The Farmies: Aatu Räty’s two goals not enough for Canucks to overcome Coachella Valley’s power play

Photo credit:© Taya Gray/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK
Cody Severtson
5 months ago
Eighteen minutes.
That’s how long it will take you to read this write-up.
It’s also how long the Canucks spent killing penalties in Palm Springs on Wednesday night.
We’re kidding. It won’t take that long to read.
After two straight losses at home to their Pacific Division rival, the Abbotsford Canucks came out looking for vengeance in Palm Springs. Unfortunately, suspect reffing during the game’s early portions seemed to tilt the ice against them while they did everything in their power to tilt it back. The result was a power play-heavy affair that forced the Canucks’ veterans into playing an exhausting amount of ice time on special teams.
Vasily Podkolzin and Tristen Nielsen led the club with four shots each, but it was the defenceman who came up huge for Abbotsford in gaining a loser point.
With injuries sidelining key contributors like Akito Hirose, Cole McWard, and Filip Johansson, most of the heavy lifting fell to veteran blueliners Christian Wolanin, Matt Irwin, and Jett Woo. They were game. Unfortunately, fatigue set in, and the shortcomings of their rookie backups could not stifle the potent power play offence of the Firebirds any longer than possible.
18 minutes, folks!
We’re all for calling penalties by the book, but after a three-game series, the Firebirds had racked up 20 power play opportunities to the Canucks 11. Across 122 minutes of ice time, 34 minutes were spent on Coachella’s power play. That’s a lot of special teams time for a defensive group that’s already got a lot on its plate.
Let’s get into the game and see how the mess unfolded!
Starting Lineup
Jett Woo returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s 4-2 loss with an injury.
Danila Klimovich did not dress and missed his fourth straight game. He’s only played six games this season thus far.
Max Sasson missed his fifth consecutive game due to a concussion sustained in practice.
Akito Hirose and Cole McWard missed their third consecutive games due to injury. Hirose left during the third period of the club’s second game against the Laval Rocket two weekends ago. McWard’s injury remains on the hush-hush.
Game #22
1st period
The Canucks’ third straight match against the Firebirds started about as good as it could get!
Jack LaFontaine, who was making just his fourth start for Coachella Valley on Wednesday night, coughed up a glorious rebound off his left pad to Linus Karlsson, giving the Swede a five-alarm scoring chance in the opening 10 seconds.
The good times did not last long.
Less than two minutes into the game, the Canucks’ were caught with three skaters puck-watching from the slot off a Firebirds zone entry. Retreating on the defence, Aatu Räty misplayed a loose puck, poking it right to the tape of Jacob Melanson’s stick. Melanson’s shot rebounded out to open ice, where he beat Räty to the loose puck to attempt a pass to Logan Morrison. Melanson’s pass took a few bounces, rebounding to Cameron Hughes for the tap-in over a sprawling Arturs Silovs.
Coachella Valley Goal: 1-0 Firebirds
Two minutes after Hughes’ goal to open the scoring, Arshdeep Bains took his seventh minor penalty in five games, a holding penalty while forechecking against Coachella’s Andrew Poturalski.
With so many key penalty killers out of his lineup, Jeremy Colliton rolled out a veteran-heavy first-PK group featuring Chase Wouters, John Stevens, Christian Wolanin and Jett Woo. His second group featured Sheldon Dries, Marc Gatcomb, Matt Irwin, and Quinn Schmiemann.
The Firebirds’ 15th-ranked power play struggled to mount any offence against the Canucks’ 8th-ranked PK. The most noteworthy moment came when Irwin blew up Logan Morrison at the d-zone blue line.
It was a short bench for Colliton’s PK groups. He went back to his veteran-heavy first PK group after the Dries-Gatcomb-Irwin-Schmiemann group executed a dump-and-change, only this time, Räty subbed in for John Stevens. The ploy worked as the Canucks killed off their 10th Coachella power play in three games.
After returning to 5-on-5, the Canucks were caught with three skaters below the goal line, allowing Kole Lind to zip a no-look backhand pass to the slot for Jeremy McKenna’s grade-A, five-alarm scoring chance.
To steal Frankie Corrado’s Twitter analysis jargon: Jeremy Colliton probably disliked seeing three skaters below the rails and no one protecting the slot.
The Canucks’ 30th-ranked power play got their chance to shine in the first, too, after Stevens drew a slashing penalty against McKenna while retreating through the d-zone.
Yes, the calls were on the soft side.
Only this weekend’s opponents, the Tucson Roadrunners and ex-home for Vancovuer’s farm team, Utica Comets, have scored fewer power play goals than the Abbotsford Canucks this season.
Aannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd…[pause for dramatic effect]
That did not change with the penalty against McKenna.
