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The Farmies: Abbotsford’s 41 shots and Vasily Podkolzin’s one-timer not enough to defeat Calgary in home opener

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Severtson
5 months ago
Hell hath no fury like an ex-head coach scorned.
Or something like that.
I don’t know. I don’t do literary references. That’s Wyatt’s job.
The Abbotsford Canucks made their 2023-24 home debut Friday night with a mixed bag of results.
Players made mistakes. Players made up for mistakes. Players took brutal penalties. Players drew brutal penalties. The Canucks dominated the shot clock, the Canucks got dominated in the shot clock, and the Canucks dominated the shot clock again. Abbotsford’s debut had it all! Power plays, shorthanded breakaways, match penalties, lead changes, and more! They were a fight short of the AHL equivalent of a Gordie Howe hat-trick!
Alas, the Calgary Dustin Wolf’s—er, the Calgary Wranglers under new head coach Trent Cull came into town looking to repeat the results of last year’s season series. There were a lot of shots, a lot of saves, and a lot of defensive miscues. It was undoubtedly an AHL game!
Let’s get into said game and see how Abbotsford kicked off their twelve-game season series against their division rival, Calgary.
Starting Lineup
In place of Jack Rathbone slid Akito Hirose, making his AHL debut. Josh Bloom made his AHL debut for the home opener after missing Abbotsford’s first two games in Laval, taking the place of 2021 2nd-round pick Danila Klimovich.
1st period
The Calgary Wranglers pressed Abbotsford early, recording a shot on Arturs Silovs just 12 seconds into the game before recording a second shortly after a d-zone faceoff win. In speaking with Chris Faber and David Quadrelli on the CanucksConversation Podcast, Tristen Nielsen highlighted his personal goal of improving his defensive details at both ends of the ice. Unfortunately, his flat-footed poke-check attempt on Emili Pettersen was not the best effort toward achieving said goal.
Fortunately, the missed turnover attempt in the d-zone didn’t amount to anything.
Then, on their first shot of the game, a point shot from Akito Hirose, a rebound batted in by Max Sasson, gave Abbotsford an early 1-nothing lead.
GOAL – 1-0 Abbotsford Canucks: Max Sasson from Linus Karlsson and Aidan McDonough
Sasson’s goal was initially reviewed to be sure the puck fully crossed the line. The reigning AHL MVP nearly kept the puck from crossing the goal line. But Sasson got enough oomph behind the puck to make it count.
There were a bit of early jitters for the debuting Hirose. While trying to box out William Stromgren on a d-zone entry, he stumbled a bit, giving Stromgren enough space to wheel behind the goal line for a backhand centring pass.
On his second shift of the game, Vasily Podkolzin iced the puck while defending a heavy cycle from the Wranglers. Despite winning the ensuing faceoff and breaking the puck out to the neutral zone, the Wranglers re-entered the Canucks zone with ease to net the equalizer.
GOAL – 1-1 TIE: Adam Klapka from Emilio Pettersen and Jeremie Poirier
The goal was terrible news to boots-on-the-ground reporter Chris Faber, whose 97 Podkolzin-related questions had to be furiously re-written before the post-game scrum. Truthfully, it wasn’t the worst read. Podkolzin got baited hard by Pettersen off the zone entry, allowing him to drop the puck to the trailer, Klapka. Podkolzin did his best to recover, sweeping around for the poke-check attempt. Unfortunately, Klapka had the speed, motion, and hands to stay strong on the puck and dodge Podkolzin’s check for the wrist shot over Silovs’ left shoulder.
Following the equalizer, Josh Bloom made his first noticeable move of the game: pressuring Brady Lyle into turning over the puck while on the forecheck, prompting a quality shift spent inside the offensive zone.
A trio of Nils Äman, Arshdeep Bains, and Aidan McDonough followed Bloom’s turnover sequence with one of their own, with Bains sparking a slick tic-tac-toe play after capitalizing on a second Wrangler giveaway—this time, at the Wranglers’ blue line.
The trio of McDonough, Sasson, and Linus Karlsson was easily the Canucks best through the first period, as they seemingly spent every shift controlling the puck inside the offensive zone. With Hirose and Cole McWard manning the blue line, that trio combined for eight of the team’s 18 shots in the opening frame.
