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Looking back at the losses: a Calgary Wranglers 2024 playoff post-mortem

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Photo credit:Mike Zitek/Coachella Valley Firebirds
Paige Siewert
30 days ago
The Calgary Wranglers conducted their exit interviews on Monday, after being eliminated from playoff contention against the Coachella Valley Firebirds on Friday night. While the spirits around the team were as you expected after a season-ending game, the players had some great thoughts of reflection on the year and their performances in the playoffs. 
Ben Jones was one of the team’s top scorers this season as the only player who skated in all 72 games and registered the second-highest amount of points on the team with 21 goals and 22 assists. His production went a bit quiet in the playoffs but he also dropped down in the lines due to the return of players from the NHL. On reflecting on where the team is at after Friday’s loss he said,
“It still stings. You know how many guys have contracts up and whatnot. It’s probably going to be a bit of a different group here next year. And that’s always the sad part of the year when you don’t come back to the same team.”
Adam Klapka was also another top performer for the Wranglers in the regular season finishing first in team scoring. He had a few looks with the Flames this year and fresh off his first NHL goal, he was fired up for the playoffs. Going right into the post-season after his stint with the Flames, Klapka said,
“It gets my confidence at a high level. So when I get back to the Wranglers from the Flames I trust my skills and at the same time, I try to play simple hockey like I did with my last few games with the Flames.”
Another player who finished up the season with the Flames before joining the Wranglers for playoffs was Dustin Wolf. Wolf put on quite the show in the Tucson Roadrunners series. This momentum carried into the first two games of the Firebirds series where he had arguably his best save of the year in game one and forced an overtime in game two. He knows there is pressure around him and his play and he recognised that the last month and a half with Calgary was integral to his development.
“It’s easy to watch games on TV and wonder why wasn’t that save made. Once you’re put into that position you see players and how well they disguise their shots and stand in front of your paint. You realize the American League is an extraordinary league but the players are just that much better at the NHL. As they should be. It’s the best players in the world.”
That might not be the last of Dustin Wolf’s spring between the pipes as he is suspecting to know if he will be joining Team USA at Worlds in the next day or so. He said,
“If I am given the chance, I’m going to do what I can to help us win and if I get to keep playing hockey for a couple of weeks, I’m not going to complain.”
Dustin Wolf received a lot of praise from his fellow teammates for his play, especially in the Tucson series. They are well aware of the talent they had between the pipes and how that gave them a leg up on some of their opponents. Wolf gave them chances to win in the first four games and managed to bring it home in three of four of those. 
The continued theme between the players is how badly that overtime loss in game two really affected the outcome of the Firebirds series. They were aware of how difficult it would be in the Firebirds’ barn and needed to go into town with a lead in the series and only needed one win of a possible three to move on. In the AHL, the only review they can do, even in playoffs, is a puck crossing-the-line review. 
On the last play of game two, there were 2-to 3 penalty calls that appeared to be missed by officials that would’ve prevented that goal from even happening. Who’s to say that wouldn’t mean the Firebirds wouldn’t eventually score in overtime on another play but had there been expanded review capabilities, it would have been called offside, too many men or an interference call due to Matt Coronato being laid out behind the play. At the Scotiabank Saddledome, they absolutely have the equipment and availability to replay and view plays in great detail. However, the whole league is not like that. In smaller arenas where only one camera is set up at center ice that advantage would not be there hence the ambiguity around the rule. 
Another narrative was around the strength of the Coachella Valley team. Had the Seattle Kraken made the playoffs, the roster on the other end of the rink would have been quite different. Some of the guys alluded to multiple top performers that are NHL calibre players but when they were able to find success against a tough team like the Firebirds, it was due to them playing a strong physical game and playing a simple game. 
The players are, for the most part, taking a couple of weeks to go home and relax then get right back into their off-season training schedule by the end of May or the start of June. You may see some of their faces over the summer for Stampede events and rookie camps but for the most part, the second season in Calgary Wranglers team history has come to a close.
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