Abbotsford Canucks postgame: Nikita Tolopilo impresses with 41 saves and Tristen Nielsen scores a hat trick in 4-3 victory

Photo credit:@abbotsfordcanucks on IG
By Faber
9 months ago
With less than a 24-hour turnaround, the Abbotsford Canucks were back at it on Saturday afternoon with a matinee affair against the Laval Rocket.
After a dominating 7-4 win on Friday night in the AHL season opener, the Canucks were back on the ice and wanted to put on a show following Arshdeep Bains’ four-point night and Vasily Podkolzin’s two-goal game.
The lineup remained the same for the Canucks but they did make a swap in net, giving rookie stud goalie, Nikita Tolopilo his first career AHL start. And boy was he great.
Tolopilo was the top goalie in the Allsveskan last season, posting a 28-17-0 record with a 2.10 goals against average, and a 0.924% save percentage while recording four shutouts. It’s time for the 23-year-old, 6’6″ goalie to cook and we will be sure to include some clips of his play as the recap goes along.
Let’s get into it!

What happened

First Period

The first half of the period was quite slow. You could certainly tell that both teams played the day prior and were feeling each other out in the opening 10 minutes.
Tolopilo looked solid in the crease. He has a lot of simple and tight movement when going from side to side against the attacking Rocket. He was positionally sound throughout the first 20 minutes and took up a lot of the net with his 6’6″ size. Laval had two power plays in the period and ended up getting 11 shots on net in total but Tolopilo was up to the task on all of them.
The scoring opened late in the period when Tristen Nielsen showed tremendous hand-eye coordination on a tipped shot from Jett Woo.
Christian Wolanin picked up the secondary assist on the goal and the Canucks weren’t done there.
This Laval Rocket team is young and just not at the same skill level as the Canucks. This could be seen on the second goal of the game where the Rocket did a horrible job supporting their defencemen after a faceoff win. All three forwards blew the zone and that gave Aidan McDonough enough time to call his dad and let him know that he was about to score the first AHL goal of his career à la John Carpenter.
Linus Karlsson picked up the lone assist on the play but Max Sasson was in on the forecheck to create the pressure.
Ultimately, the three Rocket forwards who blew the zone like it was the third period in a beer league game are the ones to blame here but it was good to see McDonough finish and score his first of the season.
Abbotsford had one power play in the period but they were unable to get set up and generate any chances.
Let’s get to the second.

Second Period

Tristen Nielsen took a high-sticking penalty just 1:48 into the period.
The Canucks were able to kill off the penalty and Tolopilo continued to look strong between the pipes.
Jack Rathbone took a slashing penalty at the halfway point of the period and that once again challenged Tolopilo but he looked strong during the five-on-four and then Chase Wouters took a cross-checking penalty to give the Rocket a five-on-three for one minute and 12 seconds.
Tolopilo made a couple of big saves during the five-on-three but the Rocket were able to capitalize on their extended power play and scored just a few seconds after the five-on-three and evolved into a five-on-four. The goal from Joshua Roy cut the lead down to 2-1 for the Canucks.
We then saw the Canucks get a power play opportunity with just over six minutes remaining in the period.
Vasily Podkolzin had a couple of shots on net during the power play but the Rocket were able to kill off their penalty and we were into the final five minutes of the period with the Canucks holding onto their 2-1 lead. The reason they were holding onto their lead was locked in by a big save on a shorthanded breakaway.
Some more Tolopilo content for you…
The Rocket ended up getting a goal from Lias Andersson with 1:59 remaining in the period and that tied the game up with a 2-2 score.
And 2-2 was where we sat after 40 minutes.

Third Period

There was a very weak hooking call against Cole McWard 3:48 into the period and this gave the Rocket a good chance to claim their first lead of the game. The Canucks had a great kill and had more scoring chances than the Rocket, even with a man down. They rode the momentum into five-on-five play and that led the a break in the tie.
The trio of Sheldon Dries, Vasily Podkolzin, and Tristen Nielsen were excellent throughout the game and Dries combined with Nielsen for his second goal of the game.
3-2 Abbotsford after the Nielsen goal.
Aidan McDonough took a slashing penalty with 9:38 remaining in the period and that gave the Rocket yet another chance to get back into the game. This was the seventh penalty that the Canucks took in this game and there was still time left in the third period. Obviously, this will need to be addressed by the coaching staff before next weekend’s games.
Unfortunately, the penalties weren’t done there as Chase Wouters flipped the puck over the boards with 3:10 remaining in the game.
With the Rocket trailing by one, they pulled their goalie to have a six-on-four with 3:10 remaining in the period.
Laval set up early and Lias Andersson ended up picking up a loose puck on Tolopilo’s left and he flipped the puck over the goaltender’s glove and into the back of the net to tie the game up at 3-3.
The Canucks’ penalties came back to bite them in the ass and even though they outplayed the Rocket at five-on-five, on the back of two power play goals, the Rocket were in this game.
As hard as the Rocket tried late in the game, the Canucks struck right back, and it was none other than Tristen Nielsen for his hat trick goal.
Nielsen, who has that DAWG in him, secured the second hat trick of his young AHL career and the Abbotsford Canucks went back to holding a lead late in the third period.
John Stevens had a huge block and played solid defence late but the Canucks took yet another penalty with 12 seconds remaining in the game — their ninth minor penalty of the game.
The Rocket scored with zeros on the clock and the play had a lengthy review before the referees came together and determined that time was in fact at zero when the goal crossed the line.
It was a dodged bullet for the Canucks, who took way too many penalties in this game but were able to lean on their better roster to sneak out two points.

Three Takeaways

Nikita Tolopilo impressed

The 23-year-old backstopper saw 44 shots in the game and stopped 41 of them. He looked so calm in the crease and just exuberated confidence from the first minute to the final.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise because Tolopilo isn’t some no-name young guy who just happens to be on the AHL club. Tolopilo was picked by Ian Clark from the way he moves and certainly has a bright future after what he did last season in the Allsvenskan before making the jump to North America this season.
Tolopilo is going to surprise some folks this season. Saturday’s game was a tremendous start for the Belarussian.

The DAWG was hungry

The DAWGfather, Tristen Nielsen picked up his second career hat trick in the AHL on Saturday.
Yeah, some of the goals were just horrendous zone exit attempts from the Rocket but Nielsen did what he had to do and he walks away from opening weekend with three goals and an assist through two games.

Penalties, penalties, penalties, penalties…

The Abbotsford Canucks are a much better team than the Laval Rocket but they played down to the Rocket’s level and helped them out a ton by taking nine penalties in the game.
This Canucks team will need to be much more disciplined next weekend as they host the team that eliminated them from the AHL playoffs last season, the Calgary Wranglers.
There’s a ton of skill on this team but they have to be much better to meet our expectations of them being one of the top teams in the AHL.
Luckily for them, there are still 70 games left in the AHL season to work on their own game.
Abbotsford hosts Calgary next Friday in their home opener. We will have plenty of coverage next weekend but for now, it’s time for Abbotsford to get home and get their stick infractions under control.

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