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Abbotsford Canucks

Riding Hot: Special Teams Fueling Abbotsford Surge

VANCOUVER, BC – There’s no time like the present to get a good run going. After starting the new year off with a shaky run of form, the Abbotsford Canucks have gone on a tear. They are the hottest team in the league, an 8-2-0-0 record in their last ten games, putting them on par with the Providence Bruins. 

It comes at a very crucial juncture too, when teams are looking to build themselves up for a run in the playoffs. Despite a mediocre first half of the year, the Canucks find themselves in 5th place, good enough to match up against the 4th seed in the Pacific Division. Of course, the season is far from over, and Abbotsford most definitely will be trying to claw their way higher. 

Powerplay Coming to Life

A fundamental change in the team’s fortunes comes in the shape of a powerplay that is converting on its chances. In November, the team was stuck firmly in the lower half of the league, only converting about 17.8% of their man-advantage chances. 

That’s turned on its head now. As of their 6-4 victory over the Marlies, the Canucks currently have the second-best powerplay in the entire American Hockey League with a staggering 24.5%. That’s still a ways off from the pack-leading Ontario Reign, but it’s a much more encouraging sign than before. 

It’s paid dividends, too, especially when compared to earlier in the year when Abbotsford couldn’t get adequate goal support for their goalies. Overreliance on their netminders still happens, but now the Canucks seem to be clicking better than they ever did. They have averaged 4.25 goals per game since January 17th and have proven they can win against the best, with emphatic results like an 8-2 victory over the Manitoba Moose and a 6-2 mark against the Pacific leading Stockton Heat. 

Regaining Health

After the Omicron variant devastated the entire AHL, the Canucks have started to get their legs back in action as well. Gone are the days of icing three forward lines and four defensemen. It’s also helped matters that the Vancouver Canucks have not needed to call up much of Abbotsford’s lineup as of late, a rare run of good health up in the big club as well. 

That has allowed Abbottsford to have their most potent weapons for extended periods and have the whole unit gel together. The entire team is to be playing with more cohesion and confidence, especially when compared to the start of the season. Every team will have its struggles, and in Abbotsford’s case, it took just a little time to figure out the details. After all, this team was assembled essentially from the ground up in the summer. 

AHL player of the month Sheldon Dries is on pace for a career year in the AHL, stacking up 29 goals and 21 assists over 39 games. He’s been one of the pieces that have stuck in Abbotsford the longest, not getting called up. Dries’ presence has been needed, and his offensive contributions have helped his teammates along too. Sheldon Rempal, a staple on the same line, is second with 46 points in the same number of games, and Nic Petan chips in with 40 points through 32 games.

It’s not been all sunshine and rainbows on the health front, though. Jack Rathbone was tearing up the AHL before suffering a bad hit against the Bakersfield Condors on February 16th. He’s yet to return to the lineup, though he does seem to be making good progress.

In all, the Canucks look to have found form at the right time. There’s just over a month left in the regular season, and the chemistry they’ve built through the year has finally born fruit. Look for Abbotsford to keep the momentum going through into the playoffs. 

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2021 season!

    Michael Liu covers the Abbotsford Canucks for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHCanucks.

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