The Farmies: Vasily Podkolzin keeps heating up as Abbotsford Canucks dethrone Ontario Reign
By Dave Hall1 month ago
The Abbotsford Canucks, looking to bounce back from a disappointing three-game road trip where they dropped two out of three, faced off against divisional rivals, the Ontario Reign.
Following two consecutive shaky performances from Artūrs Silovs, he was given the night off. Instead, Nikita Tolopilo, who had a strong 6-2 victory in Tucson on Saturday, received his first consecutive start in his AHL career.
Max Sassson returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a concussion. He assumed his role as the team’s second-line center, playing alongside Arshdeep Bains and Linus Karlsson. Sasson has had a knack for elevating the play of those who line up next to him, and with Bains slowing down statistically, the hope was that these three could find some lightning in a bottle and get his game going.
The game promised to be eventful with a high number of penalties, shots, and, fortunately for the Canucks, several goals. Let’s dive into the details of the matchup.
The Ontario Reign came out strong in the opening period, even though they didn’t register their first shot until the five-minute mark.
Although they did manage to beat Nikita Tolopilo early, they were stymied by the dreaded post. The Reign were plagued throughout the opening frame, hitting iron three times throughout the period.
The two teams would play neutral zone chess for the first few minutes until the Canucks presented the game with its first shot.
Vasily Podkolzin, showing off some pre-injury determination, initiated a strong drive early in the period, attempting to slide the puck through Erik Portillo’s five-hole.
As a pre-warning, Podkolzin was all over the ice in this one, so prepare to see his name often.
Minutes later, the Canucks earned the game’s first power play after Chase Wouters took a high stick.
It’s unfortunate, but Abbotsford heading to the man advantage doesn’t hold too much weight these days. Their power play has been awful this season, despite icing an impressive staff.
Of course, this time, it was moot, as Sheldon Dries took a penalty directly off the ensuing face-off, resulting in a four-on-four play just five seconds into the man advantage.
The Canucks gradually took control of the period, largely due to the line featuring Vasily Podkolzin, Sheldon Dries, and Tristan Nielsen.
Podkolzin, as already mentioned, made key plays, including this drive, where he grabbed the puck in his end, and went for a skate.
Although this chance never amounted to anything high-danger, the mere image of him gaining speed, with his head up to drive the play down the ice is an incredibly encouraging development in his game.
These are the plays that everyone wants to see, and want to see often.
Well, how about right away? Just one shift later, he was up to his tricks again, grabbing the puck and gaining speed down the ice. This time, he executed a smooth in-and-out move on the defender for his third shot of the young game.
The line of Dries, Nielsen, and Podkolzin continued their dominance, creating chances and pouring pressure onto their opponents, forcing Erik Portillo to make several key saves in the period.
This time, much in part to Podkolzin’s hard work, disrupting play and one-handing the puck back, which allowed Dries to break through and force a tremendous glove save by the netminder.
Despite all the opportunities, the Canucks were unable to solve the Ontario Reign in the opening 20 minutes.
This period would close out with a late Ontario power play, which would nearly mark the game’s opening goal – or at least, one of the best chances for Ontario to do so.
Right off of the draw, Akil Thomas found himself all alone in the slot, and much like the Canucks defensive lapse, Thomas mishandled the puck and was unable to cash in on a glorious opportunity.
Somehow, this one remained scoreless after each team saw nine shots on net.
As if we didn’t see him enough in the opening frame, the Vasily Podkolzin show did not skip a beat in the second period.
Right out of the gate, he initiated a two-on-one opportunity, delivering a cross-ice feed to Sheldon Dries that narrowly missed connecting.
The Canucks maintained pressure for almost two minutes, creating chances, including Linus Karlsson’s wrap-around attempt, which was thwarted by the Reign’s standout rookie defender, Brandt Clark.
Despite multiple attempts, the score remained tied after five minutes.
However, just minutes later, after the Canucks continued to feed off of their early pressure, they finally broke the deadlock.
Following strong board play by Arshdeep Bains and Linus Karlsson, Max Sasson seized the loose puck, drove to the slot, and scored his seventh of the season.
This was Sasson first game back after missing seven games with a concussion, and his contributions proved to be a major key to this game.
