Abbotsford Canucks check-in: Four game win streak snapped in Manitoba

Apr 18, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks goalie Michael DiPietro (65) watches a pre-game video prior to the start of a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Rogers Arena. Canucks won 3- 2 in Overtime. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 18, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks goalie Michael DiPietro (65) watches a pre-game video prior to the start of a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Rogers Arena. Canucks won 3- 2 in Overtime. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports /

It has been an exciting end to the month for the Vancouver Canucks, but what have the baby Canucks out in Abbotsford been up to?

Over the weekend the Abbotsford Canucks headed to Winnipeg to face off against the Manitoba Moose for the first time in franchise history. The team looked to extend their current win streak of three games, and continue displaying the strong habits they had been recently.

On Saturday afternoon the Canucks took the ice in front of 250 fans at the Canada Life Centre. Just over six minutes into the opening frame 23-year-old Will Lockwood came up with the puck after an impressive forecheck, sending it to Vincent Arseneau in the high slot. Arseneau lasered the puck on goal, beating Moose goaltender Arvid Holm low blocker.

Shortly afterwards, Manitoba forward Nicholas Jones headed to the box for hooking, and Abbotsford saw their first opportunity on the powerplay. Though the team couldn’t convert on the man advantage, defenceman Jack Rathbone showcased his incredible vision and puck moving ability which generated a few good looks.

Nearing the end of the first period, a point shot from White Rock native Devante Stephens was blocked in front of the Moose net but fell right onto the stick of Abbotsford’s leading goal scorer Sheldon Dries. Dries tucked the puck around Holm as he was hauled to the ice, potting his 15th of the season. The Canucks penalty kill would go to work before the end of the period, but goalie Michael DiPietro and strong defensive structure kept the game 2-0 Abbotsford heading into the intermission.

Four minutes into the second frame, a too many men call saw the Canucks return to the penalty kill. Manitoba failed to maintain zone possession early, but a quick point shot from defenceman Jeff Malott was not able to be controlled by DiPietro and ended up on the stick of Moose winger Greg Meireles back door. He buried into the open cage, bringing his team within one.

Later in the period, Dries dangled his way through the Manitoba zone but missed the net in tight. The Moose took the puck the other way and gained the Canucks zone with ease. Meireles picked up his second point of the game as he found Jeff Malott wide open in front of the net who beat DiPietro five hole to tie the game at two.

Before the conclusion of the middle frame, with the Abbotsford on the powerplay, Dries faked a pass to the point before throwing it across the zone to Sheldon Rempal. Rempal blasted the puck past Holm, giving the Canucks the lead once again, and securing the 100th AHL point of his career.

In the final period, Abbotsford truly forced their opponents to play their brand of hockey. The opposition was kept uncomfortable all over the ice by a hard pressuring Canucks defense. Under five minutes into the period, a Manitoba faceoff win in the Abbotsford zone resulted in a point shot from Moose defenceman Simon Lundmark. The shot beat DiPietro cleanly as the six-foot tall goaltender was far too deep in his net.

Distance shots have been a problem for DiPietro this season. For an example you can look as recently as his start in the NHL last week, where the third Blues goal beat him cleanly from the high slot. It is a problem that Abbotsford goalie coach Curtis Sanford must certainly look to tackle.

Though the Manitoba goal to tie the game had the potential to shift momentum, the Canucks continued playing confidently, showing their goaltender that they had his back. Two minutes after the game was knotted 3-3, Nic Petan battled the puck free deep in the Manitoba zone and found Rempal open in the high slot. Rempal deked through the defense and roofed on the backhand to give Abbotsford the lead once again with his second of the night.

The goal proved to be the game winner as the Canucks shut it down and suffocated the Manitoba offense, making it an easy final few minutes for DiPietro. Abbotsford walked away with a 4-3 victory, increasing their win streak to four games. DiPietro had 20 saves in his fifth win of the season.

The following afternoon the Canucks lineup didn’t look much different. The only change came in the crease as Arturs Silovs was set to take on the team he played one game for last season. The first period was not a repeat of the yesterdays, as Manitoba controlled the momentum from the opening draw. Just under nine minutes into the game, Moose forward Jones walked into the slot after the Canucks were unable to clear the zone and sniped the puck over Silovs to give his team the lead.

Under one minute later, a defensive zone faceoff was lost by Petan and a point shot from a Manitoba defenseman was tipped in front by Harolds Egle. The tip surprised Silovs, ending up in the back of the net and putting the Canucks down 2-0. Thanks to some incredible saves from Silovs in the final minutes of the first period, Abbotsford was able to get into the first intermission within two goals, even though they were being outshot 18-6.

In the second period the Canucks came out flat. A turnover by Petan early resulted in the Moose extending their lead to 3-0 just 32 seconds in. Minutes later, Abbotsford was caught puck watching in the defensive zone, and Manitoba capitalized as Malott buried the teams fourth goal back door.

Despite Silovs clearly being the team’s best player so far, Abbotsford head coach Trent Cull decided to end his night early and replace him with DiPietro in hopes it would give his team a jolt. Silovs stopped 17 of 21 shots in 24 minutes.

Abbotsford was given a powerplay moments after falling down 4-0. The second unit started it off and was able to garner momentum, tiring out the Moose penalty killers. The Canucks managed a change, and seconds later Dries found the puck through a pile of bodies in front of the Manitoba net. Dries banged the puck in just after the expiration of the powerplay, extending his team lead with his 16th goal of the season.

The remainder of the period saw Manitoba take several undisciplined penalties, but the Canucks couldn’t seem to capitalize. Their spell of failed man advantages was ended late in the frame however, as Petan found Rempal cross seam with just 20 seconds left in a Moose delay of game penalty. Rempal pulled the puck into his body and whizzed it past the head of Manitoba goalie Holm, making the score 4-2 heading into the third.

Since coming into the game in relief of Silovs, DiPietro was not busy. Trent Cull had gotten his wish as his team seemed to have awoken after the goaltending change. Early in the final frame however, DiPietro was penalized two minutes after he accidentally threw the puck over the glass in his own zone. On the ensuing powerplay, DiPietro was unable to control a Moose point shot, and opposing forward Malott capitalized on the rebound.

Though the team now sat down three goals, there were no signs of giving up. Two minutes later, with the Canucks on the powerplay again, Rempal wired another puck past goaltender Holm for his fifth goal in his last three games, bringing his team within two.

Abbotsford battled to the very end but couldn’t find the back of the net on their late sustained offensive pressure. The team fell by a score of 5-3, splitting their first ever series with the Moose. DiPietro only faced eight shots after relieving Silovs.

This Thursday, the Canucks return home to face off against the Stockton Heat. Currently sitting sixth in the Pacific Division, Abbotsford holds a record of 15-3-3.

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