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Father Cull, giggly Lukosevicius and shutout Silovs highlight a great home opener weekend for the Abbotsford Canucks

The Abbotsford Canucks put on a show this weekend with two exciting wins in their first weekend at home.

Friday night saw the Canucks have their home opener at the Abbotsford Centre and the arena was bumping. Vancouver Canucks public announcer and well-known voice Al Murdoch was on the in-arena announcements while former Vancouver Canucks DJ, Jay Swing, was keeping the crowd at a high level with his music selection.

It was an excellent home opener for the Canucks as they won Friday night’s affair in overtime. The Canucks battled back in the third period and eventually tied the game when 18-year-old Danila Klimovich sparked the offence and made a great play to set up John Stevens for the tieing goal.

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The Canucks won the game on the third shift of overtime when Justin Bailey and Madison Bowey came in on an odd-man rush. Bailey made a great pass to Bowey who backhanded the puck over the Henderson Silver Knights’ goaltender and sent the fans at the Abbotsford Centre to their feet.

Bailey scored the first goal at the Abbotsford Centre and the crowd erupted. They had a big pregame ceremony where local kid Noah Juulsen had a roof-shaking applause that was only topped by the introduction of Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

The Sedins have been spending a lot of time out in Abbotsford. They have been attending practices and have been great resources for the AHL players to bounce their thoughts off of. Abbotsford is quickly becoming the perfect place for local kids who have enough skill to be contributors at the AHL level. Jarid Lukosevicius is a perfect example. Lukosevicius is entering his third AHL season and was born in Squamish before playing out his BCHL career in Powell River.

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‘It’s super special to have an AHL team in Abbotsford and to be able to come play for them and show what I got,” said Lukosevicius. “It’s awesome that we came up with a big victory in the home opener.”

Lukosevicius is one of many local kids on the Abbotsford roster. Just another player who grew up a Canucks fan.

“I loved Naslund, I loved the Sedins, Kesler and Burrows for their work ethic. I loved all of them,” said Lukosevicius as he laughed with the media in a post game scrum.

With Lukosevicius, Juulsen, Devante Stephens, Nic Petan and Tristen Nielsen, the Canucks have five players from British Columbia on their current roster. The local content is good on this Canucks team and the fans showed their appreciation for the BC boys.

The barn was buzzing

There was a buzz in the air on Friday night for the home opener. It was felt from every seat in the arena, and it didn’t stop there as the players and coach were very aware of what was a rowdy group of fans. The building was filled with cheers, boos and Woo’s throughout. All the while, doing it with only half capacity out at the Abbotsford Centre.

“I just tried to take a moment there at the end of the game,” said Canucks head coach Trent Cull. “Obviously, we had the overtime to get the goal. So just to kind of look around at the crowd and take it all in. I thought it was really good for 50% capacity. The crowd was very vocal and it seemed like a good atmosphere from the bench. We don’t love playing in overtime but it seems like we’re doing a lot lately, but it was a nice moment for the fans, a good moment to add to the excitement.”

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It wasn’t just the coach who noticed the fans. Canucks starting goaltender Mikey DiPietro said that he typically tunes out everything when he’s in the net. He told the media that he didn’t even realize that DJ Jay Swing was using “Holiday” by Green Day for the Canucks’ goal song.

Hearing “Holiday” after a goal felt so right…

“It was awesome having fans back,” said DiPietro. “As a player, in the swings of momentum, even at half capacity, it was certainly loud in there. Hopefully, we can get full capacity and really get it rocking in there but the fans are great, they were certainly a lot of fun playing in front of.”

DiPietro stopped 22 of the 24 shots that he faced on Friday night and even picked up an assist on Bailey’s goal in the first period.

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There were a whopping 15 power plays in the game on Friday. It made for a lot of dangerous chances but definitely slowed down the pace of the game to a dilatory pace that was established by the referees on multiple weak calls.

Sunday Silovs stole the show and makes Monday better because of breakfast bagels

It was going to be hard to match the energy that Friday night had but that was fine for Arturs Silovs. The 20-year-old Silovs registered his first career AHL shutout on Sunday as the Canucks blanked the Silver Knights by a 3-0 score. Silovs faced 26 shots on Sunday and was tested early and often throughout the entirety of the game.

Silovs was “very happy” to be back playing games and said that it was an emotional feeling seeing fans back in the stands for a home game. The young backstop is living in an Abbotsford hotel and is without a car but is still enjoying his time in Abbotsford and says he did get to spend some time at Castle Fun Park a little while ago.

The team played good defence in front of Silovs on Sunday. Cull wasn’t too pleased with his team in the first 40 minutes but really enjoyed their attention to defence in the third period. It was more of a team shutout for the Canucks and that means that Cull is bringing breakfast bagels for the boys on Monday.

“It was awesome, good for Silovs,” said Cull. “We have a little tradition, I’ll have to surprise the boys. We have a bagel breakfast when a guy achieves a shutout. It’s an awesome achievement, we always want to make sure we’re celebrating those things.”

The Klim Show

“Call me Klim,” said Danila Klimovich to CanucksArmy at training camp. The young scoring winger has impressed with his flashes of excellence this season and everyone is on notice.

