The Farmies: Goals from Aatu Räty and Cole McWard not enough to avoid Abbotsford’s ninth regulation loss of 2024

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Severtson
4 months ago
Heading into a frigid Tuesday night at the Abbotsford Centre, the Canucks record when trailing after the second period was 2-14-0-0.
Against the Colorado Eagles, the Canucks’ power play had scored twice across 17 attempts, while their penalty kill had broke even with a shorthanded goal and a single power play goal against across 13 PKs.
Somehow, the Canucks opened the scoring on the power play, moving it to 3/20 against the Eagles, while their PK improved to a stellar 15/16.
Yet, they still lost.
Yes, they were facing a credible NHL backup netminder on home ice. Still, it was a tough game to watch as the Farm ran up a 17 to 10 shot advantage through the opening 20 minutes, only to squander it over the final 40 with the same lethargic, disengaged play that has plagued them throughout the 2024 portion of the schedule.
Let’s see how this one shook out.
Starting Lineup
Nikita Tolopilo made his fourth start in five games for Abbotsford, while Akito Hirose officially slid back into the lineup as the third-pairing defenceman alongside Filip Johansson. Last Saturday, Hirose returned to the lineup as the 7th defenceman after missing the previous 29 games with a lower-body injury.
Jett Woo also returned to the lineup after a brief stint with the big club as an extra body.
Game #50
1st period
Vasily Podkolzin played hot and heavy on his first shift, looking like he wanted to put as much distance between himself and the hit received from Keaton Middleton that happened the last time these two clubs met at the Abbotsford Centre.
First, it was a drive down the left wing behind the goal line for a wraparound attempt.
Then, Podkolzin picked up his rebound and worked his way to the right circle for a turning wrister on Ivan Prosvetov.
We’ll give Hirose a bit of a break, seeing as this was just his second game in over three months. However, the coaching staff isn’t going to like his decision here (below) to chip the puck up the middle to John Stevens.
Hirose’s pass wasn’t clean, resulting in the puck deflecting out to the forechecking Colorado skater and a one-timer from the point. Dmitri Zlodeev likely earned some brownie points with Jeremy Colliton for the hero block off his knee to bail out his defenceman.
Despite what the above GIF sequence implies, the Farm controlled play very well throughout the first period. They were hard on pucks, forechecking with aggression, finishing their checks, blocking shots, and testing Prosvetov with shots through traffic.
After a TV timeout, Tristen Nielsen drew a pop from the crowd after bodying Ondrej Pavel into the d-zone half-wall with a hit.
Of all the players to stick out in the first period, it was Zlodeev who I noticed the most. Despite his slight frame, he plays like a bowling ball with sharp defensive instincts.
With ex-Canuck Brad Hunt chasing a dump-in down the right wall, Zlodeev turned on the jets to beat Hunt to the puck and throw a check. Granted, the hit didn’t accomplish much. But Zlodeev got right back into the play, covering the slot while Nick Cicek rotated toward the wall, then boxed out to block his second shot of the game to end Colorado’s run of possession.
With less than five minutes to go in the first, Podkolzin got his vengeance on Middleton when the forechecking pressure of Aatu Räty and Chase Wouters resulted in a delay-of-game penalty and the Canucks’ power play goal to open the scoring.
Ahead of the Middleton power play opportunity, the Abbotsford Canucks were 2-for-17 on the power play against the Eagles. With their 1-for-1 in the first period, the Canucks’ power play rose from dead-last in the AHL to a cool second-last.
For posterity, Colliton’s first power play unit featured Räty, Nielsen, Karlsson, Sheldon Dries, and Filip Johansson.
1-0 Canucks: Abbotsford Goal, Aatu Räty from Linus Karlsson and Tristen Nielsen
It was a funny goal that saw Karlsson bank the puck off Räty’s left skate and over Prosvetov’s right pad.
The Eagles didn’t test Tolopilo too often in the first. Their best chances in the first half of the period came from a delayed wrist shot from ex-Utica Comet Josh Wesley. Even then, Cicek tied up his check in the slot to create enough space for Tolopilo to have a clear sight line on the shot.
