For the first time in over six months, the Abbotsford Centre opened it’s doors to fans to watch live AHL hockey. The Abbotsford Canucks, who were sitting at 2-2-0-0 coming into this one, were playing in their Home Opener on Friday night.

Their opponent? The San Diego Gulls.

The Canucks had their fair share of success against the Californians last year, going 7-1-0-0 against the Gulls. In front of a full Abbotsford Centre, the team seemed ready to go right from puck drop.

They looked like it too.

The game started and Abbotsford wasted no time asserting themselves in this one. Less than two minutes into the game, Danila Klimovich took a feed in the slot from Arsh Bains. Klimovich took the puck around a sprawling Dostal and slid the puck onto the stick of John Stevens. Stevens had a gaping cage in front of him, and muscled home his first of the year.

Newly acquired Kyle Rau made his presence known to the Abbotsford faithful, as he and Linus Karlsson broke forward on a two-on-one opportunity just four minutes later. A brilliantly placed saucer pass from Karlsson found Rau who roofed the puck over the shoulder of Dostal, opening up a two game lead.

Will Lockwood, who had been re-assigned from Vancouver just hours before the game, wanted to join in the action. After Christian Wolanin performed a tight-rope act on the blue line to keep the play onside, Wolanin threw a wrist shot goalward. Lockwood was setting the screen in front of Dostal, and got just enough of Wolanin’s shot to redirect the puck past the netminder to blow the roof off of the Abbotsford Centre.

Just in case Rau hadn’t quite won over his new fans, surely his second goal of the period would go a long way in doing so. Alex Kannok Leipert dropped the puck to Karlsson as the Canucks stormed across the Gulls blue line. The Swede would then slide the puck to Dowling in front of the net, who slipped through a no look pass to Rau. The former Iowa Wild forward caught Dostal sliding the opposite direction and buried his second.

4-0. After 20. After 185 days of being away from home.

The second period started much slower, with nobody finding the scoresheet until about eight minutes in. Axel Andersson clawed one back for the Gulls, grabbing his first tally of the season.

However the four goal lead would be re-established quickly after, when Danny O’Reagan collected the puck on a Gulls powerplay. He would fan on his shot attempt, with Will Lockwood being quick to react. Lockwood stole the puck, took it the length of the ice, and buried his breakaway over the glove of Dostal.

Less than two minutes later, San Diego would pull back within three. Following a Brady Keeper turnover, Benoit-Olivier Groulx connected with Austin Strand for Strand’s first of the year, making the score line read 5-2. It would stay that way until the end of the second period.

Brayden Tracey converted on a powerplay to start off the third period, cutting San Diego’s deficit down to two.

Jett Woo reassured the home fans with a massive hit on Jacob Perreault who looked as if the Gull forward was through on goal. Woo then took the puck up the ice, setting up a two on one with Wyatt Kalynuk and Justin Dowling. Kalynuk played an inch perfect pass to Dowling who tucked home his second of the year.

Already up three goals, Karlsson wanted to join in the fun. Late in the third period, he took a pass from Dowling behind the goal. Some quick thinking and quicker hands from Linus allowed for the Swede to go between the legs and roof the puck past Dostal. A slick finish to wrap up an electric night at the Abbotsford Centre. The score finished 7-3 in favour of the home Canucks side, improving to 3-2-0-0 to start the year.

“It was excellent. Great energy in the building. You know it doesn’t hurt when you score seven goals, but it’s up to us to handle that in the right way.” – Jeremy Colliton when asked about what the crowd brought to the game on Friday night.

The pair of teams are back in action tomorrow (Saturday) for Diwali Night at the Abbotsford Centre. The puck drops at 7:00pm between Abbotsford and San Diego for their second meeting of the year.