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The Farmies: Abbotsford Canucks post-season ends on sour note with 3-2 loss to Calgary Wranglers

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Cody Severtson
1 year ago
The dream is dead.
For about 40 minutes, the dream looked alive and well! The Abbotsford Centre was buzzing, Chris Faber was mingling with the fans, David Quadrelli was fawning over Spencer Martin’s post-integration, and Rick Dhaliwal was telling the fans what a great kid Tristen Nielsen was. Truly, Friday night was bumping for the Vancouver Canucks’ farm team.
Until it wasn’t…
The Abbotsford Canucks put forth a valiant effort attempting to push their quarterfinal series to a penultimate game five.
Unfortunately, the hockey gods had other plans in the form of a bizarre icing call and an unfortunate misplay in the d-zone from late-season acquisition Zach Giuttari.
But this game recap isn’t about lamenting the mistakes that unravelled Abbotsford’s sophomore season. No, this is about all the good this team accomplished on Friday night that nearly kept their sophomore season alive.
Let’s get into all that good, some of the bad, the weird, and the fun as we make some GIF money one last time!

Starting lineup

Because of John Stevens’ injury, early in the first period of Wednesday’s game, the Abbotsford Canucks saw Michael Regush slide into the starting lineup for the first time since March 4th. 

1st period

Stirred by the inclusion of confirmed good boy RYP, during the opening anthems, Tristen Nielsen channelled the DAWG within him and opened the game with a zone entry and levelling of Calgary’s Ilya Solovyov inside the d-zone.
Then, for the first time in this series, Abbotsford opened the scoring off an unreal sequence of events inside the offensive zone.
Naturally, it was the Kyle Rau, Max Sasson, and Nils Höglander trio wreaking havoc around Dustin Wolf’s net. First, it was a point shot from Jett Woo behind the net, picked up by Höglander and dropped to Jack Rathbone outside the left circle for an initial wrist shot off the crossbar.
The bounces, which hadn’t been there for Abbotsford to start the series, saw the puck fly over Wolf and three Calgary defencemen to Höglander in the slot for the wrist-shot top corner.
An unreal sequence. An unreal snipe. And an unreal way to start this do-or-die hockey game.
The Canucks did not let up after Höglander’s goal. In his first shift of the game, Danila Klimovich kickstarted a scoring chance sequence for Arshdeep Bains. Using his frame to shake two checks for a pass to Chase Wouters, the team’s captain found Bains at the front of the net for a dangerous tap-in chance from Wolf’s crease.
Bains was busy early and often for Jeremy Colliton through the first five minutes, double-shifting on a line with Wouters and Klimovich not long after having spent a shift in the offensive zone with Nielsen and Justin Dowling.
The Wranglers’ leading scorer had a dangerous wraparound attempt near the midway point of the period. But the attempt came at a great cost. Noah Juulsen, who has routinely been a force for Abbotsford around the net during this series, absolutely trucked Phillips following the attempt, standing menacingly over his downed opponent.
Phillips was fine, so forgive the hyperbole in the play description.
The Wranglers didn’t spend too much time in the Canucks’ zone for the first period. When they did, it was Bains again being a forechecking menace for Abbotsford.
Plays like the one above are why Jeremy Colliton double-shifts Bains as much as he does. He reads the play at the blue line perfectly, poking the puck away from Colton Poolman, then battles the entire way through the neutral zone to gain possession inside Calgary’s end.
It’s not too late to hop on the “Arshdeep Bains will get an NHL cup-of-coffee next season” train. It’s going to happen, folks.
Past the midway point of the period, the Canucks fourth line of Matt Alfaro, Michael Regush, and Marc Gatcomb—The 3M line,” if you will—continued Abbotsford’s pressure. Off a stretch pass from Jack Rathbone, Gatcomb drove into the offensive zone on a two-on-one alongside Regush for a blistering shot off Wolf’s blocker.
Off Abbotsford’s next entry, Höglander took his team-leading 8,000th minor penalty of the series, trucking Poolman off a zone entry and drawing an interference penalty. Kyle Rau drew offsetting roughing minors to hand Calgary a two-minute power play.
While the Canucks PK held strong for 1:20 of Calgary’s man advantage, a lapse in coverage gave Cole Schwindt an open shooting lane from the right circle, leading to a power play tally and the equalizing goal.
The infraction and power play goal seemed to fuel Höglander for his next few shifts. Despite Calgary’s defenders zeroing in on him any time he was near the puck in the offensive zone, Höglander was still dynamic as ever. Late in the period, Höglander fought through the sticks of three Wrangler defenders for a beautiful chip pass to Christian Wolanin at the blue line. Then, Zach Giuttari received Wolanin’s pass at the right point, firing a shot that just narrowly missed Wolf’s left post.
On Höglander’s next shift, BIG GAME Max Sasson drew an interference penalty against Dryden Hunt to give Abbotsford their first power play of the game with less than one minute on the clock.
PP1: Karlsson, Dowling, Wolanin, Nielsen, Höglander
The power play failed to generate any significant looks but gave themselves a 1:10 man advantage to start the second period.
After 20 minutes, the Canucks outshot the Wranglers 12-8 across all situations and 12-6 at 5-on-5.

