📝 by Matt Cudzinowski | AHL On The Beat
The outstanding postseason vibes at Place Bell last season left a lasting impression on Lucas Condotta.
The 25-year-old forward soaked up every single second of the amazing atmosphere that propelled the Laval Rocket to within one victory of a berth in the Calder Cup Finals.
The question now is whether or not Condotta and his teammates will ultimately punch their ticket to the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs in the coming weeks and get to experience that unparalleled atmosphere again next month.
The Georgetown, Ont., native and UMass-Lowell product is convinced the squad will get the job done.
“We’re jelling as a team. Nobody cares about who gets the credit. We’re playing for each other, and that’s our best asset,” said Condotta, who signed a one-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens last March. “We don’t care who scores, we don’t care who gets the assist, we want to win and keep going. That’s what makes us special. We’re a tight-knit group.”
Condotta will undoubtedly be a key figure in the Rocket playoff push. He boasts 16 goals and 26 points in 64 games during his rookie campaign and continues to impress.
“I’ve gotten more and more comfortable as the months have gone on. Having the older guys around me every day has really helped me a lot. They’re all pros,” praised Condotta. “Gabriel Bourque is our captain now and he’s one of the greatest people in the world. Watching him and seeing how he does things has helped a lot, too. He’s a guy who would do anything for his teammates and anything for any guy on the team. He’s the best person I know.”
He also credits head coach Jean-François Houle for his success. Houle has helped Condotta make a seamless transition from college to the AHL.
“I was fortunate enough to play for J.F. at the end of last year. He helped me adapt to the game. He was always very positive. He just let me make mistakes and then talked to me about them. He never made me feel uncomfortable,” explained Condotta. “Coming into this season, he did a great job with me, starting me on the fourth line and then I worked my way up. He lets me go out there and play my game, use my skill, and just play hockey.”
There’s no denying that Houle wholeheartedly appreciates the assets that No. 42 brings to the table both on and off the ice. Condotta quickly caught the attention of the veteran bench boss.
“Lucas is a little like Joël Teasdale because he’s so tough to play against,” Houle said. “He goes to the net and he can be physical. He’s probably the most well-liked player on the team. He’s a leader without a letter on his jersey, and he doesn’t need a letter to be a leader. There aren’t a lot of players like him.
“Players like that are essential. They’re very intense and they win their battles in the corners.”
Condotta would relish the chance to put those skills on display again when the stakes are at their highest. He believes the Rocket fans can always push them over the top on home turf.
“Place Bell in the playoffs is remarkable. It’s unbelievable,” said Condotta. “You can tell by the way we play at home during the season that we love playing there, and come the playoffs, it’s a different animal. I still remember the whiteout games. It was crazy.
“When you’re playing at Place Bell, you just want to do more. You want to play for your fans. It means more to them and it means more to us. You go out there and you do anything for your team and for them. We have the best building in the AHL by far and the best fan base.”