Tonight the Abbotsford Canucks are on the road facing the Stockton Heat for the first of eight meetings throughout their 68-game season.
The Stockton Heat are currently the upper-echelon of teams in the AHL, having picked up eleven points out of twelve in their first six games played.
The Ontario Reign carry a league-leading goal-differential of +15, while Stockton and the Chicago Wolves come second with a goal differential of +12.
Despite the Junior Canucks picking up only four points out of a possible eight in their four games against Ontario, I can’t call this series against Stockton “must-win.”
The season is still quite young, and this year’s Calder Playoffs are set up in such a way that seven of the Pacific Division’s nine teams will qualify. At their current 0.517 points-earning percentage, the Junior Canucks are on track to hit at least 77 points this season.
From 2015-16 to 2018-19, utilizing a four-team playoff bracket, 77 points had been the high watermark for the fourth-place team to enter the Calder Playoffs.
Are the Junior Canucks struggling to defeat one of their division rivals in regulation? Yes!
Have the Junior Canucks been concretely determined to be worse than seven other teams in the Pacific Division? No. Not yet, at least.
Tonight’s match-up is the first between the current and former inhabitants of the Abbotsford Centre!
The Abbotsford Heat relocated to the 209 after one season in Glen Falls, NY, as the Adirondack Flames.
After one game in which he logged close to 27 minutes of ice-time, Travis Hamonic rejoined the NHL Canucks, logging close to seventeen minutes of ice-time in the Canucks overtime thriller against the Rangers.
Joining the Junior Canucks in his steed is the electric 22-year-old Jack Rathbone.
Rathbone departs the Canucks after eight games without a point. Rathbone played pretty well, averaging 12 minutes a game, but was on the receiving end of some very unfortunate puck luck; with Rathbone on the ice at 5v5, the Canucks produced 3.61 expected goals but only scored one. Rathbone’s on-ice shooting percentage of 1.79% at 5v5 was the fifth-lowest on the team.
Rathbone returning to the AHL isn’t the worst thing in the world. With Abbotsford, Rathbone will play a boatload of minutes at 5v5 and on special teams.
During his debut AHL season with the Comets, Rathbone was more than a point-per-game player, carrying spectacular shot control metrics and carrying above-average impacts to the Comets shooting and save percentages whenever he was on the ice at 5v5.
The Junior Canucks powerplay has been mediocre to start the season, scoring five goals on twenty-five opportunities thus far. The addition of Rathbone on the blue line will surely result in better production on the man-advantage.
Starting in goal for the Stockton Heat is former Everett Silvertip, Dustin Wolf. Wolf has compiled a top-ten resume in the AHL this season, posting a 1.49 goals-against-average and a 0.952 save percentage.
Karel Plasek rejoins the lineup for the first time since an injury sidelined him in the Canucks game versus the Ontario Reign on October 19th.
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- Anthem singer absolutely crushing it
- Oh no, the camera quality…oh, dear God, no!
oh god…. they're filming through a screen door
— Cody Severtson (@CodySevertson) November 6, 2021
- Rathbone whips a pass cross-ice to Noah Juulsen, who rips a shot high on Dustin Wolf
- Ashton Sautner (#6) with a high shot that goes off the shoulder of Dustin Wolf.
- End-to-end action from both teams; both Stockton and Abbotsford opting for shots from the perimeter.
- Martin Pospisil redirects a shot from the net-front over the net of DiPietro
- DiPietro with a quick shoulder deflection on a shot by Stockton’s Adam Ruzicka.
- GOAL – STOCKTON – 1-0 Heat: Stockton continues its incredible run of playing with a lead thanks to Byron Froese’s 100th career AHL goal! There’s nothing too fancy about the goal. Froese drives down the right-wing for the zone entry before button-hooking back to Andy Welinski on the Canucks blueline. Welinski wires a shot through traffic that rebounds off DiPietro’s pads and right to Froese, who bats in the rebound.
