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Abbotsford Canucks eliminated by Calgary Wranglers in four games

Canucks lose three one-goal games in series, power play scores just once in four games
Canucks captain Chase Wouters hits Wranglers forward Kevin Rooney. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

One power play goal in four games against the American Hockey League’s top team in the regular season just wasn’t enough, as the Abbotsford Canucks painfully realized on Friday (May 5) inside a sold-out Abbotsford Centre.

Abbotsford’s power play went one for 18 (5.5 per cent) in the Pacific Division semifinal and despite those numbers were in every single game against the Calgary Wranglers. Abbotsford lost three one-goal games in the series, with the club’s season coming to an end with a 3-2 loss on Friday night.

The teams each had nine goal in even strength play over the four games, but the Wranglers three power play goals in the series – including Cole Schwindt’s first period marker on Friday – proved to be the difference.

The AC was rocking early and the fans exploded when Nils Höglander scored his third of the playoffs at 2:18. Schwidnt then tied the game up at 12:51. Abbotsford controlled the first period, especially the first five minutes and outshot Calgary 12-8.

The second period was mired in several penalties and the flow of the game came to a standstill. Abbotsford took three penalties and Calgary took four in the middle frame, but Tristen Nielsen scored the lone goal after a nifty passing play from Christian Wolanin and Zach Giuttari. Shots were 7-6 Abbotsford in the second.

The third period saw some controversy as the Canucks were assessed an icing call when it appeared as though Abbotsford forward Marc Gatcomb beat the Wranglers player to the puck. Icing is not reviewable in the AHL and the official stood by his call.

On the ensuing offensive zone face-off, Ilya Solovyov fired a puck from the point past Canucks starting goalie Spencer Martin to tie the game at 8:29.

About four minutes later Adam Klapka pounced on a rebound and gave Calgary the lead. A bench minor for too many men with 65 seconds left in the game then buried any chance Abbotsford had to come back. The Wranglers had the 10-6 shots edge in the third.

Canucks head coach Jeremy Colliton admitted that special teams were a big factor in the series.

“Obviously the power play, they got one and we didn’t,” he said of the difference in the series. “I thought five-on-five we were excellent most of the game. There wasn’t much in this series – it was tight all the way. We were in a great position today after two. We’re disappointed anytime you lose in the playoffs, I thought we gave this team [Calgary] all they could handle. It’s tough not to be proud of them and they rose to the challenge in the playoffs.”

Despite the loss, Colliton said he believes several young players took major steps and gained valuable experience this season.

“Lots of positives as far as young players showing they can play at this level,” he said. “We counted on them in big minutes and that’s important. But I don’t think anyone should be satisfied.”

One player who debuted in these playoffs was defenceman Filip Johansson. Colliton said he saw some promise in the Swedish prospect who may see more time in Abbotsford next season.

“It was baptism by fire,” he said, of Johansson joining the team in the playoffs. “But I thought he looked more and more comfortable as he went on and hopefully these games help him start on the right foot come fall.”

Defenceman Noah Juulsen, sporting a fresh large cut on his head, said he believes Abbotsford proved to be a challenge for Calgary.

“I thought we played them hard all year and I’m sure that was a test for them,” he said. “I think, as a group, it was amazing what we accomplished this year. The work we put in and the bonds and friendships we made were crazy. Everyone bought in this year.”

The Yale Secondary product spent time in Vancouver and Abbotsford this season and said he ranks this season as one of his best personally. He also said the support his hometown has given himself and the team was inspiring.

“I’ve been here when the [Abbotsford] Heat were here and the fan base was around 2,500 to 3,000 a night,” he reflected. “Now to go into game four in a sold-out barn in the playoffs – there is no better feeling. The fans are hardworking people who show up every night and bring the same energy to each game.”

Canucks captain Chase Wouters was emotional following the game and said he hopes this is a learning experience for the young players on the team.

“They were all one-shot games,” he said, of the close scores in all four games. “It was a hard fought series and we need to build those habits like how to win. We had leads in games and we let that slip. We’re going to build from this and look forward to next year.”

He praised the play of the Wranglers and said he hopes this series is a building block for the Canucks.

“This is probably the best experience we can have,” he said. “We went up against the team that won the regular season and we put up a good fight. They’re a really good team and you can’t take that away from them.”

Wouters also praised the positive impact that Colliton has had on their group.

Wranglers head coach Mitch Love said his team stepped up in the third period.

“I’m proud of our guys in this series,” he said. “That’s a hard team to play against, very quality team over there.”

He complimented the play of goalie Dustin Wolf, who he said weathered a storm from Abbotsford in the first period and said it was nice to see Klapka get rewarded.

Wolf said it was a fun atmosphere to play in, despite some of the chants Abbotsford fans directed to him.

“You’re hated in buildings like this,” he said, with a smile. “To prove that we’re the better team and that we deserve to move on, it’s rewarding. It feels nice.”

The Wranglers now take on the Coachella Valley Firebirds in the Pacific Division final. The Firebirds eliminated the Colorado Eagles in five games to advance.

Canucks forward Arshdeep Bains creates a scoring chance. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Calgary Wranglers goalie Dustin Wolf and Abbotsford Canucks forward Nils Höglander shake hands after Calgary’s 3-2 win on Friday (May 5) to eliminate the Canucks 3-1. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Linus Karlsson attempts to put the puck past Wolf. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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