The McD-Sasson-Bains combo was as successful as it was because of the forechecking pressure brought on by rookie Josh Bloom. Prior to the above sequence, Bloom was deep on the forecheck, hounding the Wranglers’ defence into making costly mistakes with the puck.
Looking to make up for his earlier misplay on the equalizing goal, Podkolzin raced around Nick DeSimone for a rifling shot deflected off of Dustin Wolf’s left arm.
With 10 minutes remaining in the period, Bains took a rather not-so-subtle interference penalty on Clark Bishop that sent the Canucks to the penalty kill.
Abbotsford’s penalty-killing groups figured as follows:
  • Filip Johansson, Matt Irwin, Chase Wouters, and John Stevens
  • Aatu Räty, Nils Äman, Christian Wolanin, and Jett Woo
  • Cole McWard and Akito Hirose, rotating in as the third d-pairing with the Wouters and Stevens duo
Stevens, who once led the Abbotsford Canucks in shorthanded goals, nearly picked up his first shorty of the year off a fantastic breakaway pass from Wouters.
Beyond the shorthanded chance, it was a methodical PK for Abbotsford, holding Calgary to a single shot on net.
At the expiry of Bains’ penalty, Filip Johansson drew a cross-checking minor against Mitch McClain to give Abbotsford a power play.
Abbotsford’s power play groups figured as follows:
  • Sheldon Dries, Arshdeep Bains, Tristen Nielsen, Vasily Podkolzin, and Christian Wolanin
  • Max Sasson, Linus Karlsson, Aidan McDonough, Akito Hirose, and Filip Johansson
Bains pulled a J.T. Miller on the man advantage, handing the Wranglers a shorthanded rush chance after dishing a no-look backhand pass straight to Calgary’s Ben Jones. Fortunately, Jones whiffed on his shot attempt.
The first unit struggled to establish a meaningful cycle, managing just one shot from Christian Wolanin. The second unit was slightly more successful, but their frantic passes possessed too much steam or were a bit too off the mark. Though the second unit’s pace gave the Wranglers’ defence fits, it did not result in meaningful one-timer looks. The extra time it took for Abbotsford to settle the puck before firing wrist shots was just enough to allow Dustin Wolf to get into the perfect position to make timely saves.
Through the final 10 minutes of the opening frame, the Canucks outshot their division rival 11-1. Through 20 minutes, the Canucks outshot Calgary 18-5!
Aiding the Canucks was an egregiously late hit from Lucas Ciona on Podkolzin well after a whistle, which threw the momentum further into Abbotsford’s favour. On the late power play opportunity, the NCAA trio of McDonough, Hirose, and Sasson dominated Calgary with puck control and shot attempts.
Though they weren’t able to break the tie, it was nonetheless a terrific start to the Canucks ‘ season at home.
2nd period
Surely, Trent Cull had some thoughts on his team’s performance in the opening frame. The Wranglers came out hot and heavy, outshooting Abbotsford 3-1 through the first five minutes. Nils Äman shifted the momentum back in Abbotsford’s favour, if only for a brief respite after springing Josh Bloom ahead for a breakaway chance from a slick little poke-check inside the d-zone.
Though he wasn’t tested much during the first 20 minutes, Arturs Silovs looked sharp during the middle frame, stopping two chances from Nick DeSimone and Brett Sutter off the rush.
Jett Woo, the only defenceman not to record a shot on net in the first period, had an ugly giveaway near the midway point of the second. After being late to a puck retrieval, Woo spun the puck up the ice, gifting Jeremie Poirier with an easy passing outlet to Cole Schwindt on the right wing for a shot attempt. Fortunately, Schwindt missed wide.
Silovs drew a tripping minor against Martin Pospisil to give Abbotsford their third straight power play opportunity. Jeremy Colliton switched up the power play units, giving the 2nd group the first look on the man advantage.
The ploy nearly paid off, too! Max Sasson almost scored his second of the night off a wraparound attempt off a backhand pass from Linus Karlsson.
The first unit hopped over the boards following Sasson’s chance, which gave way to Arshdeep Bains’ second penalty of the night to negate Abbotsford’s power play opportunity. Calgary, who’d outshot 9-7 through the eight minutes, capitalized immediately on the 4-on-4 to give themselves their first lead of the game.