2nd period

The early power play didn’t last long, thanks to a chop to the jaw of Nicholas Meloche by Linus Karlsson.
Karlsson’s penalty resulted in a brief lull at 4-on-4 before a 1:10 of power play time for Calgary. The first half was dominated by several shot attempts from Jakob Pelletier before Dowling and Bains combined to force the Wranglers out of the d-zone, ending their brief man advantage.
Seconds after leaving the box, Karlsson earned his vengeance against Meloche, drawing a tripping minor against the defenceman to give the Canucks a second power play opportunity.
PP2: Rau, Johansson, Rathbone, Gatcomb, Bains
Filip Johansson’s brief foray on the second power play unit didn’t go so hot. Two turnovers in the offensive zone forced Abbotsford to reset in neutral territory, ending PP2’s opportunity, before PP1 hopped over the boards, where they promptly accomplished nothing.
Not long after Abbotsford’s dismal power play opportunity, Kyle Rau drew a cross-checking minor against Jeremie Poirier to give the Canucks their third power play of the game.
During another dismal power play opportunity, Johansson made amends for his initial run during the Meloche tripping power play by dishing Abbotsford’s only shot on goal of the power play.
Moments after the power play conclusion, Yan Kuznetsov drew a tripping penalty against Matt Alfaro along the wall inside the Canucks’ d-zone to continue the run of second-period power plays.
Not 20 seconds into Calgary’s power play, Juulsen drew a hooking penalty against Ben Jones while racing toward the puck along the half wall to send the game to 4-on-4.
AHL Hockey, baybee.
Late in the period, an atrocious line change gave way to a breakaway opportunity for Dowling. Dustin Wolf made the initial stop, and before Karlsson could capitalize on the loose puck in the crease, Matthew Phillips took him out at the knees.
While it was odd that Höglander took an interference penalty for a similar check during the first period, we defer to the above quote, “AHL Hockey, baybee,” to explain the non-call.
Speaking of “AHL Hockey, baybee.” With six minutes left in the period, Tristen Nielsen did his best impression of me trying to wrestle a dryer sheet away from my dog when he took issue with Connor Zary’s charge into Spencer Martin. Nielsen tried to pry Zary off of Martin, but Martin refused to let Zary go, insisting on giving a little face wash to the Calgary forward for the “accidentally on purpose” charge.
The play sent the game to another 4-on-4 period, where the Canucks regained the lead off of a fantastic tic-tac-toe play from blueliners Zach Giuttari to Christian Wolanin to Tristen Nielsen along the goal line.
All series long, the Canucks have struggled to get Cool-as-a-cucumber Dustin Wolf to sprawl out in desperation. The Canucks quick puck movement on the second-period tiebreaker finally saw Wolf stretching post to post in desperation. Wolf left barely any room between his left pad and the post on the save attempt, but Nielsen still found space. Talk about picking a corner!
The Canucks finished the period having outshot Calgary 7-6 across all situations and 2-1 at 5-on-5.
Don’t be alarmed by the low 5-on-5 shot totals; there were a lot of penalties called during the second period. With all of the special teams’ play and score effects, Danila Klimovich barely saw a shift through 20 minutes of play.

