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The Farmies: Jonathan Lekkerimäki scores first AHL goal as Abby Canucks’ five game winning streak is snapped

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Photo credit:@Canucks on Instagram
Dave Hall
22 days ago
The Abbotsford Canucks were back in action on Saturday night, and looking to set a season-high six-game win streak.
The Canucks came in playing some of their best hockey and even managed to slay their 2023-24 dragon in two consecutive series. By dragon, we are referring to series-opening games, which had not been friendly to them this season.
Their task? The Western Conference’s top dogs and last year’s AHL runner-up, the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
The sledding wasn’t easy, as the flaming birds came in with just one regulation loss over their last 17 games and held a 5-0-0-1 record against your baby Canucks this season.
However, the Canucks held their own and were just seconds away from beating all odds and securing the victory.
Until they didn’t.
Let’s check in to see what happened, shall we?
Opening lineup
https://twitter.com/abbycanucks/status/1776792871825510528
After a successful stretch running 11 forwards and seven defenders, the Canucks stood pat on their roster alignment.
Arshdeep Bains, who was back from his stint in the big city, drew back into the lineup and was lined up alongside John Stevens and the coveted Jonathan Lekkerimäki, who had yet to put up a point through four games.
If this season has taught us anything, it’s that Bains can light an offensive fire under any player at the AHL level.
As expected, Nikita Tolopilo got the nod between the pipes.
1st period
Keep up, the game’s initial five minutes were a bit of a whirlwind.
The Canucks kicked open the game’s door early, nearly cashing in within seconds of the opening puck drop.
Following a failed bodycheck by Akito Hirose, the puck found its way to Chase Wouters off a point shot. Wouters managed to collect not one, but two rebounds, both stopped by the sprawling Chris Driedger.
On the next shift, Max Sasson, who has been red-hot, grabbed the rebound from a shot by Christian Wolanin. Although there appeared to be a yawning cage to shoot at, Sasson was forced to his backhand and was stopped by a sitting netminder.
Right off the ensuing face-off, Jonathan Lekkerimäki fought and won the puck before being hauled down to send the Abbotsford Canucks to the game’s first power play.
PP1 — Aaty Raty, Tristen Nielsen, Sheldon Dries, Linus Karlsson and Jett Woo
PP2 — Max Sasson, Arshdeep Bains, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Chase Wouters and Christian Wolanin.
Who needs offence, though? This power play saw an early scrap!
Due to a late hit from Sheldon Dries, he and Hayton dropped the mitts to put on a show for the Abbotsford Centre on a Saturday night.
Lekkerimäki got the only shot on the man advantage, rifling a shot from his spot on the blue line.
The Canucks did not let up from there, grabbing six total shots through the first five minutes.
With no goals to show for their strong start, the Canucks’ sent the Firebirds to their first power play at the 12-minute mark.
PK1 — John Stevens, Chase Wouters, Nick Cicek and Jett Woo
PK2 — Sheldon Dries, Marc Gatcomb, Matt Irwin and Filip Johansson
On the rush, Jett Woo made his presence felt by delivering a strong check to drop the Firebird forward, staying true to the villain role he’s been playing over the last few weeks.
Meanwhile, Nikita Tolopilo showcased his athletics with an impressive save, extending his pad to deny a cross-crease play.
Following a flurry of offensive opportunities from both teams, the pace of the game slowed down ever-so-slightly, allowing the crowd to relax and enjoy refreshments.
Moments later, the action picked up quickly, as Tolopilo made another outstanding pad save, sliding over the crease to get his small toe on the puck, denying the wide-open cage.
The sequence led to Tristen Nielsen looking to put matters into his own hands and open the goose egg, courtesy of a slick dipsy doodle backhand. Driedger managed to get his shoulder on the puck.
To cap off the period, the Canucks received an unpopular penalty, sparking an obvious reaction from the crowd.
The call on the ice was tripping, you decide.
2nd period
The Canucks began the second frame killing off the remaining seconds of the weak call before Lekkerimäki showed some terrific determination in the offensive end.
Nielsen, who had a strong first period, got the crowd on their feet when he welcomed Lleyton Roed, a recent college free agent signee, to the AHL with a huge hit on the board.
We said it in our last Farmies installment, and we’ll say it again: Good things happen when you move your feet.
And Aatu Raty was living proof, as he continued to move his legs despite a Firebird getting his stick tangled in them, leading to a tripping penalty and their second power play of the night.
Not long into that man advantage, Nielsen drove the Firebirds to their wits end. This time, it resulted in a line-wide brouhaha, with Nielsen being the prime target.
Nielsen was handed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for an illegal check to the head.
