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The Farmies: Höglander’s game winner clinches Calder Cup quarterfinals in Abbotsford’s 4-2 victory

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Cody Severtson
11 months ago
Well, Colliton had done it,
Abbotsford had won it,
With white towels waving all the while,
Noah Juulsen’s hunky jawline made us smile,
The players lined up the post-game handshakes single file…
 
♪ We’re talkin’ playoffs…
Out in the Fraser Valley.
Talkin’ playoffs…
Stevens, Rau and Wolanin.
Tristen Nielsen unleashed his inner DAWG.
Bains and Karlsson’s first points getting logged
We’re talking Keeper… Rathbone and the Hög.
 
♪ We’re talkin’ playoffs…
Out in the Fraser Valley.
Talkin’ playoffs…
Stevens, Rau and Wolanin.
Tristen Nielsen unleashed his inner DAWG.
Bains and Karlsson’s first points getting logged
We’re talking Keeper… Rathbone and the Hög.
 
They did it, folks. The Abbotsford Canucks fought tooth and nail and are heading to the Calder Cup quarterfinals.
Let’s see how they did it and make ourselves some GIF money!

The starting lineup

1st period

Unlike Wednesday night’s timid lacklustre opening twenty minutes, the Farm’s journey to a Calder Cup quarterfinal spot began with an Abbotsford power play opportunity just 25 seconds into the game.
PP1: Nielsen, Karlsson, Dowling, Wolanin, Rathbone
PP2: Rau, Höglander, Woo, Klimovich, Bains
Though the power play registered 4 shots on Calvin Pickard, it was the Condors with the first real dangerous chance of the period, moments after Abbotsford’s power play concluded, with Justin Bailey generating an odd-man rush alongside old friend Greg McKegg.
After a quiet debut in game 1, Marc Gatcomb kickstarted his sophomore effort with a heavy check on Bakersfield’s Yanni Kaldis, drawing raucous applause from the Abbotsford home crowd.
It was a chippy start to the period, with the desperate Condors playing aggressively at both ends. While hounding Justin Bailey from Pickard’s crease, Nils Höglander ate a punch to the head from Phil Kemp before getting away with an accidental-on-purpose high stick.
Near the midway point of the period, the Canucks drew their second power play of the game. Again, the Canucks power play managed to get a few shots on net, but the Condors were again generating the best look.
A point shot from Jett Woo, blocked by James Hamblin, sprang the Condors into the Canucks’ zone on a shorthanded breakaway. Fortunately, Woo raced back into the d-zone to steer Hamblin out of a shooting lane.
After another failed Abbotsford power play, Kyle Rau sent Höglander toward Pickard with a terrific breakaway pass, only for Höglander’s shot to ring off the post and over the glass.
The Condors ran into more penalty trouble, with Seth Griffith taking a roughing minor against Jack Rathbone to hand Abbotsford their third power play of the period.
Again, a whole lot of nothing for Abbotsford.
Linus Karlsson had a redirect attempt turned aside in the crease, but the two-defenceman first power play unit struggled to set up fast enough for quality looks.
The second power play unit attempted to shake up the monotony. Unfortunately, that involved Höglander taking a tripping penalty to end Abbotsford’s power play opportunity and hand Bakersfield their first power play.
PK1: Wouters, Juulsen, Stevens, Woo
PK2: Bains, Dowling, Keeper, Giuttari
The Canucks’ aggressive penalty kill did a tremendous job of stifling the Condors’ offence. The Condors’ frustration boiled over with Dylan Holloway taking a holding minor against Chase Wouters. Holloway was able to draw a roughing minor against Wouters through his efforts, however.
The penalty trouble didn’t stop there, either. With three minutes left in the period, on an extended 4-on-4, BIG GAME Max Sasson drew a high-sticking minor against Alex Peters to give the Canucks their fourth power play opportunity.
The late opportunity began with a missed shot from Rathbone.
However, once more, it was a whole lot of nothing for the home team’s power play.
Weirdly enough, for the fourth time in a row, the Canucks’ power play opportunity concluded with a breakaway chance for Bakersfield. This one was defended well by a well-placed stick from Gatcomb.
The Farm finished the period having outshot the Condors 16-5, 8-3 at 5v5. However, like game 1, the first period was weirdly uneventfully eventful.

