The Farmies: Nikita Tolopilo makes 30 saves as Abbotsford Canucks put an end to the Reign

Photo credit:John Morrow/Abbotsford News
Dave Hall
6 months ago
Despite being a quiet night at the Abbotsford Centre, the second game of the back-to-back between the Abbotsford Canucks and Ontario Reign proved to be an electric one.
As electric as a 2-1 game could be, that is.
For the Canucks, this was their fourth game in six nights and in the first 20 minutes, they certainly played like it. Despite the slow start, they would pick things up and the two teams offered one of the better second frames of the season with a few grade-A chances at each end.
It may have been cold outside, but inside, things were burning up.
Let’s see how it shaped up.
Opening lineup
The lineup remained primarily the same from Tuesday’s match, with the exception of Nikita Tolopilo seeing his 14th start of the year. While he took warmups, Alex Kannok Leipert was unavailable last minute, forcing the Canucks to skate with seven defenders and 11 forwards.
1st period
The initial five minutes flew by with few stoppages, and both teams exchanged minor opportunities.
Tolopilo was sharp early, making his best save directly off of a faceoff.
The next 10 minutes were as quiet as the atmosphere at the Abbotsford Centre, as both teams exchanged sloppy neutral zone giveaways.
Just as the 10-minute mark elapsed, Vasily Podkolzin decided to jump into the match, picking up speed and generating the Canucks’ best chance to that point:
With under five minutes to go, Mark Friedman, who picked up two assists in his Abbotsford debut one night prior, fired off a one-timer. With no traffic in the crease, Jacob Ingham had no issues tracking the puck to make the save.
Up until this point, this represented the team’s best chance of the period.
Minutes later, led by Tristen Nielsen, Linus Karlsson, and Max Sasson, the Canucks generated their first sustained pressure of the opening frame. This momentum lasted only approximately 30 seconds, with Cole McWard creating the best opportunity in the push with a powerful one-timer.
At this point, it was something.
Sadly, despite the late momentum push, the Canucks were unable to cash in and settled for the nil-nil draw after 20 minutes.
2nd period
Tolopilo was tested early and often in the second stanza, most notably off the stick of Alex Turcotte. Right off the draw, he had broken through main street just seconds in, only to sail the puck just over the top corner.
The Belarussian netminder made a trio of saves within the first few minutes, continuing his strong play.
Following yet another giveaway – one of many for the Canucks – Turcotte would see his second-high danger opportunity of the young period, breaking through to fire it wide yet again. This time, Tolopilo got some help from a few active sticks from the defence.
Danila Klimovich came inches from collecting his first of the year after Jermaine Loewen tossed a last-ditched effort shot that sprung out into the slot.
Klimovich, who took the initial shot to create the play, pounced on the rebound only to see it blocked by the Reign defender. He has yet to collect a point since his return to the lineup but has played much better and appears to have some pep in his step.
Just seconds later, Vasily Podkolzin was gifted a wide-open lane off of a great stick from Bains. Breaking through, Podkolzin fired a point-blank shot, but could not beat Ingham, who had stopped all 13 shots.
The Canucks kept on piling the chances with Podkolzin, once again, enjoying multiple primed shots–both courtesy of a tremendous look from All-Star, Arshdeep Bains.
The first saw Bains collect a ringed puck, before quickly dishing the puck into the slot.
The second stemmed from some nice board work, before providing the same dish to Podkolzin in the slot.
Unfortunately, he could not get either to go.
As if that wasn’t enough, the very next shift, Podkolzin grabbed himself one last chance by providing another strong drive to get off a backhand shot.
After enjoying many minutes of momentum, the Canucks would be issued their first penalty of the game, forcing the league’s ninth-best penalty kill to go to work.
Early in the penalty kill, Aatu Räty got the best chance, found a lane to turn on the jets and grabbed a shot off of Ingham’s shoulder.
As the puck went down the other end, the Reign came inches from opening the scoring. Following a shot from the point, traffic prevented Tolopilo from tracking the puck, which resulted in a post and major havoc for the netminder.
During the mad scramble, he was somehow able to pounce on the puck and get a whistle.
