“Big Game” Max Sasson potted two goals (and one busted nose) and goalie Spencer Martin earned a shutout as the Abbotsford Canucks posted a 3-0 win over the Bakersfield Condors on Wednesday (April 19) and take a 1-0 lead in the first round best-of-three series.
An uneventful first period saw the Condors have a goal disallowed for kicking and the Canucks struggle to generate much offence. Abbotsford outshot Bakersfield 6-5, but perhaps the most notable play came when Sasson got rocked by Bakersfield’s Greg McKegg and his visor split his nose open.
Max Sasson with a big cut on his nose but two goals pic.twitter.com/L2mqOtxX1O— Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) April 20, 2023
Four stitches and one period later, “Big Game” Max struck. The 22-year-old, who last month was playing for Western Michigan University, pounced on a Nils Höglander rebound and put the Canucks up 1-0 at 1:28 of the second.
Sasson scored again after a perfect tic-tac-toe passing play from linemates Kyle Rau and Höglander at 4:58 of the second. The Canucks amped the intensity and took control of the game in the second, outshooting Bakersfield 12-7.
Checked the weather report and we can confirm that it is MAX SASSON SEASON ⛈️ pic.twitter.com/01cPr5AfWK— X - Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) April 20, 2023
Defencenman and repeat fan favourite award winner Jack Rathbone connected on the power play at 14:28 for a little extra insurance and goalie Spencer Martin held the fort to earn his first-ever AHL playoff shutout and win.
Rathbone with the power play goal, 3-0 Canucks with 5:32 left pic.twitter.com/DkfRZ8VKhb— Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) April 20, 2023
Abbotsford outshot Bakersfield 30-21, with Rathbone leading the way with five shots. The Rau-Höglander-Sasson line had an excellent night and all three players had two point nights.
It was a bit of a surprise that goalie Arturs Silovs, the team’s most valuable did not start, but Canucks head coach Jeremy Colliton said he likes the competition between his two netminders.
"It's a short series... I think both teams felt that pressure."— X - Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) April 20, 2023
Jeremy Colliton addressed the media following Abbotsford's 3-0 victory over Bakersfield on Wednesday night. pic.twitter.com/TIUdjCDEn7
“He [Martin] was excellent but I think both guys have been excellent,” he said. “The competition between the two is what I think pushed them to play their best hockey this season. They both want to play. I don’t think either guy is totally satisfied with the arrangement, but the team likes it so that’s what is most important.”
Colliton said both teams were slow to start, but liked his team’s play as the game continued.
“I thought enough of the details were done well that allowed us to get a result but we’re going to need to play better,” he said. “They’re going to be desperate next game for sure. But overall it was a pretty good start for a bunch of guys who don’t have a ton of experience.”
"That was a great atmosphere, so awesome to see everyone with the rally towels."— X - Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) April 20, 2023
Max Sasson addressed the media following Abbotsford's 3-0 victory over Bakersfield on Wednesday night. pic.twitter.com/i0zTbBUA8I
Sasson praised his linemates and said he believes game two on Friday (April 21) will be a challenge.
“Bakersfield is going to come out extremely hard,” he said. “They don’t want their season to end and it’s going to take a better effort than tonight to finish them off.”
Sasson also stated that a speech from Abbotsford Canucks general manager Ryan Johnson during a team meeting motivated the club.
“Everything he said about having fun and that you don’t know how many chances [in playoffs] you’re going to get really resonated with us,” he said. “Rathbone even said I wish we could play right now. The message was awesome and we were definitely ready to go after that speech.”
"I felt like my game was there... I feel super prepared and comfortable in there."— X - Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) April 20, 2023
Spencer Martin addressed the media following Abbotsford's 3-0 victory over Bakersfield on Wednesday night. pic.twitter.com/pi0DgeOHz8
Martin was complimentary of the team in front of him and noted that he didn’t really face a lot of dangerous chances. He also said the tandem with Silovs has been good for both guys.
“He’s a sick young goalie,” Martin said. “He’s got an extreme high end and he’s been showing it. It’s been cool to work with him and Marko [Torenius, Abbotsford goalie coach] and he has some things I’ve been trying to pick up on and maybe the other way around too. It’s been good and competitive and we’re both ready to lead.”
1⃣ victory down— X - Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) April 20, 2023
1⃣5⃣ remaining pic.twitter.com/FL7t5oerpC
Colliton did not share who will be starting on Friday, but in recent weeks he has been splitting the duties.
Another player who may draw into the lineup on Friday is defenceman Filip Johansson, who joined the team from Sweden earlier this week.
Game two of the series occurs on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Canucks can eliminate Bakersfield with a win. Game three, if necessary, is set for Sunday (April 23) at 7 p.m.
First ever playoff victory ✅ pic.twitter.com/cPml6zz2PP— X - Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) April 20, 2023