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Rocket comes up short in its bid to reach Calder Cup final

Laval loses 4-0 to the Thunderbirds in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in Springfield Wednesday night.

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The Laval Rocket’s hopes for a Calder Cup title were dashed Wednesday night when the Springfield Thunderbirds thumped the visitors 4-0 in Game 7 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series at the MassMutual Centre.

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Charlie Lindgren, a former Canadiens prospect who spent most of the past four seasons in Laval, made 34 saves for the shutout.

Springfield will face the Chicago Wolves in the Calder Cup final. The Wolves, who defeated the Stockton
Heat 3-0 Tuesday to win the Western Conference final in six games, will have home-ice-advantage in the best-of seven series, which begins Sunday at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.

It seemed inevitable the Rocket would give up a power-play goal after going through the first six games of this series unscathed and former Canadien Matthew Peca gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead when he scored at 6:45 of the first period. The goal came eight seconds after Brandon Gignac was whistled off for hooking.

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And Nathan Todd made it 3-0 when he scored a power-play goal late in the second period,

The Rocket had killed 29 consecutive power plays in the first six games against Springfield, which had scored on 38 per cent of its opportunities in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The Rocket was outshot 15-8 in the first period and had its best moments during an early power play when they tested Lindgren with four shots, including Grade A scoring chances from Cédric Paquette and Gabriel Bourque. Primeau kept the game close by stopping former Montreal farmhand Will Bitten on a breakaway midway through the period.

Laval was outplayed by an even wider margin in the second period. The Rocket was outshot 20-13, but those numbers looked decent only because Laval fired eight shots during an unsuccessful power play late in the period, which provided Lindgren with his best moments.

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After the game, Laval head coach Jean-François Houle said he was proud of his team. “We never gave up and I liked the way the guys played for each other.

“They scored a couple of power-play goals and that’s going to happen,” Houle added. “But we killed 29 straight and finished at 93 per cent (for the series).”

Springfield coach Drew Bannister made a calculated gamble by starting Lindgren in goal over 21-year-old rookie Joel Hofer, who had the much better numbers coming into the game. But Hofer was lit up for four goals in a 5-1 loss in Game 6 Monday night and that tipped the scales in favour of the more experienced Lindgren.

Primeau did what he has done throughout the playoffs, making enough saves to give the Rocket a chance to win, but he didn’t get much help against the Thunderbirds, who averaged more than six goals a game in the first two rounds of the playoffs. During the playoffs, Primeau went a long way toward restoring his confidence, which was shattered during a stint with the Canadiens during which he posted a 1-7-1 record and was pulled from five of his nine starts.

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Between the two power-play goals, he surrendered a goal to Dakota Joshua, who also added an empty-net goal to complete the scoring. Primeau finished with 36 saves.

With Jesse Ylönen out after suffering an upper-body injury in Game 6, Houle turned to Peter Abbandonato. He considered using QMJHL scoring champion Joshua Roy, but said he felt it would be a difficult position for an 18-year-old and went with the more experienced Abbandonato,

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

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