It took just 83 seconds for the teddy bears to fly inside the Abbotsford Centre on Saturday (Dec. 2).
The annual Teddy Bear Toss game saw the biggest crowd inside the AC so far this season – a reported 6,219 – explode when Abbotsford Canucks captain Chase Wouters got set up perfectly by Arshdeep Bains and cause the stuffed animals to rain down.
It took 1:23 pic.twitter.com/ugDA6Wgbvj— Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) December 3, 2023
Bear aware 🧸 pic.twitter.com/xjl1iIhSeW— Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) December 3, 2023
The Captain scores the goal that launched all the bears! pic.twitter.com/s4hAu9QDSZ— Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) December 3, 2023
But just 83 seconds in made it the game’s second goal as the Laval Rocket’s Nathan Legare beat Canucks goalie Nikita Tolopilo 16 seconds earlier.
Wouters scored again at 3:42 and John Stevens made it 3-1 Abbotsford at 3:55. Those three quick goals bounced Laval goalie Jakub Dobes from the net and the team in front of Strauss Mann settled down.
John Stevens with his third goal this weekend! pic.twitter.com/zBnGPL3qJw— Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) December 3, 2023
Laval got goals from Emil Heineman at 15:45 and Xavier Simoneau at 17:37 to end the first period in a goal-filled 3-3 tie.
It was a completely different story in the second, with zero goals scored and Laval outshooting Abbotsford 13-4. Forward Jermaine Loewen, appearing in just his fourth game this season for Abbotsford, electrified the AC crowd when he dropped the gloves with Laval’s Riley McKay. The Canucks struggled to put together much offensively in the middle frame.
The third period saw Abbotsford push back a bit and those efforts were rewarded when Jack Studnicka found a streaking Tristen Nielsen who scored one of the prettiest goals this season to give the Canucks the 4-3 lead at 13:14 of the final frame. Abbotsford outshot Laval 12-9 and after a shaky first period, Tolopilo completely shut the door on Laval.
Canucks head coach Jeremy Colliton said he wasn’t thrilled with his team’s play, but they managed a win.
“It was a good start and we got the teddy bears over with early,” he said, with a smirk. “But it was a really loose period. Just really strange, and it ended up tied at three. We didn’t have our best night. But give them credit, they competed extremely hard. There’s only a few guys in that room that I think would be pleased or satisfied with their night.”
OH.— Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) December 3, 2023
Tristen Nielsen, are you JOKING??? pic.twitter.com/E5pLpCaYCT
Colliton said a great individual effort by Nielsen on the fourth goal proved to be the difference.
“Some games are going to be like tonight – not every game needs to be a beautiful painting,” he said.
Loewen was a bright spot on Saturday. The Jamaican product and former captain of the Kamloops Blazers recorded an assist and also woke up the crowd in the second period with a fight. Colliton said it his best game in Canucks colours.
“That was his best game, no question,” he said. “He was physical and was involved in the one goal there, which was great to see. But I thought he got pucks in, finished his checks and was solid away from the puck.”
Colliton added that the Canucks can use Loewen’s size and aggressiveness. The Abbotsford bench boss confirmed that forward Max Sasson is out with a concussion, which may have occurred during a recent practice. Defenceman Akito Hirose also left the game early and appeared to be favouring his knee. Colliton said Abbotsford has dealt with a number of concussions this season and it’s possible some major juggling of the lineup will have to occur for the next games.
Perfect weekend 🙌 pic.twitter.com/8ID36LgVVH— Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) December 3, 2023
Bains had another strong night with two assists, while Vasily Podkolzin led all Canucks with five shots on goal. Tolopilo made 28 saves for his fifth win on the season.
Following the games, several Canucks players signed autographs for fans.
Arturs Silovs and Alex Kannok-Leipert join Dries and Wouters pic.twitter.com/nkNeuiR3CV— Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) December 3, 2023
The Canucks have now won eight of their last nine and and now sport a record of 13-5-1-0. They sit two points behind the Calgary Wranglers and are in second place in the Pacific Division.
The Canucks remain in Abbotsford for this week and next host the Coachella Valley Firebirds on Friday (Dec. 8) and Saturday (Dec. 9). Saturday’s game is being promoted as Star Wars Night.
For more information, visit abbotsford.canucks.com.