Zach Sawchenko posts another strong game as Abby Canucks drop game two in Ontario

Photo credit:X/abbycanucks
Dave Hall
1 month ago
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After a four-day break in action, any momentum either team had gained from game one was long gone.
In a crucial game two of a best-of-five series, the Canucks had their moments, but ultimately faced an incredible performance from the opposing netminder.
While some players on the bottom half of the lineup brought their A-game, Abbotsford’s top players struggled to rise to the occasion.
Names like Vasily Podkolzin, Linus Karlsson, Arshdeep Bains, and Aatu Räty all had relatively quiet evenings, and that’s simply not going to cut it on a night when you need your big boys running.
With Sunday night’s loss, the Canucks now find themselves with their backs against the wall as they head back home for the first time in the playoffs, facing a do-or-die situation. Let’s dive into the game recap for more details.
Opening lineup
The lineup remained fairly intact, with the lone change coming from a Ty Glover/Cooper Walker swap on the club’s fourth line.
Game #2
1st period
It did not take long for the Canucks to earn some good news in this one, as Alex Turcott was called for hooking just over a minute into the game.
  • PP1 — Linus Karlssson, Tristen Nielsen, Aatu Räty, Sheldon Dries and Filip Johansson
  • PP2 — Max Sasson, Vasily Podkolzin, Arshdeep Bains, Chase Wouters and Christian Wolanin
The top line applied solid pressure for nearly the full two-minute stretch, cycling the perimeter and pinning the Ontario PK in their own zone. Despite their efforts, they managed only two shots, with Dries showing the best chance off of a one-time attempt set up by Karlsson’s slick pass from below the goal line.
Things were looking promising early for Abby in this one, dominating possession and outshooting the Reign 5-1 in the opening five minutes.
However, as we all know, the Canucks cannot have nice things and that momentum shifted quickly after Linus Karlsson was penalized for tripping.
  • PK1 — Chase Wouters, Jon Stevens, Nick Cicek and Matt Irwin
  • PK2 — Sheldon Dries, Arshdeep Bains, Christian Wolanin and Cole McWard
Ontario made no mistake on their opportunity.
1-0 Reign: Ontario goal, Akil Thomas from T.J Tynan and Samuel Fagemo
Akil Thomas capitalized on a defensive breakdown, giving Ontario a 1-0 lead from a deserted island in front of the net.
The goal came after a rare giveaway by Cole McWard, who uncharacteristically rang the puck in the wrong direction, delivering it directly to the stick of T.J. Tynan, who made the easy dish to Thomas in the slot.
Ontario wasn’t done there, doubling their lead just moments later.
2-0 Reign: Ontario goal, Charles Hudon from Tyler Madden and Brandt Clarke
After yet another giveaway, this time in the neutral zone, former Canucks legend, Tyler Madden fathered a pass through to Charles Hudon, who made Abbotford’s MVP look human, beating him clean on the short side.
And just like that, after earning much of the looks in the early stages, the Canucks found themselves down a pair before either team hit the 10-shot mark combined.
Despite the deficit and early adversity, the Canucks continued to battle.
Not long after the Reigns’ second goal, they had a chance to narrow the gap as Nick Cicek took a nasty cross-check in the danger zone next to the boards to send Abby to their second power play of the period.
Cicek was slow to his feet and needed some attention on the ice. Luckily, he wouldn’t miss a shift.
The club’s secondary unit took over most of the two minutes, with Arshdeep Bains getting the best look, ripping one off of the far side post.
In the period’s final minutes, Zach Sawchenko was forced to make his best save of the series, grabbing the puck out of midair to rob Samuel Fagemo.
Or, did he?
The play stirred up an obvious battle cry from the Ontario Reign, who wanted a second opinion as they were certain that the puck was caught from past the goal line.
After a review, the call on the ice stood, preserving the 2-0 scoreline.
The save was so nice, you have to see it twice.
Of course, the Canucks were still down by a double as the period hit its final stretch.
They would put their good fortune to use, though, grabbing several quality chances to cut the lead in half within the final ticks. None better than
Although the Canucks had opportunities to cut the deficit before the period ended, they couldn’t find the back of the net and entered the intermission trailing by two goals.