- Phil Di Giuseppe enters the Heat’s zone but takes a hooking penalty while wrestling for a loose puck along the boards.
PK1: Woo, Stevens, Rathbone, Wouters
- A missed Stockton shot caroms around the boards and out of the Canucks’ zone.
- Upon entering the Canucks d-zone, the Heat deflect a shot over the glass, allowing the Canucks to change.
PK2: Dries, Focht, Sautner, Bowey
- Frantic moments outside of DiPietro’s crease after a d-zone faceoff turns Madison Bowey (#4) and Ashton Sautner (#6) inside out.
- Stockton is pressuring with quick looks off another lost d-zone faceoff; Chase Wouters (#21) muscles Marty Pospisil to the ice to prevent a rebound chance while Ashton Sautner (#6) gets away with some pretty blatant hooks.
- Di Giuseppe leaves the box, and the game returns to 5v5
- Stockton ices the puck, handing Abbotsford an offensive zone faceoff
- A hard-working- shift from the Di Giuseppe line sees Sheldon Rempal (#56) redirect a shot by Sheldon Dries (#15) dangerously towards the net of Dustin Wolf.
- Stockton with a suffocating shift inside the Canucks d-zone. While Noah Juulsen (#47) fumbles a clearance at the Canucks blue line, Danila Klimovich (#46) elects to make a line change in front of Stockton’s Jakob Pelletier. Pelletier steals Juulsen’s fumbled clearance from Klimo’s feet and sets up Adam Ruzicka with a pass down the left-wing. Yikes.
- Danila Klimovich will hear it from Google Translate (Trent Cull) during the intermission period for this one.
- DiPietro’s rebound control has not looked good early; Stockton gifted multiple secondary scoring chances off mishandled pucks.
- Abbotsford concludes a sleepy first period, having been outshot twelve to nine through twenty minutes.
- There’s a delay at the start of the second as the players point out multiple ruts around the rink; the linesman skates around with a bucket of snow to fill in the gaps.
- Sheldon Rempal (#56) sets up John Stevens (#16) for a tap-in chance from Dustin Wolf’s crease.
- Stockton ices the puck; during the stoppage, Glenn Gawdin takes a four-minute double-minor for high-sticking.
PP1: Rathbone, Rempal, Dries, Lukosevicius, Di Giuseppe
- Rathbone (#3) goes cross-ice to Sheldon Dries (#15) for the one-timer shot on goal. Dustin Wolf makes an incredible stretch toe-save on Dries’ shot.
- Stockton races into the Abbotsford zone for a shorthanded shot on goal, giving the Heat an offensive-zone faceoff while shorthanded.
PP2: Klimovich, Arseneau, Focht, Schilling, Stevens
- Klimovich with a shot on Wolf through traffic
- Focht attempts to re-enter the offensive zone for Abbotsford but takes an extra step at the blue line that puts the Canucks offside.
- Stockton with another shorthanded chance
- Stockton’s Eetu Tuulola takes a minor penalty for slashing; Abbotsford with a 1:27 5-on-3
PP1: Rathbone, Dries, Di Giuseppe, Rempal, Klimovich
- Jack Rathbone (#3) with an end-to-end entry to wrap around Wolf’s net to pass to Klimovich (#46) for the one-timer.
- Rathbone (#3) and Di Giuseppe (#34) work the puck over to Danila Klimovich (#46), who promptly loses the puck while attempting to drop the puck back to Rathbone.
- 5-on-3 over
- DiPietro forced to make a huge glove save on Stockton’s Luke Philp, who capitalizes on a Canucks turnover in the offensive zone.
- The Canucks might have finished their four minutes of powerplay time with a negative CORSI.
- GOAL – STOCKTON – 2-0 Heat: Wellp, it’s one of those nights. Vinny Arseneau (#18) reverses the puck from the offensive zone half wall to no one. From out of the Box, Eetu Tuulola races into the Canucks d-zone while pursued by Cameron Schilling. Tuulola fights off Schilling and hooks a pass to Glenn Gawdin for the Heat’s second goal of the game. The Heat’s two penalty takers make up for their errors in a big way.
