Vasily Podkolzin plays hero as Abby Canucks split weekend series with Coachella Valley Firebirds

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
5 months ago
The Abbotsford Canucks found themselves in the Coachella Valley for a weekend doubleheader against the Firebirds.
The ‘Birds appear to have the Abbotsford Canucks’ number this year, but the Canucks managed to split their weekend series, securing their first win of 2024 on Sunday.
Let’s bring it back to Saturday, where the Firebirds extended their series streak to five games, defeating the Canucks in a quiet game 4-0.
Despite the Canucks outshooting their opponents 21-20, Nikita Tolopilo allowed four goals and probably wanted all of them back.
The loss saw the Belorussian’s two-game winning streak snapped, and his save percentage dropped below .900 (.899) for the first time this season.
The netminder wasn’t the only one having a bad night, though.
The top line of Arshdeep Bains, Max Sasson, and Tristen Nielsen combined for a minus-nine, having been on the ice for three of the four goals against.
Danila Klimovich, who had missed the previous 11 games with injury, returned to the lineup. However, it was a night to forget for the 20-year-old.
In one of his first shifts back, he delivered not one, but two tremendous giveaways, setting up grade-A scoring opportunities for the Firebirds.
Whether his absence from Sunday’s match was a result of plays like these or a recurrence of his injury, he was not in the lineup for the Sunday game.
Overall, it was quiet, it was poor, and it was a game that the Canucks would like to set and forget.
After the disappointing outing the night before, Head Coach Jeremy Colliton shuffled the lines for their Sunday matinée matchup.
While the demotions didn’t last the entire game, it was undeniably a wake-up call for a few of the club’s go-to players, with Arshdeep Bains being the prime focus.
But boy, did he bounce back.
He collected two goals on a team-leading six shots and had a much better showing.
Midway through the second, he would extend the Canucks’ lead, occupying the crease, left all alone to re-direct anything that came his way.
Matt Irwin, the Victoria native, delivered a tremendous cross-ice pass, setting up the perfect tap-in for Bains for his second assist of the evening.
Tristen Nielsen, who had made the initial pass to Irwin on the play, grabbed the secondary assist, giving him 16 points on the year, and seven in as many games. He’s now on pace to surpass his previous career high of 40 points, firing at a 48-point pace.
Just minutes later, as his Canucks were shorthanded, Bains found himself on the 2-on-1 with all the time in the world. He displayed tremendous patience and poise, firing it to the far side top corner for the second multigoal game of his AHL career.
With the two points, Bains has 29 points, putting him at a point-per-game pace after 29 games. While he has slowed down a touch, in comparison to his tremendous start, he’s now just one point shy of the top-10 in points leaguewide.
Max Sasson, who also had a rough Saturday evening, got back on the saddle on Sunday as well, grabbing a goal and an assist to hit the 10-goal mark in his rookie season.
His assist came on the second Arshdeep Bains goal, delivering the initial pass to kickstart the odd-man rush.
His first goal came in the early stages of the first period, as his team was at the tail-end of their first (of four) man advantages. Following an Aatu Räty shot from the half-wall, Sasson turned and cleaned up the garbage to even the game at one.
The goal was just milliseconds shy of being a power play marker, but with the player out of the box, it was scored at even strength.
Räty, who took the original shot, picks up his 14th assist on the goal. Despite a slower five-game stretch, he has been one of the club’s more consistent producers and has showcased the ability to play all over the lineup and in all situations.
Artūrs Silovs, who had allowed four (or more) goals in four of his previous starts, grabbed the victory despite notching another five-goals-against performance.
He made 30 saves to extend his record to 11-5-3 on the year.
The standout performance and the player of the match, however, was Vasily Podkolzin.
Entering the game on a three-game pointless skid and a minus-four rating in that span, he came to play on Sunday and proved to be the hero.
Late in the opening frame, he showcased relentless forechecking, intercepted the puck off of a rattled defender, and, with just seconds remaining, snapped home his ninth goal of the year. This individual effort gave his team a 2-1 lead heading into the dressing room.
Podkolzin wasn’t finished there.
In the late stages of the game, with his team’s net empty, he seized on a loose puck off the face-off, barely sneaking it through the goaltender to tie the game at five. This goal marked his 10th of the season, matching his career-high 18 AHL points in four fewer games.
But wait, there’s more!
After a scoreless overtime period, the teams head into a shootout.
Podkolzin displayed patience and slick hands, putting his season shootout record to 2-1, and sealing the 6-5 shootout victory for the Abbotsford Canucks.
With two goals on four shots and the shootout winner, Podkolzin was the clear first star and continues to utilize that wicked release.
The Canucks will enjoy a five-day break before returning home to host the Tucson Roadrunners on Friday for a weekend doubleheader.
The puck is set to drop at 7:00 pm Pacific time.

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