While initial reactions from the crowd were negative, it’s hard to argue the call at second glance. That clip to the head is as nasty as it gets, and there is a very real chance that he will receive a stern phone call from the league tomorrow.
Cue the long-winded penalty kill.
But it was Sheldon Dries who got the first opportunity.
While shorthanded, the veteran, who quietly has sits fifth in AHL goalscoring, found himself on a wide-open breakaway. Driedger stuck with it, however, closing the five-hole tightly.
That breakaway held up as the best opportunity from either team until the dying moments of the five-minute penalty, where Tolpilo stood tall to make a duo of saves.
With the penalty over, Tolpilo remained strong, kicking out his leg to deny the Firebird forward point-blank to stay perfect on the evening.
The Belorussian would finish the period with 14 strong saves and looked as cool as a cucumber after 40 minutes.
The air was taken out of the building in the final moments, as Jett Woo collided with Lleyton Roed at the Firebirds’ blueline. After a few moments on the ice, Woo was helped off without the ability to put any weight on his leg.
He did not return.
Woo has been one of, if not the most consistent defender for the Canucks in recent weeks, so his absence would be a huge blow right before their playoff push.
While all thoughts were with the fallen defender, Jonathan Lekkerimäki was doing his best to pick the spirits back up, as he burst up the wing to grab one of his three shots in the game.
After 40 minutes, it was all knotted at zeroes.
3rd period
This time around, it was the Canucks to begin the period up a man but failed to garner any significant looks.
A few moments into the period, though, Arshdeep Bains showed off some slick hands but found himself in too tight.
Goal or not, this play kicked off a strong shift from his line…
1–0 Canucks: Abbotsford goal, Jonathan Lekkerimäki from Christian Wolanin and John Stevens
And by that, we mean this line blew the roof off the building.
Patrolling the slot, Jonathan Lekkerimäki picked up the puck and rifled his patented snapshot for his first goal in the American Hockey League.
The 19-year-old had been buzzing for quite some time in this game, but it took him sitting in his office to finally feel at ease and thread the needle.
You’ve seen that release over and over from afar, but tonight, he brought it to you right at home.
From that point on, the crowd couldn’t care what the result of the game was…
Lekkerimäki scored his goal, and that was all that was needed.
But hockey was still to be played, and it was coming down to the wire.
The Canucks weren’t able to build off that momentum and were hemmed in for much of the 10 minutes of hockey, with the Firebirds collecting the game’s next five shots to test Tolopilo.
The momentum swung back in the Canucks’ favour later in the period, however, as the Canucks were handed their fourth power play.
Here, Aidan McDonough picked up a grade-A chance, thanks to an incredible spinning pass from Linus Karlsson.
While the man advantage had passed, Lekkerimäki wasn’t done hunting for points. He nearly cashed in for his second of the night, off of a wired one-timer that caught iron.
That. Release. Folks.
1-1 tie: Coachella Valley goal, Max McCormick from Devin Shore and Connor Carrick
Of course, with less than a minute remaining and the netminder pulled, Coachella’s leading scorer Max McCormick spoiled Tolopilo’s shutout with a snapshot from the slot.
The Canucks’ were less than a minute away from shutting out the league’s number-two team, which would have been Tolopilo’s first AHL shutout.
Overtime
After some back-and-forth, it was the same goalscorer, Max McCormick, to deliver the dagger.
2–1 Firebirds: Coachella goal, Max McCormick from Devin Shore
Following an aerial pass, the Firebirds’ go-to scorer beat out the puck race, before shovelling a one-handed shot past Tolopilo, who slid in an attempt to break up the play.
It’s a terrible way to lose a game, but what a play.
And remember, Jonathan Lekkerimäki scored, so nothing else matters, right?
Final score
Coachella Firebirds defeat the Abbotsford Canucks 2-1 in overtime.
CanucksArmy three stars
Tonight’s first star goes to the lone goalscorer, who nearly picked up the game’s winning goal. Unfortunately, Jonathan Lekkerimäki must settle for his first AHL goal, and three shots. In addition to the tally, he was one of the club’s most dangerous skaters and had been moving his legs all night long.
Tonight’s second star goes to the netminder, who had his first AHL shutout crushed with less than a minute remaining. Even with the loss, he was stellar all night and looked extremely comfortable between the pipes, making 18 saves in the effort.
The third and final star goes to Arshdeep Bains, who had also played a strong game alongside Lekkerimäki. He had set up quite a few plays, and in the shift leading to the goal, he was all over the ice.
Next on the docket
The rematch between these two teams promises to be another exciting matchup. Fans can catch the action tomorrow evening as they face off once again in the second game of their weekend doubleheader. The puck drops at 7:00 pm Pacific time.

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