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Abbotsford Canucks stay alive with 3-2 win over Calgary on home ice

Canucks and Wranglers will meet on Friday in Abbotsford for game four
Abbotsford goalie Spencer Martin tries to see through 6-8 Calgary forward Adam Klapka during AHL playoff action on Wednesday (May 3). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer was blasting as thousands sung along inside the Abbotsford Centre late in the third period on Wednesday (May 3), but perhaps the more appropriate tune should have been the Bee Gees 1977 hit Stayin’ Alive.

Down 2-0 in a best-of-five series to the Calgary Wranglers, the Abbotsford Canucks have a daunting uphill battle to win three straight but they finished one-third of the job on Wednesday with a 3-2 win.

Traffic delays on Highway 1 led to some fans arriving late to the game and Calgary’s Jeremie Poirier made them wish they were still stuck in congestion when he opened the scoring at 4:37.

But just over five minutes later a minor miracle occurred when the Canucks finally scored a power play goal. The Canucks were zero for 10 in the first two games against the Wranglers and operating at just 9.5 per cent over the previous four postseason games.

Linus Karlsson, who led Abbotsford in goal scoring during the regular season, banged home a rebound in front of the net to finally end the power play power outage. The first period ended tied at one but Abbotsford was physical and outshot the Wranglers 12-11 in the opening frame.

Abbotsford’s Christian Wolanin, the American Hockey League’s most outstanding defenceman of the season, also finally scored to end his mini-slump with a goal that took a few odd bounces and beat Calgary’s Dustin Wolf at 4:44 of the second period. Abbotsford again held a 9-7 shots edge in the second and made several key penalty kills.

The third period opened with a laser of a shot from Kyle Rau at 1:10 to give the Canucks a two-goal cushion, but Calgary’s Nick DeSimone answered back with a goal at 9:15. The Canucks did not sit back for the rest of the third and continued forechecking aggressively and eating up clock. The Wranglers did yank Wolf, but could not get a third goal past Spencer Martin.

There was some uncertainty about who Canucks head coach Jeremy Colliton would put in between the pipes, but he continued to rotate his netminders and started Martin. It proved to be the right call on Wednesday, as Martin made 25 saves and was the game’s first star.

Colliton said he liked that his team played with desperation and was happy with how they competed – but it wasn’t perfect. It led to some tense moments in the third, which challenged the team to stay on task.

“We liked where we were [after two periods] but you want to play aggressively,” he said. “You can’t be defending for 20 minutes. I think even with us at 3-1 I would have liked us to push a little more.”

One big return to the lineup was Abbotsford’s Noah Juulsen. The defenceman missed the first two games of the series and was a physical force for the Canucks in game three.

“He plays so hard, so physical but it’s clean,” he said of his assistant captain. “There is nothing over the line which is an unbelievable skill to have. He doesn’t take penalties because he’s doing everything right. He absolutely had an impact on our team tonight.”

Colliton said another big factor was home ice. He noted the home crowd and the atmosphere in the AC was built for playoff hockey.

“We could feel it,” he said, of the home ice edge. “To be honest, even in the morning. Just the rink looks fantastic. You come out and it feels like a big game. I think that’s so important for our players to experience and know what it’s like to be in that kind of environment. It does help us out a lot.”

Wolanin admitted that the power play let them down in Calgary and he was glad to see them finally connect.

“Our power play is led by me so I’ll take a lot of the blame,” he said of the Canucks struggles with the man advantage. “Anytime you go zero for whatever it’s not going to help the team – not only for the scoreboard but for momentum. We didn’t execute in Calgary and the practices leading up to tonight really drilled down on it and we’re thankful to get one.”

Martin said he was pleased with the way the team played in front of him the final 10 minutes.

“There wasn’t much there,” he said, of what he faced in the game’s final 10. “That’s tough to do, especially after we blew the lead in the last game so full credit to the boys.”

Forward Aatu Räty did not dress and the reason for his absence was not revealed. Defenceman Alex Kannok Leipert was also scratched for the Canucks.

The win means game four will occur and that takes place on Friday (May 5) at 7 p.m. inside the AC. Game five, if necessary, will occur on Sunday (May 7) at the AC.

RELATED: Abbotsford Canucks complete Calgary collapse in game two

Canucks forward Matt Alfaro battles around Wranglers defenceman Jeremie Poirier. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Canucks forward Matt Alfaro battles around Wranglers defenceman Jeremie Poirier. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Canucks forward Linus Karlsson scored Abbotsford’s first power play goal of the series on Wednesday. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Calgary and Abbotsford players chat following the game. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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