The Farmies: Abbotsford Canucks keep it close but fall in overtime in game one vs. Calgary Wranglers
Photo credit:Twitter via @abbycanucks
7 months ago
We had a feeling it wouldn’t be an easy series for the Abbotsford Canucks.
A playoff miss may have been disastrous news to the Calgary Flames, but it was welcome news for their AHL counterpart. Days after the Calgary Flames’ regular season ended, Dustin Wolf, Jakob Pelletier, and Walker Duehr returned to the Wranglers’ lineup in preparation for the club’s 2023 Calder Playoff debut.
Finishing the regular season as the best team in the AHL, the Wranglers earned the right to skip the opening round of the Pacific Division playoff bracket. While Ontario, Tucson, Coachella Valley, Colorado, Bakersfield, and Abbotsford fought tooth and nail for a quarterfinal spot, the Wranglers spent their week resting and preparing.
The head-to-head was quite unkind to the Abbotsford Canucks. The Calgary Wranglers dominated the 12-game season series, outscoring the Canucks 31-36 across all situations, 24-21 at even strength, including 7 power play goals and 2 while shorthanded. The Wranglers won eight of 12 games, while the Canucks picked up points in seven of the 12.
On special teams, the Farm’s power play struggled against the Wranglers’ league-leading penalty kill, converting on just seven of their 56 opportunities. Incredibly, against Calgary’s 9th-best power play in the league, the Farm’s PK excelled, conceding only 7 goals against 47 opportunities.
Though the Canucks struggled to close games in bonus time, they did manage to outshoot their opponent at 5v5 in six of their 12 meetings. Despite the lopsided results, the Abbotsford Canucks outscored or went even at 5v5 in seven of 12 games. Their worst goal differential came in their first matchup of the season, when the Wranglers won by a score of 5-1, with 3 goals coming at 5v5.
The Farm finished the season as the second-best team in the AHL for suppressing shots on goal across all situations. Through 72 games, the Farm averaged just 27.78 shots against per game. Following their two-game sweep of the Bakersfield Condors, the club began their playoff run with the 4th-best rate of shot suppression.
On Wednesday night, the Calgary Wranglers looked slightly rusty after the week-long break. Unfortunately, a key player ejection and multiple power play opportunities weren’t enough to aid the Canucks in their Calder Cup quarterfinal debut. For the fourth time this season, the Wranglers took the Canucks to extra time and won.
It wasn’t pretty, but let’s take a look at the stats, lowlights, and highlights from Abbotsford’s quarterfinal game 1 loss and try to make some GIF money!
The starting lineup
Colliton kept the forward lineup the same from their series against Bakersfield. The only switch-up saw Alex Kannok Leipert replace Brady Keeper on a pairing next to Jack Rathbone.
The home team fought to set the tempo early, with Tristen Nielsen springing Linus Karlsson behind the Wranglers’ defence for a shot attempt.
Moments later, Alex Kannok Leipert hopped off the blue line to poke the puck past the Wranglers’ defence to hand Nils Höglander a glorious high-danger scoring chance right at the front of Dustin Wolf’s net.
Not bad for AKL’s first taste of Calder Cup Playoff action.
Abbotsford looked to capitalize early, pressuring their potentially rusty opponent often through the opening five minutes. Christian Wolanin’s first shift saw him rip a point shot through traffic, deflecting dangerously into Wolf’s crease, nearly giving Nielsen the game’s opening goal.
As they’ve done so many times this past season, the Abbotsford Canucks stifled their opponent’s ability to generate shots. Spencer Martin didn’t face his first shot until the 5:30 mark of the first period!
Ahead of the midway point of the period, the Wranglers generated their best look of the game off a poor forecheck and backcheck from the Danila Klimovich, Aatu Räty, and Arshdeep Bains trio.
Klimovich and Räty struggled to earn minutes during Abbotsford’s two-game series against the Condors. Against the much-faster, dynamic offensive powerhouse that is Calgary, they can’t afford to stop moving their feet on backcheck like this.
Midway through the first period, Matthew Phillips speared Jett Woo while hovering in front of Spencer Martin, handing Abbotsford a five-minute power play opportunity and ending Phillips’ evening.
PP1: Wolanin, Rathbone, Dowling, Karlsson, Nielsen
PP2: Woo, Bains, Klimovich, Höglander, Rau
Unfortunately, as it did against Bakersfield, the Canucks’ power play struggled, giving up a dangerous shorthanded rush chance to Kevin Rooney within the first 30 seconds of the man advantage.
The Canucks first chance came two minutes into the five-minute major, a shot from the point by Linus Karlsson.
