The Abbotsford Canucks kicked off their quest for the Calder Cup on Wednesday night with Game 1 of the Opening Round of the playoffs against the Bakersfield Condors.

In a rematch of last year’s opening round, nine players from Abbotsford’s 2022 playoff lineup prepared to do battle at the Abbotsford Centre. Christian Wolanin and Noah Juulsen returned to the Abbotsford lineup following their reassignment from Vancouver earlier in the week, while Danila Klimovich looked to continue on his four-game scoring streak. Spencer Martin started in goal for the Canucks, while Calvin Pickard got the nod from Head Coach Colin Chaulk to tend the Bakersfield goal.

Less than seven minutes into the contest, James Hamblin thought he had opened the scoring for Bakersfield. After initially being called a goal, it would soon be overturned due to a kicking motion. A tightly fought opening period would come to a scoreless close, with Abbotsford holding the slight edge in the shot count 6-5.

One Tanner Olsen Band performance later, the two teams emerged from the locker rooms to start off the second period.

Abbotsford came into the second period searching for the go ahead goal, and it didn’t take long to find it. Nils Höglander brought the puck through the neutral zone and barreled down towards Pickard. The Condors goaltender turned aside the initial effort, but wasn’t quick enough to deny Max Sasson on the doorstep with the rebound.

Sasson lifted the puck over the sprawling netminder for his second career professional goal and first in his short post-season career. The tally came 1:28 into the second period, and sent the white rally towels flying at Abbotsford Centre.

Three and a half minutes later, he did it again.

Nils Höglander slipped the puck from behind the Condors goal to Kyle Rau, who saucered it over to Sasson across the crease. Sasson’s snapshot finish doubled Abbotsford’s advantage as the puck beat Pickard to the near post.

Sasson had scored his third AHL goal in less than five combined periods, going back to his last regular season game on April 15th against Calgary. More importantly, he set the Canucks up with a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. After the middle frame, Abbotsford held the two goal lead, and had outshot the Condors 18-12.

An even back and forth third period seemed to be running smoothly and uninterrupted on the score sheet, until Abbotsford were sent to the powerplay after a Seth Griffith cross check. Jack Rathbone fired home his first AHL playoff goal from the right faceoff circle, beating the glove of Pickard with 5:32 remaining in the contest.

Rathbone’s tally would seal the 3-0 victory for Abbotsford, setting a landmark victory as the team’s first every playoff win.

Spencer Martin stopped all 21 shots, earning first star in his first AHL playoff home game, as well as his first post-season shut out. Christian Wolanin and Justin Dowling picked up an assist each, with Höglander and Rau each picking up two helpers. Max Sasson and Jack Rathbone scored the three goals, while Calvin Pickard stopped 27 of the 30 Abbotsford shots he saw.

For the full AHL box score, please click HERE.

Up next for the Canucks is game 2 of the opening round, which takes place on Friday April 21st at 7:00pm at the Abbotsford Centre. Wednesday’s victory put Abbotsford within one win of advancing into round 2, since the first round is a best-of-three series. Game 3, if required, would take place on Sunday April 23rd at the Abbotsford Centre.

To purchase tickets to an upcoming Abbotsford Canucks’ playoff game, please click HERE.