- Rathbone (#3) fans on his d-zone breakout pass but makes up for it by breaking the ankles of Stockton’s Dmitry Zavgorodniy!
- Byron Froese blocks a shot by Rathbone and races down the ice for a shot on DiPietro.
- DiPietro again is not controlling rebounds, handing another free chance to Stockton’s Kevin Gravel.
- Jett Woo (#22) with a slick evasive maneuver in the d-zone before leading a zone exit
- Klimovich (#46) with an impressive solo effort to break out of the Canucks d-zone, fight through a hook, draw a penalty, and break free for a shot on goal.
- Canucks to their third powerplay of the game
PP1: Klimovich, Focht, Stevens, Schilling, Arseneau
- GOAL – ABBOTSFORD – 2-1 Heat: The Canucks powerplay finally capitalizes off a blistering one-timer from Cameron Schilling (#5). Klimovich (#46) begins the sequence by opening up space with a trip around the half-wall before passing to Focht (#19) on the blue line. Schilling shifts to the top of the right circle and uncorks a bomb past Wolf.
- Chase Wouters takes a minor penalty for cross-checking with less than six minutes to go in the second frame.
PK1: Di Giuseppe, Dries, Bowey, Sautner
- DiPietro makes two saves, but again, his rebound control is giving Stockton so many additional chances.
PK2: Nielsen, Stevens, Juulsen, Woo
- Glenn Gawdin makes a bizarre line change while Stockton controls possession at the Canucks blue line that thwarts the Heat from setting up any late powerplay chances.
- Wouters leaves the box, and the Canucks kill another penalty
- Sheldon Rempal with two late chances on Wolf
- The buzzer sounds, and three-quarters of the Canucks team leaves the bench to show their love to DiPietro as he joins them at the bench door.
- Canucks look slightly more awake, but they finish the middle frame outshot nineteen to nine, thirty-one to eighteen overall. Yikes.
- Stockon with some early shots on DiPietro
- Carson Focht takes a minor penalty for tripping while defending a Stockton zone entry; Canucks to their third PK of the game.
- Noah Juulsen (#47) eats a hard one-timer on the PK and calmly clears for Abbotsford.
- Canucks kill the penalty.
- Jarid Lukosevicius (#14) with a hard-working exit and entry for the shot on Wolf
- Eleven minutes left in the final frame, and we’ve only seen five shots on goal so far.
- Canucks are struggling to string together more than one pass between each other.
- Carson Focht (#19) races down the left-wing for a shot that rings off the goalpost and wide.
- GOAL – STOCKTON – 3-1 Heat: Adam Ruzicka regains the two-goal lead for Stockton. After a bizarre non-offside call at the Heat’s blue line, Matthew Phillips floats a cross-ice pass underneath Rathbone’s stick to a racing Ruzicka, whose redirect slips by DiPietro.
- Canucks are pressuring with shot attempts after the second goal from Stockton.
- Carson Focht takes his second penalty to put the Canucks on their fourth PK of the game.
- Canucks kill Focht’s penalty as the Canucks return to 5v5 with less than two minutes in the third.
- GOAL – ABBOTSFORD – 3-2 Heat: John Stevens capitalizes on an atrocious breakout pass from Stockton’s Connor Mackey to put the Canucks within one.
- Immediately off the center-ice faceoff, DiPietro races to the bench for the extra attacker.
6v5: Dries, Rempal, Di Giuseppe, Stevens, Schilling, Rathbone
- A bomb from the line from Schilling trickles narrowly wide of Wolf’s net
- John Stevens rims the puck around the boards to no one on the right-wing; Canucks forced to reset from their zone
- After the Canucks put themselves offside on a zone entry, Trent Cull calls a timeout with twenty seconds left in the period.
- Stockton forces the Canucks outside of the offensive zone, and they hang on to win their sixth straight game.