Jack Rathbone had the club’s second chance late into the power play, but the Wranglers’ penalty killers did an excellent job of denying the Canucks any rebound opportunities.
After breaking his stick on a one-timer attempt, Höglander picked up an interference penalty with 1:45 left on the Canucks’ man advantage, ending a dismal power play.
Sure enough, Calgary scored almost immediately.
Six seconds into the 4-on-4, Christian Wolanin attempted to sweep the puck away from Calgary’s Dryden Hunt, unintentionally banking the puck off Chase Wouters’ stick and past Martin to hand the Wranglers a 1-nothing lead.
During the remainder of the 4-on-4, things returned to normal for Abbotsford, with Max Sasson eating his daily brutal body check.
The end of the period got chaotic as heck, with a tight scramble inside Martin’s crease denying the Wranglers a goal that would put them up by 2.
Dustin Wolf closed his 2023 Playoff debut showing why he was chosen as the AHL’s MVP for the second time in two years, making an outrageous stop on a 2-on-0 scoring chance from Karlsson and Justin Dowling just inches outside of his crease.
The Canucks tested Wolf time and time again, but the AHL’s MVP stood his ground, stopping 16 of 16 shots to hold the Wranglers’ narrow lead.
It wasn’t a good start to the second period for Abbotsford, with Noah Juulsen taking a tripping minor that gave Calgary their first power play opportunity.
PK1: Stevens, Wouters, Giuttari, Wolanin
PK2: Bains, Dowling, Rathbone, Kannok Leipert
The Canucks’ PK started with Chase Wouters breaking his stick while blocking a shot. Were it not for the left post of Spencer Martin, the Canucks would have found themselves staring at a two-goal deficit.
Fortunately, a shot block from John Stevens helped reset the Canucks’ hectic PK. A few timely clears later, the game had returned to 5-on-5, with Abbotsfords conceding zero shots on the power play.
Danila Klimovich returned to the ice after spending some extended time on the bench, after which Rathbone promptly sprung him and Bains into the Wranglers’ zone for a 2-on-1 scoring chance.
Past the midway point of the second period, Höglander made up for his early interference penalty, drawing a holding penalty against Dryden Hunt to give the Canucks their second power play opportunity.
Unsurprisingly, the power play looked stale and wholly ineffective. The Farm generated zero shots for while conceding one against.
Late in the period, Juulsen ate a brutal hit inside the d-zone. Fortunately, Juulsen returned to his feet and finished his shift. But it was a dicey moment for one of the Canucks’ toughest customers. Juulsen missed the final four minutes of the period, with Woo rotating on a pair with Wolanin and Zach Giuttari rotating on a pairing with Jack Rathbone.
With Dustin Wolf standing on his head for Calgary, the game started to get very chippy in the back half of the middle frame. Kannok Leipert nearly sent Ben Jones head over heels with a hip-check off a zone entry.
The Farm held a 28-23 shot advantage through 40 minutes but was still down on the scoreboard 1-zip.
Less than two minutes into the final frame, the Abbotsford Canucks finally cracked Dustin Wolf’s defence, with Marc Gatcomb tying the game at one with the first playoff goal of his AHL career.
After retrieving a dump-in behind the Wranglers’ net, John Stevens played the puck back to the blue line to Kannok Leipert, whose point shot rebounded off of Wolf’s pads and right onto Gatcomb’s tape for the game-tying goal.
The Canucks’ early pressure paid off once more, with Abbotsford drawing their third power play opportunity, a cross-checking minor against Dryden Hunt.
Alas, the power play was atrocious, generating zero shots on goal, begging the question if the Canucks would be best served declining power play opportunities, NFL-style, when presented.
Unsurprisingly, the third failed power play gave the Wranglers enough momentum to regain the lead once the game returned to 5-on-5.
Credit to Alex Kannok Leipert for laying down to block Adam Klapka’s initial shot. Unfortunately, Klaka caught his own rebound to fire a missile under Martin’s glove side to make it 2-1 for Calgary.
The Wranglers turned up the heat considerably after breaking the tie, resulting in blown coverage and painful puck management issues from inside the Canucks’ d-zone. Past the midway point, those poor puck management issues nearly made it 3-1 for Calgary after Jett Woo flubbed a breakout pass from inside the d-zone.
Woo’s flubbed pass was picked up by Walker Duehr, who quickly raced down the left wing around Zach Giuttari and broke Spencer Martin’s ankles, gifting Ben Jones a near-empty-net scoring opportunity. Fortunately, the sprawling Martin got in front of Jones’ spinning shot attempt, keeping the Canucks within a goal.
