LAVAL — The Buffalo Sabers’ best hopes simmered in their first two series against Belleville and Utica. They were viewed with suspicion in Laval after surprising the Northern League champions in the second round.
The Finn Arttu Ruotsalainen had scored eight goals in seven games. Germany’s JJ Peterka had nine points on his record. Peyton Krebs, the nugget received from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Jack Eichel, had just as much. We feared they would charge through, leaving nothing but damage.
After two games we hardly saw them.
There were a few cameos, brief flashes of inspiration that reminded the observant viewer who they were dealing with. Peterka scored the only goal and had five shots in the first game. Ruotsalainen was the victim of a robbery or two by Cayden Primeau the following day. Krebs served him an easy pass to one of them.
But what we remember most as the series moves to Rochester and the Rocket are just one win away from advancing to the next round is the growing signs of frustration among these talented rookies.
Krebs evacuated in the third period against defender Tory Dello on Monday. Jack Quinn, a relatively invisible first-round pick since the start of the playoffs, was kicked out for roughly beating Alex Belzile. In prison, the former Ottawa 67’s continued to get angry, insulting Danick Martel, who was sitting on the nearby bench.
And young people are not the only ones who have lost their minds. Brett Murray tried to tackle Louie Belpedio after a game stoppage, Brandon Davidson tried to harass Cédric Paquette. “It could have gotten out of hand, but he kept calm,” said head coach Jean-François Houle proudly. That’s good for us. It’s important to manage our emotions, especially with the crowds we have here. Sometimes it can go from one side to the other. »
Twenty-four hours earlier, the visitors’ flight had manifested itself in the erratic behavior of Ben Holmstrom and Nick Boka. Ever since they decided to pull out all the stops in the third period of Game 1, the Americans have been nervous. Faced with this loss of control, Rocket players turn the other cheek and smile. For example, they could ignite by vowing to defend Mattias Norlinder, who is visibly injured in the head after cashing the redundant check from Holmstrom. Instead, they chose discipline and controlled aggression.
What could be described as a triumph of experience and wisdom over talent and youth is a big part of why their rivals are already on the verge of elimination.
“Obviously we have guys on our team who like the physical game. We shouldn’t worry too much about that at the moment, but I think we’re a bit mental, says striker Brandon Gignac. They are young, they have a lot of attacking talent. Us, our style of play is to finish ours checks on them. »
“When things don’t go the way you want, it’s easy to lose control,” agrees Belpedio. We’re doing well to keep a cool head. We won’t shy away from rough play, that’s the best thing about playoff hockey. But our state of mind is now. We’re checked, we’re hit after the whistle and we don’t care. We play hard when it counts, and the more their frustration mounts, the better for us. »
“I would tell you that today’s game was confirmation that we really are all in the same boat,” explained defenseman Tobie Paquette-Bisson. I think the third period proved that a bit. »
When asked if he came to the same conclusions as Gignac, Houle quickly replied yes, as if it were a given. Then he paused, smiled, and softened his words carefully.
“Maybe, maybe we’re in her head. But like I’ve been saying all along, every game in the playoffs is different. The game before that is no longer relevant. So we’re not looking too far ahead. We’re thinking about the next game. »