The Farmies: Zach Sawchenko relieves Nikita Tolopilo for season debut in Abbotsford’s 7-3 defeat to Henderson

Photo credit:© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Severtson
26 days ago
The Abbotsford Canucks getting clowned in the first game of a two-game series.
Elias Pettersson did not make his AHL debut on Saturday night.
Not even the promise of a “dawg” themed evening—where all the Abbotsford players brought their dogs to the game—was enough to salvage the bad vibes heading into this Saturday night matchup.
It was ugly, folks.
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Let’s get into the game!
Starting Lineup
Game #59
1st period
Heading into their Saturday night matchup, the Abbotsford Canucks were 4-2-0-0 on the season against their Pacific Division opponent. The Henderson Silver Knights entered the Abbotsford Centre on the heels of a three-game losing streak, on top of their 2-8-0-0 record over their past ten.
With all of the injuries to the Golden Knights, it’s understandable why Vegas’s AHL affiliate’s season went off the rails. The AHL’s bizarro 7-team Pacific Division bracket means that Henderson will be hard-pressed to push for the final playoff spot. The Silver Knights sit 12 points back of the 7th-placed Canucks, and the 6th-placed Calgary Wranglers.
The lack of hope for a playoff push doesn’t mean they can’t still play for pride! And play for pride is exactly what they did for the first 20 minutes against Abbotsford.
After giving up the opening goal, the Silver Knights stormed back with three straight goals to take a commanding 3-1 lead into the final 40 minutes.
First, the Abbotsford’s lone bright spot of the period: Chasing a dump-in from Linus Karlsson, John Stevens benefitted from a missed retrieval to set up a crashing Aidan McDonough, who went five-hole on Henderson’s Jiri Patera with a one-timer from the slot.
1-0 Canucks: Abbotsford goal, Aidan McDonough from John Stevens and Linus Karlsson
As they’ve done so often this season, the Canucks then frittered away their early lead through a combination of bad bounces and poor defensive play.
First, just one minute after McDonough’s goal, newly-signed Silver Knight Ryan Dzingel caught a fortunate bounce off the edge of Nikita Tolopilo’s skate to equalize at one.
1-1 Tie: Henderson goal, Ryan Dzingel from Sheldon Rempal and Byron Froese
The equalizer sequence began with former Canuck Sheldon Rempal winning a 3v3 board battle behind Tolopilo’s net. Rempal charged out to the bottom of the left circle for the shot and Tolopilo was caught sliding out of his crease on the initial save. The lanky netminder did a great job of sprawling his right leg out to stop Dzingel’s initial attempt. Unfortunately, Tolopilo was still just a hair too far away from his post to deny Dzingel’s follow-up try.
Less than two minutes later, the Silver Knights broke the brief stalemate after Jonas Rondbjerg was allowed to wander around the offensive zone untouched for a shot on Tolopilo, resulting in a rebound goal from Jakub Demek.
2-1 Silver Knights: Henderson goal, Jakub Demek from Jonas Rondbjerg and Tyler Benson
Throughout 2024, Jeremy Colliton has thrown his fourth line into a blender following every single game that features a backbreaker goal with that line on the ice. The leash for Dmitri Zlodeev, Jermaine Loewen, Cooper Walker, and Danila Klimovich is extremely short. No doubt, one or more of those fourth-liners will be watching Saturday’s game from the press box after getting caught puck-watching inside the d-zone. Colliton will not be happy with his group’s flatfooted play as Rondbjerg cruised around the circles from behind the net.
With five minutes left in the period, Karlsson took a roughing penalty, giving Henderson the first power play opportunity of the game.
The goal to make it 3-1 featured another wild bounce in Henderson’s favour.
3-1 Silver Knights: Henderson goal, Ryan Dzingel (2) from Byron Froese (2) and Sheldon Rempal (2)
With Colliton’s first PK unit out for the d-zone faceoff—Chase Wouters, John Stevens, Jett Woo, and Nick Cicek—Rempal fired a dump-in toward the half wall while under pressure from a forechecking Stevens. Fortunately for Rempal, his dump-in clipped the back of Wouters’ right skate, redirecting through the slot to Byron Froese at the front of Tolopilo’s crease. Tolopilo made the initial stop but flung himself out of his crease, trying to catch his uncontrolled rebound, giving way to Dzingel’s second of the night, a chipper over Tolopilo’s glove side.
The Canucks finished the period outshot 14 to 7.
2nd period
The second period didn’t get much better. The Canucks avoided getting completely embarrassed on home ice by outshooting Henderson 11 to 10. Still, Henderson added another two goals to their total, resulting in the first ‘yank’ of Tolopilo’s AHL career and the season debut of the perpetually scratched Zach Sawchenko.
It all began with an early power play on a holding penalty against Henderson’s Adam Cracknell. A first unit featuring Karlsson, Tristen Nielsen, Aatu Räty, Sheldon Dries, and Filip Johansson created the Canucks’ best chances to that point of the game. But a blown breakout pass by Johansson to Nielsen from inside the d-zone gave Henderson a grade-A shorthanded scoring chance to negate the good momentum generated by Abbotsford. A second unit featuring McDonough, Arshdeep Bains, Max Sasson, Chase Wouters, and Jett Woo generated two shot attempts, but not enough to wrestle momentum back for Abbotsford.
