Thanks you fans! Abbotsford Canucks
The Abby Canucks after their inaugural game, a 5-3 loss.

Abbotsford Canucks Lose 5-3 in Inaugural AHL Game

The Abbotsford Canucks fought valiantly in their inaugural game as an AHL franchise but came up just short on Saturday night in Bakersfield. The Bakersfield Condors swooped in and stole a victory from the upstart Abbotsford Canucks, winning 5-3. The Canucks held a third period lead but let the Condors back into the game late.

James Hamlin of Bakersfield got the scoring started in this one, pushing the puck past Dipetro at the 16:08 mark of the first period. It wasn’t a flashy goal but it gave the home side an early 1-0 advantage.

The lead did not last long however, as Jarid Lukosevicius netted the first goal in franchise history for the Abbotsford Canucks at the 2:18 mark of the second period. Lukosevicius came flying into the zone off the right side and fired a perfectly placed wrist shot just under the arm of Bakersfield netminder, Stuart Skinner.

“It feels great to score the first goal in franchise history,” said Lukosevicius on his historic achievement. “It’s awesome to be a BC guy and get this goal for the Abbotsford fans, but at the end of the day everyone in this room is trying to win for Abbotsford.”

Bakersfield regained the lead five minutes later when Adam Cracknell found a crack in Dipietro’s armor, scoring on the powerplay to give the Condors a 2-1 lead.

The back-and-forth nature continued in the second period as Abbotsford once again fought back to tie the game. Danila Klimovich found some room in front of the Bakerfield net and buried his first career AHL goal to tie the game at 2. Klimovich is just the 264th player in AHL history to make his debut as an 18-year-old and the future is bright for this young man.

Justin Bailey joined the goal parade for the Canucks, giving them their first lead in franchise history when he walked in and beat Skinner to give Abbotsford a 3-2 lead. The star on the play was Sheldon Rempal, who set the goal up with an incredible pass as he was falling to the ice in the corner.

Unfortunately, the tide turned in the third period for our beloved Canucks. Bakersfield came out hot in the final frame and stayed hot. Yanni Kaldis tied the game just two minutes into the third period and 39 seconds later Adam Cracknell tickled the twine for the second time tonight to give the Condors a 4-3 lead. That one goal lead proved to be too much for the Canucks to overcome. Bakersfield added an empty netter late and the Canucks fell 5-3 in their inaugural game.

“We are a group that has just being thrown together,” said Coach Trent Cull following the defeat. “We have a lot of details to iron out and we’ve got plenty of things to work on for sure. We had a great second period, battled back and I like that. It’s too bad we couldn’t hold on and that one shift in the third when they scored twice really sealed our fate.”

There was great physicality to the game tonight from both clubs, but ultimately the Canucks took a few too many liberties out there and paid dearly for it. They racked up eight penalties tonight and spent 19 minutes on the penalty kill. Bakersfield only scored once in their five powerplay opportunities, but this is an area Coach Cull would like to see cleaned up moving forward.

“They got a big powerplay goal there in the second,” said Cull when asked about his club’s discipline tonight. “I think the PK did a good job overall and even provided us with a bit of positive momentum there in the 5 on 3 situation. This is an area we will look to improve in the future.”

The star early on tonight was Michael Dipietro for the Abby Canucks. The goaltender looked sharp, making difficult saves look routine. The Canucks found themselves on the penalty kill early and often in this one, and Mikey had to be on his game all night long. He let four shots get past him, but there were times, particularly in the first period, when his play was keeping the club in the game.

“I thought Mikey played well out there,” said Cull on the performance of his goaltender. “There were a few times that we didn’t help him tonight. We have to play better in front of him and try to stay out of the box.”

It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Canucks as they travel to play the Ontario Reign on Sunday afternoon. There are some areas to build on but also some weaknesses to address.

“We really struggled in the neutral zone tonight,” said Lukosevicius when breaking down the game. “We need to clean up our transition play and tighten things up in the neutral zone. Have to start chipping pucks into their zone and get after them, and attack on the forecheck to create opportunities.”

“We’re going to crush some video on the bus ride and try to get our guys better,” said Cull on tomorrow’s game. “It’s going to be a day-by-day process but like I said, we will start with baby steps and try to get back on the right foot against the Reign.”

The Abbotsford Canucks (0-1-0) will take on the Ontario Reign (1-0-0) at Toyota Arena in Ontario, CA Sunday afternoon at 5pm. The Reign are fresh off a 5-2 victory against the San Diego Gulls, but that won’t scare this group. Expect to see another fiery effort from the visiting side tomorrow as the Canucks seek the first win in franchise history. Sign up for the AHLtv freeview to watch tomorrow’s game live.