The Farmies: Matt Irwin’s multi-goal game helps Abbotsford defeat Calgary 4-3 in overtime

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Severtson
6 months ago
Hockey’s back!
We’re all loaded to the gills with carbs and tryptophan, ready to settle into a new diet plan for 2024!
But first, there are still the highs and lows of end-of-year hockey to endure.
While the Vancouver Canucks disappointed fans in their return to play against their archnemesis Philadelphia, the Abbotsford Canucks wowed their fans in their return to action, playing some of their best hockey of the season against their archnemesis Calgary.
Let’s see how they pulled off their second straight victory against a Pacific Division rival known for giving them hell!
Starting Lineup
Game #27
1st period
Both clubs looked to shake off the holiday weight in the early goings; lots of back-and-forth action, without much in the way of dangerous chance on net.
Even the Wranglers’ broadcast team struggled with the return to action, as AHLtv missed the opening ceremonies and the play-by-play audio through the first three minutes of play.
Upon the audio feed returning to normal, the Canucks and Wranglers upped their pace. Matt Coronato split the Canucks forward group for a shot attempt, then Linus Karlsson nearly opened the scoring for Abbotsford moments later, following a series of bizarre deflections at the net front.
After drawing in four defencemen off a quick zone entry, Chase Wouters dropped back to the blue line of the offensive zone for a shot on goal from Marc Gatcomb.
Unfortunately, for the second time in four games this season, the Wranglers opened the scoring first, with Calgary’s Mark Pysyk sending Ben Jones deep behind Jett Woo and Christian Wolanin to make it 1-nothing.
Calgary Goal: 1-0 Wranglers
It wasn’t a particularly great sequence from Woo. Seconds before the breakaway feed from Pysyk, Woo stepped up off the blue line to challenge Calgary’s Rory Kerins along the boards. Woo was caught reaching with a halfhearted stick-sweep on Kerins, then caught stuttering on the retreat, opening the neutral zone for Jones to attack.
In true AHL fashion, the game then devolved into a prolonged series of fruitless power plays, beginning with Aidan McDonough drawing a hooking penalty against Brady Lyle.
The Canucks first power play unit featured Vasily Podkolzin, Linus Karlsson, Sheldon Dries, Arshdeep Bains, and Christian Wolanin. A one-timer chance from Podkolzin would be the Canucks’ only power play offence generated on their first power play attempt.
The club’s second unit featured Aatu Räty, Max Sasson, Tristen Nielsen, Chase Wouters, and Jett Woo. They spent the remaining minute of the power play resetting from behind Silovs’ net.
Upon the resumption of play at 5-on-5, John Stevens threw his stick into the chops of Ilya Solovyov to give Calgary a power play try.
With Stevens in the box, Colliton’s first PK unit featured Wouters, Dries, Matt Irwin and newcomer Nick Cicek. The second rotation saw Bains and Gatcomb play with Cole McWard and Quinn Schmiemann. Then, with a minute remaining in Stevens’ penalty, Aatu Räty slid onto a pair with Bains, then Karlsson onto a pair with Wouters.
All told, the Wranglers’ best chance came on a one-timer from Matt Coronato in the dying seconds of the Wranglers’ power play after Jett Woo got spun around attempting another step-in sweeping stick-check near the high slot.
Thirteen seconds after killing off Stevens’ penalty, Tristen Nielsen went leg-on-leg with Ilya Nikolaev to send Abbotsford back to the PK.
The Canucks were effective in back-to-back kills, denying any shots from the Wranglers, while the aggressive forecheck of Abbotsford led to Arshdeep Bains generating a single shot on goal.
When the Wranglers finally managed to enter the Canucks’ zone, Wouters drew a tripping penalty against Ben Jones to push the game to a 4-on-4 state for 30 seconds before a second Abbotsford power play opportunity.
The Canucks got two shots on net on their second power play try, with Karlsson nearly equalizing off a fantastic centring pass from Bains along the half wall.
Unsurprisingly, Dustin Wolf was stellar throughout the opening 20, making a handful of five-alarm saves to keep Calgary ahead.
The Canucks were game, finishing the period outshot 15 to 12.