His confidence is through the roof and he carries the puck with authority. It’s quite the surprise to see an 18-year-old attempt to dangle through multiple AHL defencemen and be successful at maintaining possession a lot of the time. He’s not perfect, he still makes mistakes and loses possession but Cull wants him to keep that swagger and try to be special in the AHL.

“Yeah, for sure I do,” said Cull when asked if he is seeing early flashes of excellence from Klimovich. “Sometimes it gets us in trouble, sometimes it’s really good. I certainly don’t want to kill that. He’s a creative young man, he’s still a very young man but he’s learning how to play so we’re kind of giving him some leash and we will just see where it goes. I don’t want to stymie his development at all or that swagger that I think he’s brought.”

Klimovich is learning that he needs to be involved at every part of the ice instead of just being a passenger defensively. He seems to become more engaged later in games and is working well on a line with Stevens and Lukosevicius. The young kid doesn’t look outmatched against men in the AHL.

“For Klim, it’s just realizing that he’s playing against men,” said Cull. “If he plays safe through the first two zones, he gets himself opportunities to play in the third zone. I think you saw a little bit of that on Friday night. From the start of the game to the end of the game, he was a little more composed with the puck. I thought he was making better plays and had a great play on the John Stevens goal. He’s one of those guys, you’re watching and you can see that the progress is there, and it’s just going to be learning how to play amongst men.”

One of our favourite quotes in the media scrums is quickly becoming Lukosevicius. He has played every game on a line with Klimovich and loved when we asked him to give his thoughts on the rookie.

“Klimo! He’s awesome,” said Lukosevicius as he belly laughed. “It’s awesome because he doesn’t speak great English so I just tell him what to do and then it helps me. We seem to have some good chemistry going on and maybe it’s because he can’t speak English, so we just help him out and it’s all working out. He’s getting better though like he’s getting more comfortable, it’s awesome. You can see it in this game too, he’s really skilled and fun. Our line is just trying to work hard, get the puck to the net, go hard on the forecheck, make plays at a quick pace towards the net, have some fun around the net and get greasy around the net.”

There’s a lot to learn for the youngster but Cull doesn’t want to blast him with changes just yet. He is enjoying the confidence from the kid and doesn’t want to see that disappear from his game.

“A lot of Google Translator,” said Cull as he chuckled when asked how his relationship with Klimovich has been so far. “Honestly, we’ve had him in a few times to talk. He’s an 18-year-old, I want to make sure I’m more of a father to him right now instead of being too aggressive. We’ve got to give him some leash. We want to let him show what he can do and I think it’ll be an interesting decision on wherever it ends up going as his future or wherever he goes.”

Don’t go Chase(ing) Wouter(fall)s

After being a three-year captain in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades, Chase Wouters was an excellent overage signing out of the WHL for the Abbotsford Canucks.

Wouters has been a staple on the Canucks’ fourth line and is quickly gaining the coach’s trust as expected from a three-year WHL captain.

“[Chase] has done a good job,” said Cull. “He’s someone I’m learning to trust. He’s building that trust, he’s a guy that got a little time on the penalty kill [on Sunday night]. That’s a thing we’re working on with him. I liked what I saw from him [on Sunday]. He’s a conscious player, and he’s a guy who’s working on his skating with McKenzie Braid, so, I think it’s good progression so far.”

As a pure centre who can also slide to either wing, Wouters has a good chance to draw in for a large majority of the Canucks’ games this season.

He’s an underrated piece of this team through the early part of the season. Wouters plays a physical game that has fit in nicely on a fourth line that is looking to play physical on every shift and bring energy on each and every shift. The fourth line was excellent for the Canucks on Sunday. That line saw Wouters be flanked by Vincent Arseneau and Ethan Keppen.

“I thought we were good [on Sunday],” said Wouters. “I thought we got in on the forecheck, I thought we were physical, I think that’s something we can bring to the team and we have just got to build off things that we did good tonight and also work on some areas. That was a good fun game and it’s good to play with those guys.”

Wouters was asked how safe he feels with known tough guy Arseneau on his wing.

“Vinny is awesome,” said Wouters with a huge smile on his face. “We got thrown together here quickly and he’s always sticking up for his teammates. That’s something great about him, all the guys really respect him a lot for that.”

Wouters has been out early for practice to get extra work in with the Canucks’ skating coach Mackenzie Braid. Braid comes from an amazing skating coach family with his mother Dawn working with some of the best NHL players in the world.

It’s been a good start for the former Blades captain and as we predicted the second he was signed, the coach is liking him a lot. Cull was very impressed with his fourth line on Sunday and played them to build momentum from their energy.

“I thought they were good, I like the mix of that line,” said Cull. “I thought those guys had good energy and I was trying to get them out there as much as I could. Even sometimes after power plays because I wanted to carry that momentum on and I thought they did a good job.”

The Canucks came out of the weekend with two wins in three nights and now practice throughout the week until their back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday as they host the Ontario Reign.

We will continue to update you on the AHL team in Abbotsford and will have bodies in the arena as much as possible.

Here’s how the Canucks’ stats look so far through five games.


Stats provided by TheAHL.com