2nd period

The parallels between the first and second game of the series continued with Jack Rathbone opening the scoring early in the second period to give Abbotsford the lead.
Off an exchange with Justin Dowling down the left wing of the Condors’ zone, Rathbone waded into the left circle to drag a wrist shot around Markus Niemelainen and past Calvin Pickard’s blocker side.
After a quiet playoff debut, Aatu Räty made his first appearance in the series when he took a coincidental roughing minor against fellow young gun Xavier Bourgalt.
BIG GAME Max Sasson turned up near the midway point of the second period when he stripped Cam Dineen on the forecheck, baiting Pickard to sprawl, only for Sasson to place his shot onto Pickard’s outstretched left pad.
It was a close one for BGM.
Seconds after Sasson’s solo effort, the Condors found themselves in more penalty trouble, handing Abbotsford their fifth power play.
Two minutes of nothing later, the game returned to a brief tryst at 5-on-5 before Brady Keeper sent the puck over the glass, handing the Condors their second power play.
The Farm’s aggressive work on the PK paid off for the second time. Timely sticks, blocks, and stick-lifts held Bakersfield to a single shot on the man advantage.
The Canucks promptly went back to work at 5v5.
With seven minutes left in the period, Höglander found Brady Keeper cruising down the right wing for a scoring chance. Dishing a beautiful tape-to-tape pass from the goal line at the left half-wall, Keeper picked up Höglanders feed for a tap-in over Pickard’s glove side.
Keeper’s goal to put the Canucks up 2-zip broke a 162-day scoring drought, having last scored November 10th against the Henderson Silver Knights. The assist was Höglander’s third point in two playoff games.
Keeper followed up his drought-buster with a slashing penalty to hand Bakersfield their third power play.
While Abbotsford was close to making it three straight kills, James Hamblin received an incredibly fortunate rebound off Justin Bailey’s skate. The puck landed right on the tape of Hamblin’s stick inside the slot, and a quick wrist shot over Silovs’ blocker side later, and the Condors were back within a goal.
The Condors rallied to outshoot the home team 15-6, but Abbotsford still held a narrow edge through 40 minutes, outshooting Bakersfield 22-20 across all situations and 13-12 at 5v5.

