Abbotsford Canucks eliminated from playoffs after 4-3 defeat on home ice to Ontario Reign

Photo credit:X/ Abbotsford Canucks
Dave Hall
1 month ago
After five consecutive road playoff games, the Abbotsford Canucks’ were finally back on home soil to protect their 2023-24 season.
Despite a strong start and a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, their effort crumbled in the second frame when they conceded three quick goals in just 1 minute and 21 seconds.
While they outshot the Ontario Reign (28-23) for the third straight game, they couldn’t find one last goal, ultimately suffering a 4-3 defeat and a clean 3-0 sweep in the series.
The Canucks came out strong, energized by the buzz of their towel-waving home crowd and the urgency of a do-or-die scenario. They set the tone physically and dictated the game according to head coach Jeremy Colliton’s plan.
“I thought we used our energy and our desperation to come out and be physical, and we controlled the game in the first period.” Colliton told postmedia. “The tempo was what we wanted. The pace of play was what suits us.”
However, once momentum shifted in the second period, they struggled to recover form and lost sight of that effective gameplan.
“You got to continue to manage the puck,” Colliton said. “You got to continue to defend, and we didn’t in the second period and so, they get control of the game, get the lead, and now we’re playing from behind.”
Aatu Räty kicked things off with a beautiful move from the slot. After a strong forecheck to force the turnover from captain Chase Wouters, the Finn made a nice move to beat Ontario netminder Erik Portillo up high to set the crowd into a frenzy.
Later in the period, it was Christian Wolanin’s turn to make the highlight package.
Collecting the puck from Vasily Podkolzin in the neutral zone, Wolanin worked his way around the Reign defence and fooled the goaltender to sneak the puck under his legs.
Their third and final goal came in the second, once the Canucks had gathered themselves from their untimely defensive lapse.
Thanks to a clever chip at center ice from Räty, Marc Gatcomb was sprung on a two-on-one and made no mistake with a quick snapshot to the far side shelf.
On the backend, the defensive pairing of Christian Wolanin and Nick Cicek had a tough outing in the loss, combining for a minus–5 and were out on the ice for all three goals during the difficult stretch in the second frame. And Wolanin wasn’t shy about his game.
“As a pro, as an individual, I’ll look in the mirror and acknowledge the fact that I could have done more.” Wolanin told the media.“Whether it’s lucky bounces or bad bounces, whatever, you got to keep the puck out of your own net, so I look in the mirror a little bit.”
This was the first game of the series where it felt that goaltending wasn’t the main story.
Having come into the match with just one goal in the series, the Canucks’ finally made Erik Portillo look human, while Zach Sawchenko surrendered four goals on just 23 shots.
Sawchenko had been the difference and likely MVP for the team throughout the playoffs, despite coming into the postseason having started just six games during the regular season.
On many occasions, including his 47-save performance in a series-clinching win in Colorado, the 26-year-old was a rock.
Colliton spoke highly of his performance, both down the stretch and in the current series.
“He did a great job,” Collition mentioned. “He’s a big, big reason why we won the first series, and I thought he made some big saves for us this series as well. So, a good story for him. A good example for the group on how you got to prepare for your opportunity.”
Besides goaltending, the team’s goal-scoring or lack thereof was the big storyline and deciding factor within the series. Over three games, the breakdown of points from their top core was as follows:
Aatu Räty – 2 points
Vasily Podkolzin – 1 point
Max Sasson – 1 point
Arshdeep Bains – points
Sheldon Dries – 0 points
Linus Kalrssom – 0 points
Tristen Nieslen – 0 points
All the above names are coming off career regular seasons, and are the obvious backbone to the team’s success. With production running dry, the club’s chances of pulling out victories were slim.
With the loss, the focus now shifts to the off-season, where the organization has some big decisions that lie ahead. Sporting such a young group, many names will be returning, with the exception of those who push for a spot with the big club in Vancouver.
Notable Restricted Free Agents:
Linus Karlsson, Aidan McDonough, Jett Woo, Cole McWard, Filip Johansson, Nick Cicek
Notable Unrestricted Free Agent’s:
Sheldon Dries, Matt Irwin, Zach Sawchenko
With the loss, and no game being played on Friday evening, the Abbotsford Centre has announced a Vancouver Canucks watch party.
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