This is where the game broke loose.
Just minutes after the goal, the Canucks conceded another penalty, granting the Reign their third power play opportunity of the game.
With just seconds remaining on the kill, Martin Chromiak capitalized, firing a powerful shot off the draw for his seventh of the year.
Following the goal, it was Ontario’s turn to take a penalty, providing the Canucks with another man advantage.
The top unit, featuring Wolanin, Bains, Karlsson, Podkolzin, and Dries, generated six shots, and were buzzing for well over half of the man advanage.
Despite their efforts, Portillo held strong and left this unit looking to the skies. Here is a quick glimpse at a few of the opporutnies.
With limited time to work their magic, the second unit cleaned up the scraps and within minutes, Aatu Räty fed Tristan Nielsen on the half-wall, who then delivered a superb pass to Sasson for a redirection, securing his second of the period and eighth of the year.
We were not kidding when we mentioned that Sasson would play a huge factor in the match.
Maintaining the period’s theme, the Reign found themselves on another power play, this time a five-on-three.
And it happened again.
After yet another near successful kill, Samuel Fagemo would capitalize on his own rebound, despite some ridiculous saves by the netminder, Tolopilo.
The defence hung their goalie to dry on this one, and just like that, 2-2.
The period concluded with some physical play, even more penalties, and both teams heading to the locker rooms with a 2-2 tie, accumulating 43 shots combined.
The final stanza saw Ontario get back-to-back shots in quick succession, trying to set the tone after being outshot over the first 40 minutes.
Despite having, its moments in the first ten minutes, this period certainly did not have the same level of hectic play as we saw in the second.
Of course, Tristen Nielsen was doing everything he could to spark his team.
Shortly after, Aatu Räty made a strong play, to not only draw a hooking minor but also grab a solid look to take the lead for his team.
While they may have not scored on the power play, it led to a barrage of shots from the Canucks, as they pressed hard to find that go-ahead goal.
Vasily Podkolzin just would not quit, driving the net once again to deliver a chance.
Well, with six minutes remaining, they would find it.
Following a Christian Wolanin point shot, Sasson would battle at the goal line and deliberately smack the puck back in front of the net. With no one in front, Jett Woo snuck in to rifle home his third of the year, as the Ontario defender hesitated to pick him up.
After all the pressure they had sustained and the strong play by Ontario’s Erik Portillo, the Canucks felt deserving of this one.
Not long after, the away team would pull their netminder in hopes of finding an equalizer.
Fittingly, Vasily Podkolzin would find the empty net from his own zone, collecting his seventh of the year, and second since his return from injury.
This was his 10th shot on net. No, that’s not a typo, he had 10 shots.
For good measure, Arshdeep Bains put a bow on this game, banging home his fourth of the year and first in 15 matches to close this one out for good.
While the Ontario Reign appeared to be in this game at one point, the Canucks put on a clinic in the final half of this game, eventually dismasting and out shooting them by a 43-24 margin.
The Abbotsford Canucks defeat the Ontario Reign 5-2.
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
Linus Karlsson earned tonight’s third star for his performance, contributing two assists and playing a crucial role in the team’s sustained pressure situations. With only two scoreless games in his last 12, Karlsson has become one of the team’s primary options.
Vasily Podkolzin’s goal at the end of the game, regardless of it being an empty net, was well-deserved. Podkolzin had an outstanding performance with 10 shots and multiple strong drives throughout the game. With four points in as many games, his game feels like it’s starting to heat up again.
Max Sasson claimed the first star with two goals and an assist in his return. Sasson has been quietly one of the team’s most consistent players, demonstrating an ability to elevate the game of his linemates around him. He now has 13 points in 18 games.
Next up on the Docket
You can find both these teams at the same place, same time tomorrow night, as they will each play their final game before Christmas.
Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.
Recent articles from Dave Hall
- Blackfish: Lekkerimäki lights the lamp, two exciting promotions, and a couple Swedes on the verge of elimination
- 2024 midterm Vancouver Canucks prospect rankings: Honourable mentions outside of the top-10
- Vancouver Canucks’ 3 stars of the week: Conor Garland stays hot, Nils Höglander jumps up, and Noah Juulsen remains steady