Past the midway mark of the first period, the Eagles’ benefitted from a flubbed breakout attempt by Cicek for Jett Woo. Colorado’s defenceman picked up Cicek’s pass that was out of Woo’s reach at the opposing blue line, allowing them to send Riley Tufte into the Canucks’ zone to set up Tanner Kero with a centring pass and shot on Tolopilo.
Not liking the speed of Colorado’s rush attack, Tolopilo came way out of his crease to deny Callahan Burke a breakaway opportunity, unintentionally creating a dicey situation for Abbotsford to defend.
The last chance was the one that counted the most, with Tufte scoring the equalizer with just six seconds remaining in the period off a snappy set-play off a Colorado faceoff win.
1-1 TIE: Colorado Goal, Riley Tufte from Fredrik Olofsson
It was a tough break for Tolopilo, who would’ve needed faster reflexes than a young Jedi in a pod race to react to Tufte’s shot in time.
Otherwise, it was a dominant period, with Abbotsford outshooting the visitor 17 to 10 through 20 minutes.
2nd period
The Eagles attacked the Canucks with speed early and often to start the second.
Though Abbotsford traded even in shots while withstanding the barrage, a miscue along the d-zone boards on a failed breakout between Cole McWard and Marc Gatcomb let Jean-Luc Foudy zip a shot on Tolopilo from distance, giving way to a shot from Callahan Burke and a rebound goal from Ivan Ivan to break the tie.
2-1 Eagles: Colorado Goal, Ivan Ivan from Callahan Burke and Jean-Luc Foudy
Two minutes later, the Canucks were off to the penalty kill thanks to a hooking penalty from Karlsson.
With Karlsson in the box and Abbotsford facing the long change, Colliton’s PK bench was shortened, with the following units rolled out in order:
  • Wouters/Stevens with Cicek/Woo
  • Dries/Gatcomb with a double-shifted (intentional or unintentional, hard to say) Cicek/Woo
  • Wouters/Stevens with Irwin/McWard
The Canucks’ kill conceded just a single shot while generating two shorthanded attempts from Stevens and Woo.
The back half of the middle frame was punctuated by a smattering of shots actually on target. The Eagles had a better time getting their shots through traffic, while the Canucks struggled to get their attempts past the Eagles’ big boys on the blue line.
Then, with three minutes left in the period, the Eagles capitalized for the second time in the game off a set play from a faceoff won against Chase Wouters.
3-1 Eagles: Colorado Goal, Ben Meyers from Peter Holland
During the final minute of the period, Filip Johansson threw a pass up the middle, forcing Tolopilo into heroics with a groin-busting stretch save on Jean-Luc Foudy.
The Farm really struggled with the speed/size difference during the long change of the second period. After twenty minutes, their 17-to-10 shot lead had evaporated after getting outshot 14 to 7 through the middle frame. It would have been three-straight goals, had Ivan Ivan’s chest-height backhander over Tolopilo’s shoulder crossed the goal line a second earlier.
It was rough; there were simply too many giveaways, miscues on the breakout, and icings under pressure that led to three straight goals for Colorado.
The PK was good!
Nikita Tolopilo held up his end of the bargain.
But it was a putrid performance.
3rd period
The Canucks’ dismal come-from-behind record wasn’t done any favours when Marc Gatcomb took a holding penalty three minutes into the period.
Fortunately, with Gatcomb in the box, Colliton rolled out the following PK units for the club’s second consecutive successful kill of the evening.
  • Wouters/Stevens with Cicek/Woo
  • Dries/Räty with Cicek/Woo double-shifted (intentionally to take an offensive zone faceoff after Colorado iced the puck)
  • Wouters/Stevens with Irwin and McWard
It was an incredibly quiet game for Danila Klimovich and the fourth line. Here’s a clip of him resetting from the d-zone for a rush-entry. That’s all we had to work with for this one.
Nearing the midway point of the period, Jett Woo drew a high-sticking penalty against Ivan Ivan to give the Canucks a desperately needed power play opportunity.
A second unit featuring Stevens, Woo, Hirose, Wouters, and Podkolzin generated the only real looks of the man advantage.