GOAL – 2-1 Calgary Wranglers: Brady Lyle from Emilio Pettersen and Ben Jones
The home crowd was not happy.
The crowd was even more displeased when a failed clearing attempt from Chase Wouters led to Adam Klapka’s second goal of the night, giving Calgary a two-goal lead.
GOAL – 3-1 Calgary Wranglers: Adam Klapka from Connor Zary and Jeremie Poirier
Klapka was kept off hat-trick watch late in the second period after taking a tripping penalty against Christian Wolanin. Sadly, that power play was also negated by a penalty taken by Bains.
In Bains’ defence, it was a brutal interference assessment. Colton Poolman had clearly interfered with the stickless Bains as he attempted to make a B-line change toward the bench.
Fortunately, for Bains’ sake, the Wranglers’ power play resulted in just a single shot on net for Calgary.
With less than a minute remaining in the second period, Calgary’s Martin Pospisil held the stick of Christian Wolanin, gifting Abbotsford a sorely needed power play opportunity.
For the second time in the period, Colliton elected to roll his second power play unit out first. Though Aidan McDonough managed a shot on goal, the Canucks’ weren’t able to muster enough offence to swing momentum back in their favour. Calgary outshot Abbotsford 18-11 and outscored them 2-nothing.
3rd period
Abbotsford kickstarted the final period with a brief power play opportunity that yielded little offence. At 5-on-5, Chase Wouters set Aatu Räty up with a terrific cross-ice lob-pass for the one-timer on Wolf.
On the ensuing faceoff, Martin Pospisil sprang himself around Cole McWard for a breakaway opportunity. Thankfully, Hirose got on his horse to race back into the d-zone in time to get a stick on Pospisil’s shot attempt.
Three minutes deep, rookie Lucas Ciona flipped the puck over the glass to give the Canucks an early power play opportunity.
The 2nd (previously 1st) power play unit struggled to find quality shooting lanes until a won board battle prompted a frenetic string of shot attempts and scoring chances from Podkolzin, Nielsen, and Wolanin from around the high slot.
Then, Calgary’s Clark Bishop took a match penalty for a check to the head of Tristen Nielsen, giving the Canucks a 5-minute power play opportunity.
The first two minutes of the 5-minute major saw next-to-nothing from Abbotsford. Colliton then threw out a power play unit featuring Dries, Äman, Bains, Podkolzin, and Wolanin, resulting in a missile of a one-timer from Podkolzin to put Abbotsford within reach.
GOAL – 3-2 Calgary Wranglers: Vasily Podkolzin from Christian Wolanin and Arshdeep Bains
Following the conclusion of Bishop’s 5-minute major, Aatu Räty kept on the pressure against Calgary, driving 1v2 into the zone before dropping a pass to Wouters for the one-timer on Wolf.
Late in the period, Podkolzin slipped while on the forecheck, accidentally sending Jeremie Poirier crashing to the ice head-first. Podkolzin, being the good guy he is, stopped playing to check on Poirier and apologize for the accidental collision.
With less than three minutes remaining in the game, Colliton pulled Silovs for the extra attacker. Aatu Räty had an opportunity to tie the game off a point shot from Sheldon Dries, but Wolf did a great job smothering the puck to deny the rebound.
The Canucks looked again for the Podkolzin one-timer opportunity, but Wolf was wise to the play.
Podkolzin fired another shot at Wolf in the dying seconds of the game. Alas, Trent Cull had his vengeance, winning the first of twelve meetings between these division rivals.
Scoresheet
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
Max Sasson earns the first star of the game for his goal to open the scoring, shift after shift of dominant puck possession, and four shots on net.
Despite the missed poke-check that led to Adam Klapka’s goal to tie the game, Vasily Podkolzin earned the second star off his late one-timer tally and team-leading six total shots on net.
The third star goes to Josh Bloom, who showed quite well in his limited minutes. He was assertive on the forecheck, hounding puck possesors to spark turnovers and giveaways galore. Bloom’s puckhandling under pressure needs work, but considering the likelihood of first-game jitters, he exceeded expectations.
Next Up on the Docket
The Wranglers and Canucks run it back Saturday at 7 PM PST before a midweek back-to-back against the visiting Colorado Eagles.

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