At the tail end of the kill, Reign forward Samuel Helenius found himself all alone in the slot, only to have Tolopilo rob him with the right leg to make yet another glorious save.
After the play tamed ever-so-slightly, Ontario’s Taylor Ward kept his feet moving while Nick Cicek got his stick caught up to take a second penalty in a fine minute stretch.
Once again, the Canucks came away unscathed but faced one last high-danger chance before the break.
Courtesy of the Canucks’ defence leaving Tolopio out to dry and face a breakaway, Martin Chromiak, made a tremendous drive and move at the blueline before nearly tucking it behind the sprawling netminder.
Despite a wild 20 minutes, the teams would head into the final period clinging to their 0-0 draw.
3rd period
This time, it was the Canucks who were handed the early momentum, thanks to an early power play.
Räty, McDonough, Sasson, Wouters, and Johansson took the ice to kick off the power play and immediately sought an opportunity.
Wouters, positioned alone at the backdoor, was primed for a wide-open tap-in, but the puck unexpectedly exploded off his stick.
Of course, this would turn the puck the other way, sending the Reigns down on a two-on-one.
Goal – 1-0 Ontario – Samuel Helenius (unassisted) (shorthanded)
As you could expect from this lacklustre power play, they would be the ones to allow first blood, allowing their second shorthanded goal in as many nights.
Goal – 1-1 – Linus Karlsson from Arshdeep Bains and Mark Friedman
Seconds later, the top unit of Karlsson, Bains, Podkolzin, Nielsen and Friedman, who was filling in for Christian Wolanin, who did not come out for the third, hoped over the boards. Karlsson would bank in a cross-crease pass to tie this game just seconds after conceding the game’s first goal.
After a hot start to the period, the emotion died down as we experienced a long pause as the referees looked to the powers from above, as it appeared that the Reign may have regained their lead.
Tolopilo was confident that he had the puck covered and appeared unscathed from the video review.
Goal – 2-1 Abbotsford – Max Sasson from Aidan McDonough and Filip Johansson
Right off the ensuing faceoff, Sasson would find the loose puck and send himself on a pacey two-on-one. He was given the shot, and took it, firing home his 11th goal of the season.
The Canucks were handed another penalty minutes later, where Mark Friedman–who had just posted his third point in his second game–proved why he is so valuable, dropping to his knees for a clutch one-timer block before clearing the puck himself.
The Canucks did a solid job at switching their game, slowing the game down and playing shutdown hockey. A few exchanged chances occurred over the next few minutes, but the Canucks would grab their best chance to double their lead in the final three minutes.
Following an ensuing odd-man rush, the Canucks hit a trailing Nick Cicek, who fired off the shot, which set a wild craze at the net front. Linus Karlsson had grabbed the puck off of the rebound and slid it into the slot, as the puck made its way to the goal line.
With the Reign net empty, T.J Tynan nearly tied the game, going above the shoulder on Tolopilo before the puck was cleared by Bains.
With one last save, the 6-foot-6 netminder would hold on to grab the 30-save victory.
Final score
Abbotsford Canucks defeat the Ontario Reign 2-1
CanucksArmy three stars
Tonight’s first star must go to the Belorussian netminder, who calmly denied 30 of the Reigns’ 31 shots. His play has gone back and forth this season, but tonight he appeared cool, calm and collected, much like what we saw from his first few weeks of action. Ontario enjoyed several stints of good pressure and high-danger chances, and Nikita was up to the task each time.
For the second night in a row, Vasily Podkolzin is going to get the nod. Somehow, he managed to go pointless, but was still one of the more dangerous players in this game, especially in the second frame. He grabbed another five shots to add to his team leading totals and probably should have had one, or even three tonight.
The third star goes to Max Sasson, who not only scored the game-winning goal but offered some good looks throughout. The 23-year-old has had a strong rookie campaign, and over the last 10 games, has been the Canucks most consistent producer, with the reception of Arshdeep Bains.
Next up on the docket
The Canucks stay home and get set for the San Diego Gulls on Saturday night at the Abbotsford Centre. The puck is set to drop at 7:oo pm Pacific time.

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