In what felt like a reunion weekend for the Abbotsford Canucks, the team was back to playing games and were in action on Friday, Saturday and Monday.
When I say it felt like a reunion weekend, I mean it. Abbotsford was in shambles last week with COVID-19 running through their team and being unable to finish their four games in five nights against the Bakersfield Condors.
This was a much better weekend as the Canucks finished the three games with a 2-1-0 record in two games against the San Diego Gulls and one game versus the Ontario Reign.
There were plenty of takeaways from the three games and we will list them off here just as an information dump on how the AHL team looked and played with their return to action after a big COVID speed bump.
The Canucks won their Friday match with the Gulls by a score of 5-1, they lost their Saturday game against the Gulls by a score of 4-3, and won Monday’s game against the Reign via a 2-1 shootout win.
Let’s get to some takeaways from the long weekend.
DiPietro had a strong bounce-back game
It’s no secret that the 2021-22 season has not been a good one for the 22-year-old goalie, Mikey DiPietro. DiPietro had a strong performance in his only start of the weekend as he was called up to the Vancouver Canucks’ taxi squad on Saturday.
DiPietro faced 24 shots on Friday night and allowed less than two goals in a game for only the second time this season. With Halak on COVID protocol and Spencer Martin being used as the backup goalie, DiPietro may be back for next weekend’s Abbotsford games. It’s a big maybe as Halak will have to deal with border crossing as the Canucks return home but the team should be able to get DiPietro back into games with both the Canucks teams being home next weekend.
It was great to see the version of DiPietro that we were all hoping for. It’s clear that the 2020-21 season was a horrible mistake on his development but here’s to hoping he can find some success as 2022 goes on.
Jack is back
After going more than five weeks without game-action, defenceman Jack Rathbone made his return to the Abbotsford Canucks’ lineup for all three games this weekend.
Friday night saw some struggles in Rathbone’s game as he was paired up with Noah Juulsen and the pairing was trapped in their own end often after plenty of turnovers in the first period of Rathbone’s return to action.
The good news is that after the initial 20 minutes, Rathbone was back to being excellent.
His best game of the weekend came on Saturday night where he scored a goal and added a primary assist.
By Monday, he looked like he was fully up to speed and looked confident and cool with the puck on his stick. His skating looked strong all weekend long and he carried the puck up ice like an NHLer playing against AHLers. Rathbone led the team in shots on goal in Monday’s game with seven. It won’t be long until Rathbone is back in the NHL and this past weekend was a massive step in the right direction. He returned from injury and after a warm-up period where he made multiple mistakes, he was excellent and by far the Canucks’ best defenceman throughout the weekend.
Woo came back from injury and then disappeared because of injury
The 21-year-old right-shot defenceman made his return to the lineup on Friday after battling COVID during the Canucks’ run of games against the Condors earlier in the month. Woo played in both games against the Gulls but missed Monday’s game against the Reign due to an undisclosed injury.
I’m told that the timeline for this latest Woo injury is unknown but have learned that it happened at some point in the Saturday game.
The teenager showed some toughness
Overall, it was a rollercoaster of emotion for Danila Klimovich this weekend. The newly turned 19-year-old had a goal, seven shots, a fight, multiple outbursts of anger and a few big hits in a busy weekend.
Klimovich didn’t control the puck very well this weekend, he was consistently losing pucks off of his stick in the offensive zone and neutral zone. This ongoing struggle of puck possession caught up to him on Monday as he had two or three turnovers on one power play shift and he finished the shift off by slamming former Canucks’ prospect Tyler Madden into the boards and slamming his stick on the ice in frustration after Arturs Silovs covered up the puck.
The good thing is that he definitely gives a damn.
Klimovich is an emotional player and if he can reel that in and use it to his advantage he will be a dangerous player instead of letting it snowball out of control and compound his turnovers.
There was a very positive sign on Friday night when Klimovich ripped a wrist shot into the back of the net in a game that was already out of reach but a goal is a goal for a teenager in the AHL and this one came off a great release.
The streets knew about Silovs
As a 20-year-old in the AHL, Arturs Silovs is beginning to show that there is serious potential to his game. Four of his eight starts have resulted in allowing two or fewer goals and he just looks the part with his big frame and flexibility in the crease.
Silovs was once again great on Monday night as he stopped 22 of the 23 shots that he face and all three shootout attempts against to secure a 2-1 win for the Canucks.
He robbed Tyler Madden a couple of times in the first period and held strong as the game went on.
Pretty impressive performance for the 20-year-old as he earned first star of the game honours.
These have been some of the main takeaways from a busy weekend for the Abbotsford Canucks. The team returned home this week as they are scheduled to face the Gulls on Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 4 pm before hitting the road again to battle the Manitoba Moose for a two-game set to finish the month of January.