2nd period
Though it was hardly a “shot on goal,” we wanted to highlight a slick passing play from the Bains-Sasson-Karlsson trio at the start of the period.
After picking Solovyov’s pocket along the right half wall, Bains executes a gorgeous no-look flip to Sasson, who tips the puck to Karlsson behind the goal line. Karlsson swings around Wolf’s net, looking for a passing option, but spins for the shot, only to lose control of the puck on his attempt.
Great idea. Bad result.
The play gave the Canucks an offensive zone faceoff and the opportunity to equalize.
After winning the faceoff back to the blue line, the Canucks executed an efficient cycle around the perimeter that opened space for Matt Irwin to walk down the left wing for a howitzer of a one-timer over Dustin Wolf’s shoulder.
Abbotsford Goal: 1-1 Tie
Despite some suspect puck control issues in the d-zone from Abbotsford’s fourth line, it was all Canucks through the opening ten of the second period.
The puck management issues weren’t that concerning, to be fair. McDonough and McWard got caught off-guard by a weak carom attempt from Quinn Schmiemann. Expecting a puck to catch up to, McDonough was caught backtracking after Ben Jones jumped up to pick up the puck, while McWard was too far from catching Schmiemann’s slow-rolling pass to regain control for Abbotsford safely.
Again, not a big deal. It was just an early speedbump in an otherwise stellar start for Abbotsford.
Following an offensive zone faceoff win, Wouters nearly gave Abbotsford their first lead with a shot off the edge of Wolf’s blocker.
Tristen Nielsen nearly broke the lead for Abbotsford off a brilliant no-look, cross-ice feed from Podkolzin for the one-timer off Wolf’s glove.
When they weren’t peppering Wolf with high-danger chances, the Canucks were imposing their will against Calgary’s forward group. Top prospect Matt Coronato attempted to drive around Schmiemann, but the blueliner simply stood his ground and muscled Coronato off his path toward Silovs’ crease.
The Canucks finished the first half of the middle frame, having outshot Calgary 10-zip.
Just past the midway point of the period, Matt Irwin drew a holding penalty against Rory Kerins while defending inside the d-zone, giving Abbotsford their third power play opportunity.
Ironically, Abbotsford’s power play opportunity gave way to Calgary’s best looks of the period.
First, a shorthanded drive from Dryden Hunt, resulted in a shot attempt high over Silovs’ net.
The second look: a tip on net by Alex Gallant following a late play of the puck from Silovs.
Then, seconds after Kerins’ penalty expired, Christian Wolanin fired a shot on goal from the point that rebounded out to the right circle, where Vasily Podkolzin cashed in to give Abbotsford their first lead of the game.
Abbotsford Goal: 2-1 Canucks
The tiebreaker served as a serious wake-up call for the Wranglers. Calgary finally strung together some sustained pressure in the Canucks’ zone, eventually resulting in an equalizer from Dryden Hunt.
Calgary Goal: 2-2 tie
Nick Cicek tried to no avail, arguing goalie interference with the referee, as Hunt appeared to clip Silovs’ stick during his wraparound.
Adam Klapka then drew a hooking penalty against Quinn Schmiemann after driving through centre ice for a shot on Silovs.
Klapka nearly regained the lead for Calgary immediately after the faceoff. Fortunately, Silovs came up big with the stop.
It was a shaky conclusion of the period for Silovs, who misplayed the puck several times, leading to several shorthanded chances and the equalizing goal on just the fourth shot of the period.
Silovs’ unfortunate period concluded with him tripping Mitch McLain, who attempted to capitalize on an uncontrolled rebound.
The Canucks killed off Schmiemann’s penalty but were now staring at a minute-long PK to start the third. Their strong start to the second gave them the edge in shots, 28 to 24, but the momentum quickly fell out of their favour as discipline issues reared their heads.
3rd period
Fortunately for Abbotsford, a dull, shot-less opening five minutes did wonders to halt any potential momentum of the Wranglers.
The first high-danger chance of the period came off a Nielsen breakaway and shot off the crossbar off a stretch pass from Quinn Schmiemann.
