📝 by Patrick Williams
Thank you last but not least Cayden Primeauthe Laval Rocket are now in a 2-2 series with the Springfield Thunderbirds rather than trying to stave off elimination in tonight’s Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven set takes place tonight at Place Bell (7 ET, AHLTV).
“Their goaltender was really good,” said the Thunderbirds head coach Drew Banister said after last night’s 3-2 overtime defeat. “He had to make some difficult saves and he played well for them.”
After an early attack from Springfield, the visitors fired 16 shots on goal in the first nine minutes of the game and took a 2-0 lead Mackenzie MacEachern and Dakota Joshua. But thanks to Primeau, that score held until the Rocket could rally, start the counterattack, and carve that two-goal hole.
After the rocket leveled the game at 2-2, Springfield launched another attack through the third period and into overtime. But Primeau and Laval once again managed to withstand that pressure and eventually won the game Rafaël Harvey-Pinard a puck trickled past Springfield Joel Hoferwho was outstanding himself with 48 saves.
Primeau stopped the last 30 shots he faced that night.
To Kevin Pauline had started on May 6 with a loss in Game 1 after the season opener to Rocket head coach Syracuse Crunch JF Houle handed over the Laval network to Primeau. The third-year pro has started every game since, winning 8-3 with a 2.17 clean sheet average and a .934 save percentage.
For Montreal Canadiens parents waiting for what might come next Carey Prize, the organizational focus is heavily on the 22-year-old Primeau. Montreal chose the longtime NHL forward’s 6-foot-3, 200-pound son Keith Primeau as a seventh-round draft pick in 2017.
After two stellar seasons at Northeastern University, Primeau turned pro in 2019 after winning the Mike Richter Award for top goaltender in men’s collegiate hockey as a sophomore. He also won the Hockey East Tournament Most Valuable Player award and won a silver medal with Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championships.
Since then, Primeau has thrived at Laval. He was a member of the Canadian Division All-Star team during the truncated 2020-21 American Hockey League season and finished that season 16-12-5 in 33 regular season games with Rocket and posted a 2.94 GAA and a . Save 909 percent. He also has 12 appearances in the NHL with the Canadiens.
As part of the Calder Cup Playoff development experience, Primeau and Rocket were tested using different opposing approaches. Syracuse, their divisional semifinal opponents, is playing a very structured game. Rochester was able to use a run-and-gun approach in the North Division Finals and played an excellent transition game. And now the Thunderbirds have brought a much different, much more physical and disruptive game plan to solve Primeau.
“It’s been an emotional series so far,” Primeau told reporters last night. “The more you play together, the more you hate each other. So yes, I can only expect it to get more physical as the games progress.”
Another sell out of 10,043 fans also filled the Place Bell last night. Primeau gains extra experience playing in front of a packed building, just as he hopes to one day play regularly with the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
“The fans helped us all in the game. They stayed with us even when we lost 2-0 early in the first game,” said Primeau. “To score that goal at the end of the first goal was huge for us and I think it’s a credit to the crowd that it went crazy.”
Patrick Williams has been in the American Hockey League for nearly two decades on media such as NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM! Sports. He is currently the co-host of the Around the A Podcast.
Patrick received the AHL’s 2016 James H. Ellery Memorial Award for outstanding league reporting.