3rd period

The Condors’ pressure through the second period carried over into the final frame.
A chaotic stretch in the Canucks’ d-zone saw Tristen Nielsen fail a routine board-and-out, allowing Luke Esposito to send Raphael Lavoie behind three Canucks’ forwards for the game-tying goal.
The absurd bounces continued moments later.
After a d-zone clearance attempt ricocheted off a Condors’ head, the Canucks capitalized to set up Linus Karlsson with a scoring chance from the right circle.
After double-clutching to avoid Niemelainen’s sliding block attempt, Karlsson’s shot bounced off of Bains, into the crease, off Pickard and nearly across the goal line.
It was pure chaos.
During said chaos, Jason Demers intentionally dislodged the net, handing Abbotsford a sixth power play attempt. During that opportunity, the Canucks drew a cross-checking minor against Justin Bailey to earn an extended 5-on-3 power play.
This time, the power play actually made it happen!
First, Justin Dowling nearly made it happen with seconds left on the two-man advantage. But Pickard made an incredible diving save off the tip of his paddle.
Then, with five seconds left on Abbotsford’s seventh power play, Tristen Nielsen raced behind the goal line to set up Höglander in the slot for the tiebreaker goal.
The DAWG and Hög broke the Canucks’ power play drought, converting on their seventh opportunity of the night. The goal was Arshdeep Bains and Nielsen’s first points of the playoffs, while the goal was Höglander’s fourth in two games.
The tiebreaker goal opened the floodgates with an absurd stretch of back-and-forth hockey.
First, John Stevens and Chase Wouters raced into the Condors’ end for a scoring chance.
Then, the Condors answered with a two-on-one of their own, broken up with a freaking scorpion kick by a sliding Brady Keeper!
On the ensuing breakout, Max Sasson got levelled inside the neutral zone by Niemelainen, sparking an attempted fight between him and Keeper.
Then, with four Canucks tied up in the neutral zone off the scrum and a poor line change, the Condors retaliated with another two-on-one opportunity.
Fortunately, Arturs Silovs came up huge with two incredible saves on Demers and Tyler Benson to hold the Canucks lead.
Benson, who’d had a quiet night until the third period, followed his scoring chance with a crushing hit on Nielsen inside the offensive zone.
With five minutes left in the period, Colliton shortened his bench to 2.5 lines, leaning heavily on two trios featuring Bains, Wouters, and Dowling and another featuring Rau, Höglander, and Sasson. Occasionally, Nielsen and Karlsson rotated in to give the forwards a chance to catch their breath.
Bakersfield pulled Pickard with two minutes left in the game, adding more tension inside the Abbotsford Centre.
Fortunately, the shortened bench paid off, with John Stevens tipping a neutral zone pass from Noah Juulsen over the Condors’ defence and into the empty net to secure Abbotsford’s spot in the Calder Cup quarterfinals.

Canucks Army’s Three Stars

Nils Höglander: a goal and an assist with 3 shots on net
Arturs Silovs: 26 saves on 28 shots
Jack Rathbone: a goal on 6 shots on net

Random takeaways

  • Danila Klimovich did not play a whole lot during this playoff series. You have to wonder if a player like Vincent Arseneau or even Alex Kannok Leipert slides into the fourth line to provide some much-needed toughness among the forward group as they head into the next round. Klimovich isn’t afraid to throw hits, but it isn’t exactly his forte.
  • On Alex Kannok Leipert, he hasn’t played much this season despite being a perfectly capable stay-at-home defenceman. Could he slide in for a player like Zach Giuttari, who Collitton has been hesitant to deploy, in addition to Christian Wolanin in 5v5 minutes?
  • Tonight marked the second game in a row that Max Sasson has eaten a brutal open ice hit and rallied back to provide crucial shutdown minutes for Colliton. For those highlighting “names to watch” at next year’s training camp, circle Sasson’s name. There’s something there with this kid. He’s got the tenacity and the work rate. Plus, he has earned the trust of his new head coach in very few games, earning significant 5v5 ice-time in a second-line matchup role alongside veteran Kyle Rau and Nils Höglander. Big Game Max. We’re tellin’ ya!
  • Aatu Räty did not play a whole lot in the deciding game. Early in the first, Räty, Klimovich, and Bains were hemmed inside the d-zone, with two of the three skaters struggling to keep up with the Condors’ puck movement off the cycle. Räty and Klimovich are still incredibly young, so there’s no need to worry about the lack of playing time. But you have to wonder if the frequent double-shifting and ultra-shortened bench will do more harm than good as the team pushes further into the playoffs.

Next game

Canucks’ fans will be interested in Sunday’s pivotal showdown between the 2nd-seed Coachella Valley and 7th-seed Tucson Roadrunners.
A win by Tucson would hand Abbotsford a matchup against the Colorado Eagles in the Pacific Division quarterfinals.
The head-to-head against Colorado was quite favourable to Abbotsford this past season, with the Canucks picking up points in three of the four matches.
If Coachella Valley wins, the Canucks would be destined for a matchup with the Calgary Wranglers.
The head-to-head against Calgary was less favourable for Abbotsford this past season, with the Canucks losing more than they won through their 12-game season series.
Regardless of the matchup, seeing the Canucks green and blue win something in the playoffs for the first time in a long time was fantastic.
Maybe this is when things start to go the other way.
It’s been a long time coming.

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