Abby Canucks Reign Supreme, Win 5-4 Against Ontario Reign

The Abbotsford Canucks (7-6-2-1) picked up a huge two points on Wednesday night, beating the Ontario Reign (11-5-0-1) 5-4 in a thriller at Abbotsford Centre. The Reign took an early 2-0 lead but the Canucks rallied and fought their way back into the game. This was the second win in a row for the Canucks against the Reign, and Abby is once again over .500 this season.

It felt like deja vu for the Abby Canucks on Wednesday night, as for the second consecutive game the Ontario Reign took a 1-0 lead just over a minute after the puck dropped in the opening period. Tyler Madden scored what will never be described as a “pretty goal”. Martin Frk and Bobby Russell had the assists on the play for the Reign.

Ontario’s powerplay was on fire tonight and Frk doubled the Reign lead at the 6:40 mark of the first period with the man advantage. Jaret Anderson-Dolan and T.J. Tynan added helpers on the goal to give the Reign a 2-0 lead.

Sheldon Dries made it a 2-1 game at the 14:51 mark of the first period following a pair of sweet passes from Phil Di Giuseppe and Sheldon Rempal. Di Giuseppe’s feed was perfect as he found Dries on a cross crease feed before Dries finished the job.

Rempal tied the game for the Canucks at the 18:38 mark. The former Ontario Reign winger dispossessed Austin Strand in the corner, then waltzed out towards Reign goalie, Garrett Sparks, and sniped a shot that found twine. It was a fantastic goal and gave Abby the momentum heading into the second period.

The Canucks dominated the second period, outshooting the Reign 18-6. However, despite constant offensive pressure from the Canucks, Ontario broke through first when Samuel Fagemo found the back of the net on the powerplay. Gabriel Vilardi and Helge Grans assisted on the play.

Sheldon Dries recorded his second goal of the night at the 18:42 mark of the second period to knot the game at 3 goals each. The goal came on the powerplay after a Jack Rathbone slapshot deflected off Dries and trickled past Sparks. The Western Michigan product is so hot right now that even when he doesn’t try to, he scores a goal for Abby. Rathbone and Nic Petan had the helpers for Dries’ ninth goal of the campaign.

Tristen Nielsen gave the home side a 4-3 lead after he scored a gorgeous breakaway goal, pulled a sweet dangle and slid it past a sprawled-out Sparks. The goal was the former Vancouver Giants’ star’s first of his AHL career and it was a highlight reel worthy play by the 21-year-old. A lead pass from Petan sprung Nielsen and his speed took over from there as he blew past the Ontario defence. Rathbone got the other assist for Abby on the play.

“I saw the puck scrambled out and Petey put the puck right on my stick,” said Nielsen. “From there I had a step on the d-man and took it to the net. I try that move a lot in practice, so it was nice to have it work in a game. I was watching the puck rolling and then once I hit the wall I lost sight of it. I was a little nervous there but then saw that the ref signalled goal. It was a great feeling.”

The Reign tied the game at the 10:47 mark of the final frame when Vilardi jammed a puck past Abby goalie Spencer Martin.

With the score tied and the game on the line, Abby once again turned to their leading scorer, Sheldon Dries. End to end goals are not common in the professional ranks, but that is exactly what fans were treated to tonight. Dries collected the puck in his own end and did not relinquish it until it was sitting in the back of the net. To top it off, Dries deked out Sparks parking it top shelf for the highlight reel goal.

“I was telling the guys, I haven’t done an end to end like that since youth hockey,” joked Dries postgame. “It felt good to get the hat-trick, but it felt better to get the win. That last goal was quite the contrast to my second goal, one goes off the foot and in and the next one I showed the little bit of skill I had.”

Despite the Reign ramping up the pressure, the Canucks were able to hold on to their slim lead for a 5-4 win. It was their second win in a row and third this season against the Reign. The two Sheldon’s came out for curtain calls post game, as Dries was the first star and Rempal took home the silver.

“It was a huge win for our team,” said Jack Rathbone to reporters on Wednesday. “Coming out of Tucson, we were pretty excited to come home and beat a team like Ontario. That was big for a little bit of momentum as we head into the San Jose games this weekend.”

After playing each other six times through the first two months of the AHL season, the Abby Canucks and Ontario Reign appear to have developed a bit of a rivalry. All six games have been competitive and four of the six games have been decided by a single goal. There is also a noticeable uptick in intensity for the Canucks when they see the Reign starring back at them.

“There is definitely a rivalry developing between us,” said Dries on the intensity of the past two games. “That’s a good team over there. We know we are going to get their best every game. Their lineup is very skilled and they are a determined team out there. We like the way we match up though.”

You had to have the name “Sheldon” to be allowed to score for the Canucks during the first two period in this one. The two Sheldon’s combined to tally five points in the victory including four of the Canucks’ five goals. It was clear that the Abby offence ran through these two on Wednesday night.

“100% confidence is important,” said Dries post game. “During my career I’ve been down in the dumps and I’ve been to moon. It’s all about keeping it even, keeping it flowing and then seeing where that takes us.”

Fresh off two huge wins over the Reign, the Abbotsford Canucks (7-6-2-1) will play host to the San Jose Barracuda (5-8-1-0) in a weekend set starting Saturday at Abbotsford Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm and the game will be the inaugural Teddy Bear Toss for the Canucks. Abbotsford enters the game with 17 points and the Barracuda are the cellar dwellers of the Pacific Division with 11 points.