Then, with Ivan’s penalty having just expired, Cole McWard hopped off the bench to pick up a Podkolzin rebound to cinch his fourth of the season with a step-in clapper to cut the Eagles’ lead in half.
3-2 Eagles: Abbotsford Goal, Cole McWard from Vasily Podkolzin and Chase Wouters
With the Canucks pressing on the following shift, Marc Gatcomb continued his efforts to earn a healthy-scratch designation for Wednesday night when he immediately took a high-sticking infraction to send Abbotsford back to the penalty kill.
Off a dicey scramble at the front of Tolopilo’s crease, John Stevens kept Abbotsford alive, sweeping a sure goal out of the zone after a shot attempt rang off the crossbar, crashing dangerously into the open crease.
For the third straight time, thanks MASSIVELY in part to Stevens’ hero save, the Canucks PK came out on top.
Late in the period, Sheldon Dries benefitted from a misplay at the blue line to break up a sustained run of possession by Colorado for a breakaway shot into Prosvetov’s glove.
With three minutes left in the period, Akito Hirose drew a boarding penalty against Fredrik Olofsson while defending inside the d-zone.
It was a scary moment for Hirose, who appeared to go knee-first into the endboards before staying down on the ice in visible pain for a brief moment.
Fortunately, Hirose skated to the bench on his own without assistance. Nonetheless, a scary moment for the rookie d-man who had just returned to the lineup from a three-month layaway on IR.
With Olofsson in the box, Colliton pulled Silovs for the two-man, 6-on-4, power play advantage. The club’s six-man unit effectively moved the puck around the cycle but struggled to get shots toward Prosvetov. One look from Karlsson saw him try to shoot top corner, only to send the puck out of the zone with the miss.
Then, with less than a minute remaining in the game and Tolopilo still at the bench for the extra attacker, the exhausted Canucks tried to deny Colorado an empty net opportunity. Still, they failed to deny the pressing attack of ex-Canuck Tanner Kero, who buried his eighth of the year to crush the Canucks’ comeback hopes.
4-2 Eagles: Colorado Goal, Tanner Kero unassisted
Ivan Ivan would add a second empty-netter in the literal last second of the game to make it a 5-2 victory for Colorado.
Final score
Colorado Eagles defeat the Abbotsford Canucks 5-2
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
The first star belongs to Nikita Tolopilo, who kept this Abbotsford Canucks team alive when they had no business being in any position to contest a comeback. Two laser-quick goals off of faceoffs lost by Chase Wouters and one of the most egregious communication/breakout gaffes I’ve seen in some time gave Colorado a clean edge over an Abbotsford team that simply couldn’t handle the second-period pressure.
The second star belongs to Vasily Podkolzin, who had a five-point night and was one of the few forwards actively creating scoring windows for his club to generate leads.
The third star belongs to Dmitri Zlodeev, who played sound defensive hockey in a game that needed more of it from the rest of its skaters.
Other notes
Danila Klimovich played a single shift in the third period, the above neutral zone carry-in rush. That’s about it. Just one shot on goal.
Akito Hirose needs to add at least 20-30 pounds to his frame to be an effective defenceman at the AHL or NHL level. Since returning, he’s taken a beating around the net, getting tossed with ease, like he weighs no more than a feather. His skating will take him places, but not enough to compensate for when he can’t use his size to compensate for his many giveaways/blunders on the club’s breakout attempts from the d-zone.
Aatu Räty was a minus-4 on the night despite the goal. At least he kept his point streak alive with his power play tally to open the scoring. Overall, a fine performance, just not a great night for his 5-on-5 on-ice control of goalscoring metrics.
The loss to Colorado was Abbotsford’s ninth regulation loss in their 22 games of the 2024 portion of the schedule. Through the first 28 games of the schedule, the club had nine regulation losses and two in overtime. Just five regulation wins since the calendar rolled over. They’re holding steady in fifth place for the Pacific Division playoff race, but the Ontario Reign and Bakersfield Condors are nipping at their heels, threatening to bump them into one of the bottom two Playoff spots should they not get their act together over the final 22 games.
Next up on the Docket
The Canucks will look to return to their winning ways when they run it back against the Eagles on Wednesday night.

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