Colliton’s power play groups figured as follows:
  • Wolanin, Bains, Räty, Podkolzin, and Karlsson
  • Chad Nychuk, Dries, Studnicka, Nielsen, and Wouters
The Canucks were outshot 1-zip on the power play, with Abbotsford failing to generate a single shot attempt.
Fortunately, immediately after the power play’s expiry, the Canucks equalized.
Abbotsford Goal: 1-1 Tie
Though it took a while for Abbotsford to generate any semblance of sustained pressure in the offensive zone, they made it count the first opportunity they had. After picking up his own blocked shot, Irwin went down the left wing with a pass to Aidan McDonough. As the Firebirds scrambled to get down low toward McDonough, he zipped a pass along the goal line to Gatcomb for the deflection over LaFontaine’s glove.
Farmie-heads will remember that Sheldon Dries scored an identical goal for Abbotsford against Coachella in their last game. That goal was set up by Tristen Nielsen, who figured in the game’s next moment of note when he took a cross-checking penalty with two minutes left in the period.
Tsk tsk.
Again, it must be said that, like the previous two infractions, Nielsen’s cross-checking minor was on the softer side.
The Canucks’ PK group shut the Firebirds’ power play down through the period’s close, holding Coachella to a single shot on net: a point shot from Cale Fleury that kicked out to Irwin, who swept the puck down the length of the ice to end the period.
Overall, it was a prototypical period from Abbotsford: Get outshot (13 to 11), but come out even after crushing it on special teams and scoring at 5-on-5.
It wasn’t their worst period of hockey.
It wasn’t their best.
It was certainly a period of hockey!
2nd period
After successfully killing off Nielsen’s cross-checking infraction and several minutes of back-and-forth nothingness, Jett Woo tripped up Max McCormick while defending the Firebird captain’s drive down the wing.
For the third straight game, the Canucks took a penalty while on the PK to give Coachella an extended two-man advantage. Dries was the offender this time, taking a slashing penalty while attacking along the left half wall.
With Woo and Dries in the box, Colliton leaned on a PK trio of Wouters, Irwin, and Wolanin.
For the second time in three games, the Firebirds capitalized on the extra advantage.
Coachella Valley Goal: 2-1 Firebirds
It was a tough break for the Canucks’ penalty killers and Arturs Silovs. With no extra man dedicated to clearing the crease, Silovs’ was completely blind behind McCormick and Irwin’s screen, allowing Andrew Poturalski to rifle a wrist shot over Silovs’ glove side.
The Canucks were able to kill the remainder of Dries’ penalty and drew a tripping penalty against Ryan Winterton shortly after that to get their second power play of the night.
[See the first-period recap above for my thoughts on the softness of this penalty call]
After a slow start to the Canucks man advantage, Linus Karlsson found Aatu Räty at the front of the net with a beautiful pass from behind the goal line for the one-timer goal.
Abbotsford Goal: 2-2 Tie
Sure, the penalty against Winterton was soft, but after three “softer than butter” calls against Abbotsford in the first 35 minutes of the game, they were due for a freebie.
While we loved seeing Vasily Podkolzin pick up a secondary assist on the play, the real winner on the sequence is the no-look pass from Karlsson, a chipper above the stick of Ville Ottavainen right to the tape of Räty’s stick.
Naturally, the Canucks went to their third penalty kill of the game off the ensuing faceoff when Wolanin was dinged for high-sticking. Don’t worry, this penalty was of the not-soft variety. Hard-boiled, if you will.
The high-sticking infraction took away a key penalty killer from Colliton’s disposal, but Abbotsford was game, holding Coachella to zero shots on Silovs. In fact, the Canucks kept Coachella pinned out in the neutral zone through most of their power play opportunity.
Less than 30 seconds after killing Wolanin’s penalty, Chad Nychuk picked up a tripping infraction to hand Coachella their sixth power play of the game.
You guessed it: the Canucks killed it off.
After spending seven of the first 15 minutes on special teams, the game became noticeably chippy through the final five minutes of the period.
Aidan McDonough, who’d barely played in the second due to the run of special teams, came out guns-a-blazin’ on his first shift at 5-on-5. Using his frame to shield the puck, McDonough battled for a loose puck before cruising around the offensive zone blue line before bombing a shot on LaFontaine.
Penalties aside—again, see softness comments above—the Canucks played a perfect road period against Coachella. Despite playing seven minutes shorthanded, including an extended 5-on-3, the Canucks finished the period having outshot the Firebirds 8 to 6.
Abbotsford almost secured the lead in the dying minutes of the period, with Nielsen setting up a wide-open Karlsson for a shot on the cavernous net of LaFontaine.
3rd period
As the entire evening had been to that point, another penalty was assessed within the first 20 seconds of the final period.
FORTUNATELY, it was in Abbotsford’s favour, with Shane Wright heading to the box for hooking.