After nearly six minutes straight of puck possession and dominance from Calgary, Aatu Räty turned up out of nowhere for a missile from the slot to tie the game at 2.
Räty’s goal was just the fourth of the period for Abbotsford and reeled back the Wrangler’s aggressive offensive-zone pressure. After all, the Wranglers were 3-0 in games against Abbotsford that went to sudden-death overtime! The math was in their favour to drag the game out.
It was a bold strategy, Cotton.
With less than a minute left in the third period, Nils Höglander set Max Sasson up for a dangerous scoring chance from the slot.
The Abbotsford Canucks forced extra time against the Wranglers for the fourth time this season despite getting outshot 9-6 over the final 20 minutes.
Great news for Canucks fans!
Terrible news for hockey writers with 5:30 AM wakeups!
Abbotsford struck first in overtime, with Rathbone wiring a shot through traffic into Wolf’s glove.
The first five minutes were spent almost exclusively inside the Wranglers’ zone. Despite playing down to five defencemen, Abbotsford consistently outworked the home team for zone entries, cycles, and shot attempts.
Tristen Nielsen generated a stylish end-to-end rush for Abbotsford but flubbed the team’s opportunity to establish a cycle after trying a too-cheeky puck-off-the-skate move to shake his check.
The Wranglers weren’t entirely without their chances. Jakob Pelletier nearly ended it for Calgary off a rush entry.
An excellent backchecking effort and a well-timed stick from Jett Woo helped deny the Wranglers a high-danger rush scoring chance that was almost a two-on-none.
However, after the Canucks’ early blitz, fatigue clearly began to set in. Sure enough, the Wranglers capitalized on Abbotsford’s tired legs to break the stalemate.
With Noah Juulsen out for the third and overtime periods, Jeremy Colliton tasked his remaining five defencemen with a lot of the legwork to get the Canucks’ offence going. Following a string of icings, the Canucks’ game in overtime fell apart, with the fresher Wranglers’ squad capitalizing on the Farm’s tired legs.
Jakob Pelletier played overtime hero, picking up an unfortunate ricochet off Giuttari’s stick to rip a wrist shot under the unsuspecting Martin’s blocker side.
With the 3-2 victory, Calgary took a 1-nothing series lead.
Canucks Army Three Stars
Marc Gatcomb for the goal and two shots on net
Spencer Martin for stopping 37 of 40, even if the game-winner was a bit of a softy.
Alex Kannok Leipert for coming into the series cold, picking up his first playoff point and playing significant minutes with Juulsen out of commission.
- Despite a 5-minute power play opportunity, the Wranglers losing one of their best players in Matthew Phillips, and getting 5v5 goals from their 3rd and 4th line, the Abbotsford Canucks still managed to lose. The coaching staff will like the gutsy comeback efforts to erase two one-goal deficits in the third period. However, this game one loss will feel like a massive missed opportunity. Not often can you head into sudden-death overtime on goals from your 3rd and 4th line against the AHL’s reigning MVP and not capitalize. Yes, the team was gassed. But someone from the top six needed to step up. Unfortunately, no one could.
- The overtime loss on Wednesday night was Abbotsford’s fourth loss in sudden-death overtime to the Wranglers.—tough look.
- Arshdeep Bains has an assist and zero shots on goal through three playoff games. He’s still young and has plenty of room to grow, but the steep dropoff in output has been surprising.
- Tristen Nielsen may want to ease up on the cheeky plays or at least find some production first. Through 3 playoff games, Nielsen has one assist and nine shots on goal. He looked noticeably more engaged against the Wranglers than he had against Bakersfield, but there isn’t a lot of runway in this quarterfinal round to prove he can be more than just a flashy skater.
- Like Nielsen, Linus Karlsson has just a single assist and ten shots on goal. Karlsson has had several quality looks this post-season, but the pace of play has been noticeably hard on the rookie forward. Karlsson was a surprise presence on the team’s forecheck during the regular season but has since fallen off down the stretch.
- Though the result stung, hearing Brandon Astle on the play-by-play call was great. For their inaugural and sophomore seasons, the Canucks have not employed a full-time “away” broadcast for Abbotsford games. Having games broadcast on Sportsnet650 during the NHL playoffs is a great way to get Vancouver fans’ eyes on the AHL team. Hopefully, this will push the organization toward employing a full-time “away” broadcast for the regular season. Astle is great, and the team with the 9th-smallest capacity in the AHL needs as many eyes and ears on it as possible. If the San Diego Gulls, Ontario Reign, and other small-market California-based AHL teams can run an “away” broadcast, so can the Canucks.
The Canucks and Wranglers are set for game two this Friday at 6 PM PST.
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