Five minutes into the period, Matt Coronato flubbed a one-timer attempt from the blue line, allowing Arshdeep Bains to execute a high-flip to Marc Gatcomb for a breakaway attempt.
The Wranglers were caught playing deep past the red line to start the third. Trent Cull was probably none-too-happy about the Nielsen and Gatcomb breakaway chances, fuming after Nielsen blitzed down the left wing for his second breakaway of the frame.
Calgary’s Dryden Hunt gave Calgary their best look of the period when he shook McWard behind the goal line for a wraparound attempt.
The Canucks returned to their breakaway s**t shortly after that, with Max Sasson blocking a shot to give himself the 1-on-1 with Dustin Wolf.
Though it didn’t lead to any high-danger looks, we liked this activation off of the blue line from McWard to maintain the Canucks cycle in the Wranglers’ zone, shaking pressure on the line to bring the puck behind Wolf’s net.
From behind Wolf’s net, McWard continued to hold the puck away from the Wranglers’ defence, opening enough space for Schmiemann to set up Räty for a one-timer.
After close to 13 minutes straight of Abbotsford picking their teeth against the Wranglers’ lackadaisical defensive coverage, a d-zone faceoff loss suddenly returned Calgary’s lead.
It was a tough sequence for Arturs Silovs—hardly his fault. With Abbotsford scrambling around the slot off a faceoff loss, Calgary’s Will Riedell rifled a shot into traffic, deflected by Cole Schwindt, high, above Silovs’ glove side.
Calgary Goal: 3-2 Wranglers
As the big club sewered their tie game, giving up three goals in two minutes to the runaway train that was the Philadelphia Flyers, the Abbotsford Canucks did exactly the opposite while the Calgary Flames looked to run away with another victory over their Pacific Division rival.
Not 15 seconds after Dryden Hunt’s tiebreaking goal, Max Sasson picked up his third goal in as many games since returning from a concussion, with a squeaker under Wolf’s elbow following a series of fortuitous bounces.
Abbotsford Goal: 3-3 Tie
The quick-footed center, having shaken Mitch McLain in the slot, raced to the left wall, picked up a clearing attempt, blocked by Quinn Schmiemann and fired a shot on Wolf that somehow found its way into the back of the net.
It was an uncharacteristically leaky goal from Wolf. It galvanized the Canucks through the final stretch of the period—aside from the ULTRA-high-danger 2-on-1 chance generated by Calgary, defended excellently by Cicek in the dying minutes of the period.
With Matt Irwin and the Nielsen-Dries-Podkolzin line caught past the red line, Mark Pysyk caught the Canucks sleeping, sending Clark Bishop and Emilio Pettersen deep into the Canucks’ zone.
Cicek played the 2-on-1 as perfectly as it gets, laying down late and even getting his hand up to block Bishop’s attempted cross-ice pass to Pettersen.
For just the fourth time this season, the Canucks were headed to extra time.
In those four contests, they’d won three of four.
The extra-time success continued Thursday night, with Matt Irwin scoring his second goal of the game just two minutes into the overtime session.
First, Sasson nearly won it with his second of the night after racing into the offensive zone on a speedy two-on-one with Bains.
Nielsen kept up his point streak, wading around the offensive zone to draw in two Calgary defencemen before dishing off to Irwin for the game-winning goal. It was Nielsen’s third straight game with an assist, giving him four points in his last three games.
Abbotsford Goal: 4-3 Canucks
Final score
Abbotsford Canucks defeat the Calgary Wranglers 4-3 in Overtime
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
The first star was an easy selection to make. Thursday was Irwin’s first multi-goal game since an October 14th match-up against the Washington Capitals in 2014 when he was playing for the San Jose Sharks!
The second star belongs to Max Sasson for his numerous breakaway opportunities, the game-tying goal, and the secondary assist on Irwin’s first of the night that tied the game at a goal apiece.
The third star belongs to Tristen Nielsen because I just think he’s fun to watch play hockey. Were it not for those pesky goalposts, he might have broken the stalemate sooner than the overtime session.
Next up on the Docket
The Abbotsford Canucks run it back Friday night when they take on the Wranglers one more time before 2023 is officially over.
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