Moncton's Malatesta suspended seven games for Laberge hit

Mike Sanderson
Mike Sanderson
Pascal Laberge was selected 36th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2016 NHL Draft. (Getty Images)

Moncton Wildcats defenceman Zachary Malatesta was suspended seven games by the QMJHL on Tuesday for his check on Victoriaville Tigres star Pascal Laberge. The hit left Laberge, a Philadelphia Flyers prospect, with a concussion.

The hit occurred at the 6:05 mark of the first period during the Wildcats’ 5-2 loss to the Tigres on Saturday. A James Povall rebound from a shot from the right circle wrapped its way up the boards to the left point of the Victoriaville zone. Laberge picked up the puck and turned to skate out of the zone with speed. Malatesta got low and met him at the left point, countering the oncoming forward’s speed with his own, crunching him head on and sending the Tigres star to the ice, as Laberge’s stick flew up in the air on impact. Tigres forward James Phelan jumped immediately into the fray to avenge his fallen teammate, fighting the Wildcat blueliner. The call on the ice was a major penalty for checking to the head and a game misconduct. Was it warranted? Have a look for yourself:

Laberge is out indefinitely with a concussion. He is in full rest mode, off of school and not practicing, as of Monday. The Flyers second rounder in 2016 has four points in seven games so far this season. He had 68 points in 58 games last season with the club, and had five points in five games in a five-game loss to the Wildcats in the first round of the playoffs. The second-overall pick of the Gatineau Olympiques in 2014, Laberge was traded to Victoriaville in the 2014-15 mid-season trading period.

Similar spot, similar hit last season

The hit is eerily similar to one Malatesta laid on Rimouski Oceanic forward Tyler Boland last season. Boland was out for a couple of weeks as a result of his injuries, and Malatesta received nothing more than a slap on the wrist, other than the boarding major penalty and misconduct he received in the game. Malatesta was facing Boland head on in the hit last season, while Laberge is at more of an angle. Here’s the hit on Boland last year, for comparison.

It's worth noting that Laberge is a Walsh client at Octogon Hockey. Malatesta has been suspended three times before in his QMJHL career, once in 2014-15 for kneeing and twice in 2015-16 - once for removing his helmet and once in the playoffs for abuse of official. Wildcats suspensions piling up Malatesta is the third Moncton player to be suspended in the past week. In the Wildcats’ 10-1 loss to the Charlottetown Islanders last Monday, blueliner Kody Gagnon was given a five-game ban for his hit to the head of Jake Coughler, and captain Lane Cormier got a two-game vacation for a high stick. Gagnon, recently acquired from the OHL’s Barrie Colts, found instant chemistry with Malatesta as a solid pairing for the young Moncton team, but both will sit, as Gagnon still has two games to serve coming into the weekend. Gagnon has two points in three games with the Wildcats, equaling his OHL career totals over three seasons. Malatesta, an alternate captain, has three points in nine games, and was invited to New York Rangers’ camp this past summer.