The Farmies: Jonathan Lekkerimäki has point taken away in AHL debut as Abbotsford defeats Colorado 2-1 in overtime

Photo credit:@Canucks on Instagram
Dave Hall
3 months ago
The Abbotsford Canucks were back in action in the Mile High City on Friday night, visiting the Colorado Eagles for the first of a two-night doubleheader.
If you’ve been following this team all year, you know what the first game of a back-to-back typically consists of.
If not, let’s briefly summarize how game ones have gone for this club.
Abbotsford had not won the first game of a doubleheader since February 23rd. That victory was their only game-one victory of 2024, and it was a shootout victory against the worst team in the Pacific Division.
Their season record in the first leg of a back-to-back: 1-13-1-0-0.
Their season record of 2-3-1-0 against the Eagles certainly did not help their case. The chances weren’t on their side.
Well, despite being held to a measly 15 shots in the match, the Canucks were able to break the curse, defying all odds to win their second game-one victory of 2024.
Might that have had to do with the debut of the organization’s number one prospect, Jonathan Lekkerimäki?
It’s tough to say.
But, yes.
What changed for Lekkerimäki’s AHL debut in Abbotsford that helped break the curse? Let’s get into it and find out!
Opening lineup
It’s been nearly two years since Jonathan Lekkerimäki was drafted 15th overall by the Vancouver Canucks. Friday night, the wait was finally over.
After crossing the pond from Sweden last week, fans got their first look at the organization’s prized prospect in a Canucks uniform.
It wasn’t a perfect debut by any means, but he certainly did not look out of place and was quite obviously hyper-focused on his defensive responsibilities. Since it was a slower night offensively, we will focus much of our recap on the young sharpshooter, at least what we can offer.
Wearing #44, half of his typical #88 that he wore throughout his Swedish career, Lekkerimäki skated on a line with Aidan McDonough and John Stevens.
1st period
The Eagles came in hot out the gate, controlling early momentum with roughly five minutes straight of sustained pressure.
Lekkerimäki hopped over the boards for his debut just over a minute into the match. Unfortunately, he spent most of it in the d-zone as he manned his coverage at the blue line.
Despite facing sustained pressure in their defensive zone during the early stages of the period, Abbotsford generated the game’s first shot on the net. Guillaume Brisebois fired a point shot that Ivan Prosvetov easily turned aside.
Shortly after, the Canucks generated the game’s first grade-A chance off a sloppy play in the Abbotsford d-zone.
The puck was turned over thanks to a stumble from Eagles’ defender Keaton Middleton, allowing Tristen Nielsen and Linus Karlsson to take off on an odd-man rush alongside Jett Woo.
After a quick give-and-go, Karlsson let the opportunity slip, shooting the puck up and over the goaltender’s shoulder.
Although he hadn’t stretched his offensive wings yet, Lekkerimäki appeared comfortable and engaged playing defence. He demonstrated strong puck protection abilities while battling hard in his shifts along the walls.
He would collect his first scoring chance from a neutral zone turnover in his next shift. Grabbing the puck, the youngster turned toward the opposing zone before looking off his defenceman before rifling his first shot attempt.
Shortly after this, the Canucks were handed the game’s first of many power play when Riley Tufte was called for a roughing minor.
PP1 – Max Sasson, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Aidan McDonough, Jett Woo, and Christian Wolanin
PP2 – Aatu Räty, Linus Karlsson, Sheldon Dries, Tristen Nielsen, and Filip Johansson
With most of the first unit’s skaters on the ice at the time of the penalty, Abbotsford sent out their second unit to kickstart the man advantage.
As has been the case with the Canucks’ power play all year, the best grade-A chance on the power play went to the shorthanded team.
Despite being the last man back and having plenty of time to headman the puck, Filip Johansson attempted to break out of the zone past the Eagles’ forechecker, leading to a turnover and the Eagles’ only goal of the night.
1-0 Eagles: Colorado goal, Ondrej Pavel unassisted
From there, Lekkerimäki took the ice to enjoy his first taste of power play time in the American League. As you likely know, the power play is typically where the 19-year-old cashes his cheques and will be expected to contribute heavily over the next stages of his development.
As practiced earlier in the week, the sharpshooter was placed in the bumper spot, where he had success back in Sweden.
It’s somewhat unfortunate, as he has carved out a strong career by being the half-wall shooter from the top of the circles.
Bumper or not, a shooter like Lekkerimäki will find open ice, and that’s exactly what he did in his first shift.
Backing off coverage, he found himself wide open in his wheelhouse before dropping to a knee to grab the team’s best chance to cash in.
Unfortunately, the puck took a hop at the last second, skipping over his stick.
While he didn’t get his all-world shot off, he did draw a penalty on the defender, who was caught holding his sweater, resulting in consecutive man advantages for the away team.
The following two minutes would not offer much in the offensive zone until the dying stages, where Linus Karlsson planted himself at the side of the net, directing a shot-pass from Christian Wolanin, forcing Prostetov to make one of his six saves of the period.
The Canucks had chances but walked down the tunnel, down by a goal but even in shots after 20 minutes.
2nd period
Shortly into the second frame, Lekkerimäki came in strong to provide his best shift of the game, aiding in a decent push for his team.
1-1 Tie: Abbotsford goal, Max Sasson unassisted*
After a blueline keep from Nick Cicek, Lekkerimäki again demonstrated solid puck protection work before shovelling the puck down toward Aidan McDonough. McDonough managed to fight off the defender, batting the puck out to Max Sasson.
With little time and space, Sasson quickly tucked the puck under the bar, over the goaltender’s shoulder, extending his point streak to a career-high seven games.
