Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
The Farmies: Vasily Podkolzin and Arshdeep Bains lead the way in a 4–2 victory over the Laval Rocket
By Dave Hall2 months ago
The Abbotsford Canucks returned to action on Friday, hosting the Laval Rocket for their second series of the young season.
The club was entering December on fire, sporting a strong 6-2-0 record the month prior, outscoring their opponents 26-15 during that span.
That being said, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.
The Canucks’ power play has been a huge area of concern, going two for 30 over their last nine games. Despite some good movement and a relatively touted cast, they simply cannot find a way to get things to fall into place on the man advantage.
With any luck, the Canucks could take advantage of one of the league’s lower-tiered penalty kills, and add a few power play tallies to their ledger.
To help with that, the team saw the return of a few key members.
Christian Wolanin, who had been sidelined for three weeks, was set to make his return. Additionally, Arshdeep Bains, who had missed their previous two games, was also back in the lineup.
Artūrs Šilovs, slated to start in Friday’s game, had an impressive November with a record of 4-1-0, allowing only five goals throughout the month.
Let’s see how they stacked up to the North Division’s bottom-dwelling Laval Rocket.
The Canucks jumped out with high energy, collecting a couple of chances right out of the gate.
First, Vasily Podkolzin, playing in his fifth game since returning from injury, found himself alone in the slot. Meanwhile, Arshdeep Bains used the eyes in the back of his head, delivering a quick wrap-around pass to get the puck into the slot to the open man.
Unfortunately, Podkolzin’s shot could not beat the left post.
Shortly after, Sheldon Dries burst through the defence to find himself on a clean break. Despite the shifty move to the backhand, he, too, found iron.
After four minutes, the chances were Canucks zero, post two.
GOAL – 1-0 – Brady Keeper from Lucas Condotta and Riley Kidney
As is often the case in hockey, if you are handed too many strong chances on one end, the luck is bound to go the other way.
Just seconds later, off the ensuing face-off, the Laval Rocket got on the board with a heavy slap shot from former Abbotsford Canuck, Brady Keeper.
This was Keeper’s first goal of the season, and second in just three years, fighting injuries for most of his AHL career.
For storybook reasons, his first had to be against the Canucks.
The next few minutes would see more pressure from the Canucks, to no avail.
Marc Gatcomb, the newest addition to the Aatu Räty and Max Sasson duo, got the best chance, nearly stuffing one home off a turnover at the blue line.
The Canucks were pressing, getting a few good looks, but simply could not solve the Rocket’s netminder, Strauss Mann.
Within the eight-minute mark, the Canucks held an 8-2 shot advantage, with two posts, despite a 1-0 deficit.
Was it one of those nights?
GOAL – 2-0 – Philippe Maillet from Jared Davidson and Gabriel Bourque
Well, early on, it sure seemed like it.
Minutes later, Laval extended their lead after Akito Hirose mishandled the puck at the netfront, and elected to attempt a poor dive to make up for his mistake, allowing the Rocket to double their lead.
Given that the 24-year-old has seen just one game in nearly a month, seeing most of his time watching Vancouver Canucks games from the press box, some leash will have to be given. However, he likely wants this one back.
Five minutes later, with three minutes remaining, the Canucks’ pressure finally began to show results, scoring back-to-back goals in quick succession.
GOAL – 2-1 – John Stevens from Arshdeep Bains
The first stemmed from an offensive zone face-off, when Arshdeep Bains grabbed the puck and went to work. Using the circle to track his steps, he sold the shot before finding John Stevens in the slot for this third goal of the year and first in nine games.
GOAL – 2-2 – Sheldon Dries from Jack Studnicka
Nearly 20 seconds later, Jack Studnicka entered the zone, dropping the puck off to Sheldon Dries.
With a lean and drag, he snapped home his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
And just like that, we have a tie game.
The period wrapped up with a Canucks’ penalty kill, and the teams would head off all square after 20 minutes of play.
