadian section last spring, but the Calder Cup was not awarded for a second straight season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two games at Syracuse set the tone for the series. The shoulder strikes were numerous and often hard-hitting. There were several scrums after the whistles and many swear words in French echoed at the Upstate Medical University Arena, since both teams rely on a lot of Quebec players.
“It’s a bit reminiscent of our time at the junior level,” admitted Rocket forward Jean-Sebastien Dea. It creates a great competition between us. We all want to be the best Quebecer on the ice. We are going to meet this summer, and we don’t want to have defeat on our conscience. »
Many Rocket players haven’t played in the playoffs for several years, or even in the pro ranks. The adjustment to the rhythm and intensity of the series has been done well at the Rocket, even if it is not always easy, especially for the Europeans in the group.
“The game also got more physical in Finland once in the playoffs,” defenseman Sami Niku said. But here, the ice rink is smaller, which amplifies this effect.
“It’s playoff hockey. It’s fun,” added the one who has three assists so far in the series.
For his part, striker Jesse Ylönen noted that the pace was higher than in the regular season. He also stressed that he shouldn’t worry too much about the rugged game.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an offensive player or a support player, you have to be ready to deal with that,” said Ylönen, who scored one goal and one assist in the first two games. I don’t want to change my game, and sometimes you even have to be ready to take advantage of the free space if a player tries to check you. »
Dea, making the playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2018, said his teammates quickly adjusted to playoff hockey.
“Guys don’t want to talk about it, but if I put myself in their shoes and go back to my first series, it’s sure the pace isn’t the same,” he said. It happens fast and you have less time to play games. It requires a little adjustment. After the first game, the guys got on board and figured out how it was going to be. We have such a good team, with depth. We can be dangerous. »
In addition to hoping to see his troop take advantage of the energy of the crowd at Place Bell, Houle recalled that he will be able to try to take advantage of the advantage of the last substitution during stoppage time.
Crunch head coach Benoît Groulx has often pitted Gabriel Dumont’s trio against the Rocket’s best offensive elements. Houle will therefore try to place his offensive elements in a better position to produce.
Houle would not confirm whether Cayden Primeau or Kevin Poulin will defend the Rocket net on Thursday. Poulin lost the flag during the first meeting in Syracuse, then Primeau shone in the victory for his team on Saturday.
The Rocket head coach also did not reveal whether he will rely on a six or seven defenseman formation. Mattias Norlinder was inserted into the lineup in the second game, when Houle bet on seven defenders.