Thirty seconds onto their third power play of the game, Karlsson found Räty alone at the right circle for a one-timer pass.
Abbotsford Goal: 3-2 Canucks
It was a fantastic little set play that began with several battles won by Bains, Podkolzin, and Karlsson along the right half wall. With the Firebirds tracking Bains to the left circle, Räty found himself open at the outskirts of the right circle, scoring his second goal of the night on a pass from Karlsson behind the goal line that slipped through LaFontaine’s five-hole.
The Canucks took over following Räty’s goal, with Abbotsford outshooting Coachella 8-zip through the opening six minutes. Sure enough, the refs called a tripping minor against Podkolzin to give Coachella a seventh power play opportunity.
For the sixth time, the Canucks held the Firebirds to limited offence, conceding just a single shot on Silovs.
Upon the reset at 5-on-5, the Canucks got pinned into the d-zone by the Firebirds top line. Nielsen sparked a breakaway for Jack Studnicka with a fantastic breakout skate through traffic. Unfortunately, Studnicka went cross-ice for a pass to no one, which gave the Firebirds a quick reset with speed.
After missing his poke-check at center-ice, ex-Canuck Kole Lind cruised around Chad Nychuk for a two-on-one rush with Max McCormick. With Quinn Schmiemann frozen on the retreat, McCormick capitalized on the time and space to wire one over Silovs’ shoulder.
Coachella Valley Goal: 3-3 Tie
At the risk of getting fired by David Quadrelli and the goalie guild for pointing this out. But Arturs Silovs, square to the shooter, getting beat over the shoulder? Not a great look!
Fortunately, the Canucks responded in kind with more shot volume at 5-on-5 to stifle any potential momentum gained by Coachella.
Unfortunately, the Firebirds’ lone bit of sustained pressure in the offensive zone yielded an eighth power play—Irwin was the perpetrator on the sequence, slashing Andrew Poturalski as he made a mad dash toward a loose puck misplayed by Silovs from deep inside his crease.
Miraculously, the Canucks PK came up huge once more. Fatigue from the prolonged special teams’ time began to wear on the team. Matt Irwin played an obscene amount for Abbotsford on Wednesday night, with Chad Nychuk and Quinn Schmiemann seemingly stapled to the bench after the early penalties and miscues on the 3-3 equalizer.
Then, with one minute left in the period, Dries took one of the more stupid high-sticking penalties I’ve ever seen.
After engaged in a battle for the puck while on the forecheck, a frustrated Dries whipped his stick up into the face of Connor Carrick. The reckless and dangerous play caught Carrick in the eye and drew blood.
Dries’ night was done.
He took a five-minute major for high-sticking and was done for the night, taking a game misconduct for a deliberate attempt to injure. Simultaneously, Carrick took a minor penalty for holding Dries’ stick prior to the high-sticking infraction.
Abbotsford outshot Coachella 12 to 7 over the final 20 minutes, but momentum sat squarely in Coachella’s favour.
Unsurprisingly, Christian Wolanin took a slashing minor 39 seconds into overtime while defending the 4-on-3, giving Coachella a full two minutes of 5-on-3 power play time in overtime.
Silovs made a great stop, with John Stevens clearing the zone to allow Abbotsford a full change.
But, unsurprisingly, the Firebirds capitalized for the second time on the two-man advantage, with Max McCormick firing the puck over Silovs’ shoulder to win it for Coachella.
Coachella Valley Goal: 4-3 Firebirds
The overtime winner was Coachella’s third power play goal against Abbotsford in these past three games.
All three came on extended 5-on-3, two-man advantages.
I’m not a coach, but maybe they shouldn’t do that against the Firebirds.
Final score
Coachella Valley Firebirds defeat the Abbotsford Canucks 4-3 in overtime.
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
Our first star belongs to Aatu Räty for the two goals that tied the game and shifted the momentum in Vancouver’s favour. He didn’t see a lot of ice time down the stretch. But the same can be said about practically every non-penalty killing forward.
Our second star belongs to Matt Irwin, who played an obscene amount of Wednesday night’s game for Abbotsford. Besides the lone penalty he took, he was the club’s most frequently used penalty killer. In total, the Canucks spent 18 minutes of the game’s 62 minutes shorthanded. Irwin likely played 13-14 of those minutes. In a game that saw Abbotsford give up two power play goals and another two at even strength, the fact that Irwin ended the game as a positive in the plus/minus column with three shots on net is admirable as hell.
The third star belongs to Linus Karlsson, who picked up primary assists on both of Räty’s goals that equalized and gave Abbotsford a lead. Both assists were similar plays that saw Karlsson winning battles behind the net and fooling defenders with no-look passes.
Next up on the Docket
The Abbotsford Canucks are right back at it this Friday and Saturday when they trek across the desert to take on the Tucson Roadrunners.

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