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Abbotsford Canucks bounce Bakersfield Condors out of the AHL playoffs in two games

Canucks advance with 4-2 win on Friday, await other results to determine opponent in round two
Marc Gatcomb and the Abbotsford Canucks bulldozed through the Bakersfield Condors in round one of the AHL playoffs. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

The Abbotsford Canucks have exorcised the demons from the 2021-22 playoffs on Friday (April 21), returning the favour to the Bakersfield Condors and eliminating them the same way they dashed Abbotsford’s hopes last season – with a 2-0 sweep.

The series win marks the first-ever for the two-year old franchise and they accomplished the sweep with wins from two different goalies. Canucks head coach Jeremy Colliton went with Arturs Silovs – voted the team’s most valuable player by fans – on Friday despite Spencer Martin earning a shutout in game on Wednesday.

Silovs was solid and made 26 saves for his first career American Hockey League playoff win. While the decision to run two goalies may have been a little unusual to fans, Silovs stated that both goalies knew what the playing schedule would be before the playoffs began. The plan was always Martin to play game one and Silovs game two.

He said he has no issues with the way head coach Jeremy Colliton has chosen to deploy his goalies.

“I think it’s a good thing for us,” he said of the rotating. “You always want to have quality goaltending every single match. Every single win matters – so if we’re winning – why not right?”

What was believed to be a sell-out crowd was buzzing early and frothing at the mouth for a goal in the first period. The Canucks had four power plays in the first period and outshot the Condors 16-5, but Bakersfield goalie Calvin Pickard kept the puck out of the net.

Defenceman Jack Rathbone then broke the game open at 2:06 of the second period after a nice set-up from Justin Dowling. Rathbone has been one of Abbotsford’s better players in the postseason and has two goals in two games. Abbotsford got more offence from the backend when Brady Keeper fired home a shot from a backdoor feed from Nils Höglander at 13:16. That goal sent the Abbotsford Centre crowd into a frenzy, but that was somewhat short lived.

James Hamblin scored the first goal of the series for the Condors at 18:26 of the second and it was a 2-1 game after 40 minutes.

The Condors came out flying early in the third and Raphael Lavoie tied the game up at 3:30. A hush fell over the crowd but the intensity was ramped back up when Höglander scored his second of the playoffs at 7:36 on the power play after a great effort by Tristen Nielsen to feed him the pick. Höglander was the best player for Abbotsford in the series and he recorded four points in two games. His line with Max Sasson and Kyle Rau was dominant in both games.

Silovs shut the door from that point on and John Stevens added an empty net goal at 19:05 to seal the deal. The series win marks the first time a Vancouver Canucks AHL affiliate has won a playoff round since the 2014-15 season.

Abbotsford outshot Bakersfield 33-28 and went one for seven on the power play. The Canucks killed two of three shorthanded opportunities.

Colliton gave credit to the Condors for putting up a strong effort.

“It was a hard fought battle,” he said. “We knew they were going to be a desperate team and they were playing for their season. To get all those power plays was a blessing but it’s also a curse too because we had some chances and didn’t score – that messes up your rhythm.”

He praised the play of Höglander and his linemates.

“They’ve been excellent and we rolled that line because they were generating momentum and drawing penalties and chances,” he said. “Nils was a big catalyst, he was winning so many puck battles. I can’t remember a puck management issue in two games.”

Colliton stated that while he was impressed with Höglander’s line, he needs other forwards to step up moving forward. He also said he is confident in either Silovs or Martin between the pipes.

“He [Silovs] was very good,” he said. “He gave us what we expected and I thought he was super solid. We have two excellent goaltenders and I think they’re pushing each other to play at the highest level. It’s great competition. I’m sure both guys would prefer to just take the ball and run with it but it’s what’s best for the team – that is how we make our decisions.”

The Canucks opponent in round two will be determined on Sunday (April 23) night after the result of game three of the Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Tucson Roadrunners game.

If the Firebirds win, Abbotsford will take on the Calgary Wranglers in round two. If the Roadrunners win, Abbotsford will match up against the Colorado Eagles. The Canucks will begin series on the road no matter which team wins.

Stay locked on for ongoing coverage of the Abbotsford Canucks playoff journey.

Jack Rathbone celebrates a goal on Friday (April 21). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Linus Karlsson attacks the net during the first period on Friday. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Nils Höglander shakes hands with Condors defenceman Raphael Lavoie after the Canucks series win. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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