3rd period

The third period began with an exchange of icings before a poor d-zone breakout resulted in another Calgary power play. This time, the perpetrator was Jack Rathbone, who was sent to the box for slashing Cole Schwindt.
The PK looked dicey to start, with Ben Jones crashing Martin’s crease after playing the puck off his skate. Fortunately, Dowling backtracked in time to get a stick on Jones’ drive, disrupting any meaningful scoring chance.
Late in the PK, Juulsen dishes another one of his trademark clean hits, drawing a pop from the home crowd.
Then, Bains did a terrific job playing disruptor at the top of the PK diamond, stifling the Wranglers’ ability to set up a shooting lane with timely stick-lifts and poke checks through the slot.
Besides the Wranglers’ power play, the start of the third period had a tremendous lack of game flow; repeated icings and offsides prevented any momentum generation for Abbotsford.
Ahead of the midway point of the period, Chase Wouters led an offensive zone shift that shifted momentum in Abbotsford’s favour.
Playing his first shift in at least 25 minutes, Danila Klimovich put himself into a scoring position immediately, receiving a backhand pass from Arshdeep Bains behind Wolf’s net, nearly giving Abbotsford a 3-1 lead.
Then, things shifted back in the Wranglers’ favour off an atrocious icing call against the Canucks, with Marc Gatcomb clearly having an edge and stick on two Calgary defencemen.
Off of the ensuing d-zone faceoff, a point shot from Ilya Solovyov bounced its way over Spencer Martin’s glove, tying the game at two apiece.
Your heart breaks for Gatcomb. He’s done everything right in his very limited minutes, including outracing two Calgary defencemen to negate an icing. But like most of the calls tonight: they were plum bad.
Disaster struck with 7:19 left in the period. Zach Giuttari turnstiled himself while searching for a Calgary dump-in that got lost in his skates. Jakob Pelletier won the scramble for possession, dishing back to Adam Klapka in the slot for an uncontested shooting lane on Martin from the slot. Catching his own rebound, Klapka outmuscled the backchecking Dowling to give Calgary a 3-2 lead late in the game.
To get the Canucks back in the game, Colliton loaded up with a d-pairing of Wolanin and Rathbone, resulting in two of the team’s best chances down the stretch.
With less than two minutes to go, Collitton pulled Martin for the extra attacker, deploying Nielsen, Sasson, Bains, Wolanin, Rathbone, and Karlsson to tie the game. Sadly, the ploy didn’t work, with Abbotsford accidentally sending seven players onto the ice with 1:05 remaining, taking a bench minor for too many men.
Wolanin had a shot attempt with a second left on the clock.
Unfortunately, despite playing some of their best hockey of the series, a couple of rough calls and bad bounces undid Abbotsford’s spirited effort to force a fifth game.
Their season ends on a sour note, but it is hard not to see this season as anything but a stirring success. The on-ice product was electric, the efforts of its young stars carried the team, the goaltending tandem was terrific, and several players performed well enough to earn two-year two-way extensions with the NHL club.
Though they couldn’t force a game 5, this coaching and development staff did the impossible this season by renewing the fanbase’s faith in the organization’s previously nonexistent development program.
Best Jersey botch
Personally, we love the optimism.

Canucks Army’s three stars

Arshdeep Bains: a two-way force all game that didn’t feature on the scorecard, but once again was used everywhere on the ice for Colliton; 5v5, PK. power play, and the final do-or-die moments of the season.
Tristen Nielsen: any other day, that goal-line snipe on the reigning AHL MVP should be enough to force a game 5. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough tonight. Beyond the goal, Nielsen was a menace on the forecheck, playing much bigger than his size would indicate, finishing every check possible against even the largest of customers.
Christian Wolanin: It’s a shame the AHL does not track ice time because the stats would show that Wolanin played at least 60% of this game. Whether alongside Zach Giuttari, Jack Rathbone, or Jett Woo, Wolanin played some of his best hockey of the playoffs in this game, generating a laundry list of scoring chances while combining on one of the team’s best-looking goals of the season.
Honourable mention, Marc Gatcomb: Considering he barely played, we liked his hustle on every shift and the multiple individual scoring chances he led during the first two periods. Though he finished the game with a negative-2 on the goal differential column, Gatcomb’s stats were misleading. Colliton clearly liked the forward’s physicality and hustle because he played more minutes than Danila Klimovich in this series, which wasn’t unearned. He was solid. Hopefully, that non-icing call doesn’t live in his head rent-free this off-season.

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