Then, past the midway point of the period, an icing gave way to a d-zone faceoff lost by Räty, a Henderson cycle, and Jakub Demek’s second of the night.
4-1 Silver Knights: Henderson goal, Jakub Demek (2) from Kaedan Korczak
It was the first softy that Tolopilo has let in in ages, a wrister over his blocker side that he simply missed despite having sights on the shooter, Demek.
Then, the second softy that Tolopilo has let in in ages came less than two minutes later.
5-1 Silver Knights: Henderson Goal, Mason Morelli from Grigori Denisenko and Brendan Brisson
After stretching the ice while the Canucks executed a line change, Henderson’s Mason Morelli charged down the left wing for an innocuous wrister under Tolopilo’s elbow. As Tolopilo clamped down on the puck, it squeaked out, giving Henderson a demoralizing four-goal lead on the home team.
On a positive note, the curtains on Tolopilo’s night allowed Zach Sawchenko to make his Abbotsford debut. Until a late illness and call-up to Arturs Silovs, Sawchenko hadn’t even sniffed a backup spot, spending the first 53 games of the season inside the press box.
Considering the lack of game action, it felt rather cruel putting him between the pipes for a lost cause against a Henderson team that was clearly giving it their all.
Credit to Abbotsford, who rallied for the final five minutes of the second period to outshoot Henderson 4-1.
Worth noting as well, the Abbotsford News’ Ben Lypka caught that Guillaume Brisebois did not return to the game midway through the second period.
3rd period
That credit dissipated real quick in the third period when the Canucks’ first line collapsed under pressure inside the d-zone, giving way to Henderson’s sixth straight goal.
6-1 Silver Knights: Henderson goal, Grigori Denisenko from Brendan Brisson (2) and Jake Bischoff
It was a tough sequence for all involved. Sheldon Dries ate a stick to the face on a shot follow-through and left the ice in a heap. The five skaters stuck in the d-zone looked aimless and lost trying to regain possession, and a weak shot from Denisenko changed directions after clipping Nick Cicek’s stick, leading to one of the weirder goals against in a night full of bad ones.
The goal was the first of Sawchenko’s season on just his third shot faced, leaving him with an ominous .667 save percentage.
Penalty trouble from both teams saw Abbotsford generate a 5-on-3 power play opportunity, only to generate a single shot on net. Bains and Korczak then took coincidental roughing minors for a lull of 4-on-4 hockey. Then Byron Froese took a slashing penalty to give the Canucks’ power play another two minutes to work.
Incredibly. Amazingly. Somehow.
Against all odds, the Canucks’ power play actually did something.
6-2 Silver Knights: Abbotsford Goal, Max Sasson from Jett Woo and Arshdeep Bains
After taking a pass from Bains along the point, Woo rode the blue line for a wrister through the middle. With Wouters providing a screen, Max Sasson got a last-minute tip on Woo’s shot to redirect it past the unsuspecting Patera. The goal helped breathe some life into the arena and the team itself.
Shortly after Sasson’s 15th of the season, Wouters set up Matt Irwin for a rifling shot off Patera’s blocker.
With less than seven minutes in the period, the Canucks’ late press paid off, with McDonough capitalizing on the rebound of Nick Cicek’s point shot to score his second of the evening.
6-3 Silver Knights: Abbotsford Goal, Aidan McDonough (2) from Nick Cicek and Jett Woo (2)
The sequence was way more in line with how this Abbotsford team has found success this season. Clogging up the middle and being first to pucks on rebounds. Through the first 50 minutes, Abbotsford was consistently second in every puck battle.
Sheldon Dries, who’d taken a high stick on the 6-1 goal sequence, returned to the ice and nearly made it 6-4 with a rebound chance.
Colliton pulled Sawchenko with three minutes remaining to help Abbotsford cut the Silver Knights lead.
Max Sasson made an excellent hold at the blue line, then drove through the middle for a shot attempt and a brilliant pass to Cole McWard for a scoring chance.
The sequence was Sasson’s best of the evening, but McWard’s scoring chance gave way to the best save of the game. Patera got his outstretched right arm on McWard’s shot enough to deflect it over the net.
The replay shows just how close McWard was to putting the Canucks within arm’s reach—a long shot, certainly, but within reach.
Byron Froese then sank an empty netter from behind the Silver Knights’ goal line to ice the Canucks’ comeback attempt.
7-3 Silver Knights: Henderson goal, Byron Froese from Jake Bischoff (2)
Score effects were heavily into play during the final 20 minutes, but it’s worth noting that Abbotsford rallied back from being outshot 24 to 18 over the first 40 minutes to outshoot the Silver Knights 19 to 5 over the final frame.
Alas, too little too late.
Final score
Henderson Silver Knights defeat the Abbotsford Canucks 7-3
CanucksArmy’s Three Stars
The only players deserving of stars following Saturday’s game were Zach Sawchenko and Aidan McDonough, both for obvious reasons: Sawchenko for his season debut and holding the fort in a lost cause, and McDonough for a multi-goal effort that has given him four goals and two assists in his last six games played.
I’m not sure what the opposite of three stars would be—Black holes? Supernovas?—but Aatu Räty is presently on a seven-game production drought, and Tristen Nielsen has only two goals in his last 25 games! Zoinks!
Next up on the Docket
The Canucks will run it back against the Silver Knights on Saturday night.
Hopefully, it won’t be as pathetic of a showing as this one was.

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