The second period began with both teams exchanging shots and getting into some pushing and shoving altercations. Although, the number of high-danger chances was slim to none.
The best chance for either team came nearly midway through the period, where Šilovs shut the door, point-blank, on Nathan Légaré to keep things even.
Midway through the period, the Canucks grabbed the power play and went to work.
As has been the case nearly all season, they failed to capitalize. With that said, it was evident that Vasily Podkolzin was gaining momentum, with hopes to collect his first goal in five weeks.
This man advantage saw two Podkolzin half-wall one-timers – remember that count.
With no power play goal, the Canucks got frustrated, and another penalty was taken.
Luckily, unlike their 31-ranked PP, their work on the penalty is superb, sporting an 85.7% on the year.
Directly following the kill, Jack Studnicka broke out of the box to find himself on the breakaway.
Another big stop by Mann.
GOAL – 3-2 – Vasily Podkolzin from Arshdeep Bains and John Stevens
Much like we covered, Podkolzin was building up momentum throughout the game and with five minutes remaining, Podkolzin went into beast mode.
Powering through the slot, Arshdeep Bains left the puck for the young Russian, before he channelled his inner Todd Bertuzzi; dropping to one hand and scoring his sixth goal of the year and first since returning from injury.
A goal with type of swagger is refreshing to see. No, not only because it’s his first since his return, but it was his first look which resemebled that of his play in October.
He was drafted for plays much like this, and it’s encouraging to see him pull it off, once again.
Ending the period in style, Cole McWard sprung Tristen Nielsen with a strong heads-up play.
Despite the shifty pump fake, Nielsen was unable to double the lead.
We did note that Danila Klimovich was absent for the entire period, and eventually the remainder of the game. It’s a tough break for the 20-year-old, as he simply cannot stay healthy, skating in just his sixth game of the season.
He has two assists in those two games.
The third period was slow, offering few chances on either side. At least, none Farmie-worthy.
With 12 minutes remaining, the Canucks found themselves on the man advantage for the third time of the game.
Would this be the one? Would they finally be able to break the goose egg and score a PP goal?
No, they would not. However, Podkolzin did proceed to take further half-wall bombs, bringing him to a count of five attempts on the night. He would finish the game with a total of seven shots in the game.
Typically, we would not celebrate simple shots. However, the first few matches have been slow for Vasily, so it’s nice to see him shoot the puck and do his best to gain proper confidence as he navigates his way back into the swing of things.
The Canucks would go scoreless on all three attempts, extending their special teams drought to 2/33 over their last 10 games. It’s getting worrisome.
The remainder of the third saw the Canucks play safe and defensive hockey, with little opportunity going each way.
Remember that post from their first few shifts, though?
Well, slipping through the slot, Jack Studnicka entered the zone and fired one off of the – you guessed it- post, for the third time in the game.
With two minutes remaining, the Rocket pulled their goaltender in an attempt to even things up.
GOAL – 4-2 – John Stevens
John Stevens was having none of it, dropping to block the point shot, fight for the puck and deliver his first multi-goal game since 2021-22.
The Canucks took game one of the weekend series, extending their record to a perfect 3-0-0 against Laval this season.
4-2 Abbotsford Canucks
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
All three stars will be going to the line that contributed all night. First up, Arshdeep Bains, who collected three assists, get the third star after missing two games due to injury. He was all over the ice tonight and collected two key assists in the game, which included the game-winning goal.
Vasily Podkolzin takes the second star tonight, scoring the game-winning goal – in style, I might add – and blasted seven shots on net. This was his best game since his return and an encouraging progression. Let’s hope he can carry that momentum into Saturday’s rematch.
Tonight’s first star, with three points, was John Stevens. He got the offensive game going for the team, and he finished it and notched a potentially game-saving block, to boot. He was given a nice bump in ice time tonight, and he delivered, and then some.
Next up on the Docket
The Canucks are right back at it, as they host Laval for the second leg of their head-to-head. The puck drops at 7:00 PM at the Abbotsford Center.
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