Don’t look now, but the Vancouver Canucks aren’t the only Canucks team playing hockey right now.
The Abbotsford Canucks kicked off their inaugural AHL season on Saturday night, facing off against the Bakersfield Condors at Mechanics Banks Arena. This was the first game for Vancouver’s newest farm team since relocating from Utica earlier this summer.
Like their NHL parent club, Abbotsford also find themselves in the Pacific Division, as well as on a road trip to start the new hockey campaign, while the Comets will play in the North Division as the affiliate for the New Jersey Devils.
- Abbotsford Canucks (3) @ Bakersfield Condors (5)
- Abbotsford Canucks (3) @ Ontario Reign (2) – shootout
- Abbotsford Canucks (3) @ Ontario Reign (4) – overtime
The organization made sure they were putting their best foot forward for the 2021-22 season, with General Manager Jim Benning landing a handful of depth players on two-way contracts at the beginning of the summer, including Nic Petan and Phillip Di Guiseppe.
Benning was also able to resign Ashton Sautner and Vincent Arseneau, both of whom spent time in Utica last season.
As expected, many of these players attended Vancouver’s training camp at the end of September, and also participated in a few preseason contests shortly after, forcing Abbotsford General Manager Ryan Johnson to patiently wait and see who would eventually land on his AHL roster.
The Canucks made their first set of preseason cuts at the beginning of October, reducing their roster by 16 players. Among those names were Sautner and Arseneau, as well as defenceman Jett Woo.
Carson Focht and Will Lockwood followed in the same footsteps just a few days later.
With the preseason cuts, Johnson was able to put together a fairly strong, experienced roster for Abbotsford’s regular season opener in California.
One of the more notable names in the line combinations was winger Danila Klimovich. The former 2021 second round selection impressed during training camp and exhibition play, so much so that head coach Travis Green didn’t want Klimovich to be part of the first round of demotions.
Klimovich, who signed his entry-level contract this past summer, was eventually removed from the preseason roster, but did not have to clear waivers and was directly loaned back to Abbotsford.
And let’s just say he didn’t waste any time making a good first impression.
Klimovich was able to find the back of the net less than halfway through Saturday night’s contest, thanks to a nifty, but also flukey pass from former Grand Rapids Griffin Jarid Lukosevicius. Klimovich’s first goal of the year helped tie the game back up at 2-2, but the Canucks would end up surrendering three unanswered goals in the final frame en route to their first regulation loss of the year.
Despite the loss, Klimovich was able to pick up right where he left off just 24 hours later, notching the first goal of the game against the Ontario Reign on Sunday night.
Similar to Saturday night’s contest in California, Abbotsford entered the third period deadlocked at two goals apiece, and were able to come away with the 3-2 shootout victory, thanks to Di Guiseppe’s slick wrister past Jacob Ingham. Di Guiseppe also registered a goal during regulation.
It was also a strong outing between the pipes for Arturs Silovs on Sunday night. The 20-year-old Latvian netminder was quite kept quite bhttps://thecanuckway.com/2021/07/31/canucks-acquire-goaltender-spencer-martin-tampa-bay-lightning/usy throughout the evening, stopping 34 of 36 shots faced. It’s expected that Silovs will be splitting the crease with Michael DiPietro, who allowed four goals on 31 shots against Bakersfield the night prior.
DiPietro was able to redeem himself on Tuesday night, helping his team register a point during their second half of a back-to-back against Ontario. The Canucks ultimately fell to the Reign in overtime, with DiPietro stopping 26 of 20 shots faced, bringing his record to 0-1-1 with a .869 SV% and 3.98 GAA.
Spencer Martin was the back-up netminder for both of DiPietro’s starts. The 26-year-old was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this offseason.
After their first three games, Focht, as well as fellow forwards Justin Bailey and Sheldon Rempal are all tied for the team lead in points with three apiece. Blueliner Cameron Schilling also holds the shared scoring title, thanks to his three-assist performance on Tuesday night.
The Canucks will be returning to the Abbotsford Centre on Friday night to host the Henderson Silver Knights for their highly-anticipated home-opener. It is expected that head coach Trent Cull will ice the much of the same roster from their three-game road trip, with the only addition being Petan, who was officially loaned to Abbotsford on Wednesday afternoon.
Petan was serving as an extra with Vancouver for their first three games of the year, but was put on waivers for the purpose of reassignment to make space for Brock Boeser, who returned from injury on Tuesday night against Buffalo.
Unfortunately, Cull won’t be able to utilize the services of big-bodied power forward Jonah Gadjovich this year, who was claimed off waivers by the San Jose Sharks last week.
- Friday, October 22nd – Henderson Silver Knights @ Abbotsford Canucks (7:00pm PST)
- Sunday, October 24th – Henderson Silver Knights @ Abbotsford Canucks (4:00pm PST)
Abbotsford currently sits sixth in the Pacific Division with their 1-1-1 record, but will be hoping to feed off the energy from the hometown crowd to get them back in the win column. Unlike Rogers Arena, the Abbotsford Centre will only be able to host games at 50% capacity for the time-being.
What are your thoughts on Abbotsford’s start to the 2021-22 AHL season? Make sure to drop a comment below!