2nd period
The Canucks aimed to recapture the momentum they had in the first period, and Marc Gatcomb led the charge with a determined Tood Bertuzzi-esque drive toward the net, attempting to slip the puck past Portillo.
As he did all night, the Kings’ netminder stood tall, directing the puck to the corner with ease.
At the other end, the Canucks conceded another turnover, this time with Max Sasson who had Alex Turcotte read him to a tee, turning the play the other way to send Fagemo on a clear-cut breakaway.
Luckily, Sawchenko was up to the task, stretching out the right leg to keep his team within two.
If you had to describe the game’s first half from the Canucks’ perspective, it would be: sloppy.
The Canucks struggled to sustain pressure until midway through the period, managing just one shot in the first 10 minutes. However, Gatcomb, who had registered the team’s only shot of the period earlier on, ended the drought by finding space in the slot.
Of course, Portillo set the shot aside with no struggle.
Shortly after, Ty Glover, back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the previous game, set up John Stevens with a strong cross-ice pass, but Portillo once again closed the door on the five-hole attempt.
If you hadn’t noticed by now, Ontario’s netminder, who may even be playing in Los Angeles as early as this fall, was stellar all night long.
Also, did you notice the terrific effort from Nick Cicek as he started things from his own zone, weaving through the Reign to find Glover?
Cicek, who leads this defensive corps with three points, has quietly been effective as an Abbotsford Canuck.
Suddenly, Abbotsford turned up the heat, dominating play beyond the midway point of the period.
As a result, the Reign began to falter, leading to Andre Lee being penalized for holding onto Räty, sending the Canucks to their third power play.
On the ensuing man advantage, Portillo made his best save of the game, denying Bains after a superb fake-pump and pass from Wolanin.
Immediately after the face-off, the Reign broke out on a shorthanded 2v1, but Nielsen’s tremdnous sliding effort kept their deficit to just two as they continued with the power play.
It was unsuccessful…
In the final minute, Filip Johansson fed Sheldon Dries with a perfect pass in the slot, but Portillo flashed the blocker to maintain his shutout through 19 shots.
Despite their efforts and domination in the second half of the period, the Canucks found themselves still trailing by two goals after 40 minutes.
3rd period
The Canucks carried that pressure into the initial minute of the third period, with Vasily Podkolzin driving down the wing and sending the puck toward the net in hopes of a deflection.
Sawchenko, who had a brief lapse in the first period, continued his otherwise strong performance, staying focused on Taylor Wards’ shot after Cole McWard’s stick initially blocked it, which resulted in a carbon fibre explosion.
Portillo made another series of saves in the first half of the period, none particularly high-danger, but the Canucks couldn’t find an answer.
The momentum once again shifted when Johansson was called for a holding penalty at the midway point, sending the Reign to their second power play of the game.
Fortunately, with just over seven minutes left in the game, the PK was successful, giving the Canucks a chance to mount their final push to even this game up.
3-0 Reign: Ontario goal, Andre Lee from Taylor Ward
However, it was all in vain as Andre Lee delivered the decisive blow, holding the line and beating Sawchenko with a shot he likely wished he could have back.
4-0 Reign: Ontario goal, Tyler Madden from Brandt Clarke and Joe Hicketts
As if they needed it, the icing — no pun intended — on the cake came courtesy of Tyler Madden, who beat out the icing call to spin-o-Rama around Wolanin to deposit the puck into the empty net.
With the loss, the Canucks will head home for the first time in the playoffs, facing a daunting task of coming back from a two-game deficit in the best-of-five second-round series.
Final score
Ontario Reign defeats the Abbotsford Canucks 4-0.
CanucksArmy three stars
For the second time in these playoffs, we’re awarding the game’s only star to the goaltender. Despite allowing three goals on 25 shots, Zach Sawchenko stood tall between the pipes and made several clutch saves to keep his team within striking distance. The 26-year-old, who didn’t make his regular-season debut until mid-March, has been outstanding all playoffs and hasn’t suffered a loss that has directly fallen on his shoulders.
With his season on the line, he’ll need to maintain that terrific play on Wednesday.
Next on the docket
These two teams will head to Abbotsford for Game 3 of the series on Wednesday. The puck is set to drop at the Abbotsford Centre at 7:00 PM PST.
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