Stockton Heat def. Abbotsford Canucks 3-2
- Canucks losing streak extends to three games.
- Outside of a few offensive bursts, the Canucks did not show up tonight. Abbotsford closed the gap in shots on goal, outshooting Stockton twelve to five over the final twenty minutes. But, the shots were largely ineffective shots from the perimeter. Good volume, bad quality.
- Like the Ontario Reign, the Heat’s puck movement appeared to be giving the Canucks fits all game. Not helping Abbotsford was their piss-poor passing. Tonnes of plays through the neutral zone died because of passes to no one. Zone exits were problematic all night. Stockton didn’t appear to be that fast but, like Ontario, were incredibly efficient with their puck movement to create shooting lanes.
- DiPietro played well, but his rebound control was pretty suss. His save percentage remains sub-900, and his goals-against-average is bottom-twenty in the AHL. While the Canucks are doing zero favours by giving up the number of odd-man rushes against that they do, I think that some of the goals that are beating DiPietro are on the weaker side.
- On the first goal, DiPietro gives up a juicy rebound (one of his many tonight) on a point shot, then hugs his near-post. Moving to his near post without looking for the rebound gives Byron Froese all the space in the world to wrap around DiPietro’s opposite side at the far post.
- On the second goal, DiPietro faces a dangerous two-on-one chance and does go post-to-post to make the save, but in doing so, opens up his five-hole just enough to let Gawdin squeak a tap-in through.
- On the three-one goal by Adam Ruzicka, DiPietro freezes on the cross-ice pass, which leaves him wide open for the redirect goal. He’s completely out of position and left wide open in his crease.
- DiPietro is still young, and hardly playing last season did him zero favours. Tonight’s rebound control was just not it, chief. Nor were some of his reads on Stockton’s two-on-one rushes. Many nights during the 2019-20 season, the Comets would have lethargic games like Abbotsford had tonight, and DiPietro would bail out his team. Tonight might have been one of the few times the team took a night off while the goalie was not at his best.
- Karel Plasek showed some decent speed for his first game in two weeks. I’m still trying to figure out what it is he’s good at because I’ve yet to see him show anything beyond his hustle up and down the ice.
- I’m still waiting on Focht to show more at 5v5. His shot control metrics through the first seven games have not been great. At 5v5. the Canucks are controlling shot attempts 7.3% worse with Focht on the ice. He carries the worst on-ice goal differential at 5v5. Including tonight, the Canucks have given up thirteen goals at 5v5, and Focht has been on-ice for nine of them. He has decent wheels and a snappy shot off the rush, but the offensive luck has not been on his side whatsoever to start this season. That rocket off the goalpost late in the third could have been the difference between the Canucks picking up points tonight or none at all. Canucks need some secondary scoring threats outside of their first line, and Focht would be my pick for that guy, but the adjustment to this season has been slow going thus far.
- I do appreciate that Cull has started adding some utility to Focht’s game. Between flipping him to the wing and adding both powerplay and penalty kill time, Focht is earning considerable ice time in all areas of the ice to get his game going.
- I’ve liked some of the passing plays between Klimovich and Focht while on the powerplay; I don’t know if Cull is willing to trust two struggling young guns on a line at 5v5. But I like the idea of those two on the wings of a Chase Wouters quite considerably.
- Jett Woo had a pretty solid game overall. I love his ability to break the puck out of the zone using his speed alongside Woo’s overall willingness to fight through traffic.
- Overall, not a great game. Unfortunate for Canucks fans who kick off their weekend with two ho-hum efforts from both teams.
Cody’s Three Stars
Next Up on the Docket
The Abbotsford Canucks return tomorrow night for the Stockton Heat rematch. I, however, will be out celebrating a friend’s bachelor party and thus will not be on recap duty!
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Cheers for tuning in. Next weekend, the Harvest returns when the Canucks kick off a four-game homestand starting with two games versus the San Jose Barracuda.