For most of the night, it appeared that Lekkerimäki had picked up his first AHL point.
However, from a closer look, you can see that the Eagles’ defenceman had settled the puck before attempting the backhand clearance that landed on the tape of Sasson’s stick.
For two hours, he was a point-per-game player in North America.
After the ensuing face-off, the Eagles got back to work, creating numerous opportunities to regain their lead. During this stretch, Tolopilo provided some of his best work and kept the game at bay.
Despite not registering a point, Lekkerimäki had a decent showing by following up his best shift with a stronger one, contributing on several scoring opportunities.
In one instance, he skillfully passed the puck under pressure before being knocked down by a physical “North American-style” hit.
He will need to adjust to this type of physical play, which is less common in Sweden as defenders often opt for the “drive-by” approach instead.
He took the bump like a champ, got back up, and went to the bench for a change.
Shortly after, Christian Wolanin was sent to the box to give the Eagles their first of many man advantage of the match.
The Canucks core penalty killing units were rolled out as follows:
PK1 – Aatu Raty, John Stevens, Jett Woo, and Nick Cicek
PK2 – Sheldon Dries, Marc Gatcomb, Matt Irwin, and Guillaume Brisebois
In nearly an identical fashion as the Canucks enjoyed in the first, the Eagles were handed a consecutive power play. With seconds remaining on the Wolanin penalty, Jett Woo took a slashing call at the netfront.
Luckily, with one of the league’s top PKs, the Canucks did a fine job at keeping the Eagles to the outside, limiting them to just two shots over all four minutes.
It was about here where the penalties took hold of the game.
In the final seconds of the Eagles’ man advantage, Prosvetov was handed a penalty for delay of game for playing the puck outside the trapezoid.
That clip may be every goalie’s worst nightmare come true.
As was the case all night, nothing came of the power play.
For a slower game, tempers did begin to flare. This team has bad blood dating back to their first meeting when Keaton Middleton took down Vasily Podkolzin. That hatred has trickled through each of their five meetings since.
Riley Tufte caused the stir this time, catching Johansson with a hit along the boards.
The hit bore an eerie resemblance to the one that took down Podkolzin back in October. Fortunately, although slow to his feet, Johansson managed to pick himself up and skate to the bench unassisted.
However, the play did spark some commotion, leading to several shoves between the players.
The tussle from the hit provided the remaining minutes with its highest intensity. Unfortunately, the intensity did not bring any offence out of Abbotsford.
After 40 minutes of hockey, the Canucks failed to generate any notable chances and had just eight shots on net, including a measly two in the second period.
3rd period
It seemed like Lekkerimäki was poised to get plenty of ice time and generate some noteworthy moments in his Farmies debut.
He created the period’s first opportunity right out of the gate, stopping up at the blue line and unleashing a shot toward the net, looking for a rebound—ignore the poor camera angle.
Unfortunately, the penalty train returned, limiting Lekkerimäki’s ice time. He skated just a single shift in the first 12 minutes of the final frame.
Apart from that shot, there wasn’t much excitement in the early stages of the third period. However, the bad blood from the second period spilled over, resulting in some spirited shoves and tussles early on.
The Canucks found themselves in penalty trouble, taking three consecutive penalties, spending six minutes a man down.
Tolopilo wasn’t tasked with making too many huge saves but stood tall when asked.
After a string of penalty kills, the Canucks were handed one last chance of their own, but their fourth power play of the night did not yield much in terms of scoring opportunities.
By this point, the game had seen nine combined power play opportunities, none of which resulted in significant scoring chances for either side.
Sasson seized on a defensive lapse in the dying minutes and fired a quick shot that beat Prosvetov clean but struck the post.
Through three periods, the Canucks had secured at least a single point despite being held to 13 shots over 60 minutes.
2-1 Canuck: Abbotsford goal, Jett Woo from Sheldon Dries and  John Stevens
Just over a minute into the 3v3 overtime period, Jett Woo lured two Colorado forecheckers into a board battle behind Tolopilo’s net. Woo won possession, initiating a quick break out and transition through the neutral zone.
After gaining the zone, Sheldon Dries fed the trailing Woo, who delivered a low glove-side squeaker past the goaltender to clinch the game with his sixth goal of the season.
After moving the puck up to Dries, Woo appeared to skate over to the bench for a line change before deciding to join the rush and call game.
For a quiet game all around, it was marked by a few exciting checked-off boxes for the Abbotsford Canucks.
Not only did they break their dreaded curse of losing the opening game of a doubleheader, but they also welcomed a new prominent member to their roster.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s debut may not have been overflowing with highlights, but he played a simple and effective game. He focused on his defensive responsibilities and showed signs of growing comfort as the game progressed. Despite being limited in ice time due to numerous penalties, there was a sense that he could have made a bigger impact, given more time to shine.
With his first game over, all eyes will be on Lekkerimäki Saturday night to see how he adapts to his first taste of North American pro hockey.
Final score
Abbotsford defeats Colorado 2-1 in overtime.
CanucksArmy three stars
Tonight’s first star goes to Jett Woo for his game-winning goal, even if he was responsible for one of the Canucks five penalty kills. He was the only Canuck to finish with a plus-2 on the evening.
Nikita Tolopilo earned the second star with 25 saves. He was solid between the pipes and always showed up when the team needed a stop. The Canucks didn’t help him with five minor penalties and an overall lack of play control.
Max Sasson is awarded the third star for his goal—his 17th of the season—and team-high four shots on goal. He is currently on a seven-game point streak and has been a consistent producer for the team all season.
Next on the docket
These teams meet again Saturday night for a rematch and their final match of the regular season.

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