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Post-season recap: Wranglers playoff momentum continues in Firebirds series opener

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Photo credit:David Moll/Calgary Wranglers
Paige Siewert
1 month ago
The Calgary Wranglers and the Coachella Valley Firebirds kicked off their 2024 version of their playoff series on Friday night. Last season, they met in the second round and it went the Firebirds’ way. This season, the Wranglers are looking for some revenge and hoping for an opposite outcome. Calgary got things started a very advantageous way with a 4-1 win at home.

Wranglers lines

Jakob Pelletier – Cole Schwindt – Matt Coronato 
William Stromgren – Sam Morton – Adam Klapka 
Brett Sutter – Clark Bishop – Riley Damiani/Adam Klapka 
Mitch McLain – Ben Jones – Adam Klapka/Riley Damiani 
 
Jordan Oesterle – Ilya Solovyov 
Colton Poolman – Jeremie Poirier
Jonathan Aspirot – Mark Pysyk
Yan Kuznetsov
 
Dustin Wolf (starter)
Oscar Dansk

Game at a glance

The Calgary fanbase showed their support with a crowd of 6,067 to welcome their AHL team home for their third game of the post-season and their first of this series. Between the pipes, Dustin Wolf took his spot in the Wranglers’ end and Chris Driedger started for the Firebirds. 
It took these two about 10 minutes to get going as they settled in. It has only been a week since the Wranglers last saw game action but the Firebirds were up to nearly two weeks. Around the midway mark of the first period, the Firebirds had a good stretch of chances Wolf turned away including three in a row from Devin Shore. This was the first bit of action that could have resulted in a scoring change but everything stayed the same on the scoreboard.
The first penalty call of the game came at 11:22 when Ville Ottavainen was called for slashing. Some of the physical play started to escalate around this power play and through the last few minutes of the first period. The Firebirds took another penalty at 15:07 but Calgary wasn’t able to score on this opportunity either. 
Despite the two power plays for the home team in the first, Calgary was out-shot 10-6 in the opening frame and they were scoreless after 20 minutes of play. In the second period, started with a missed icing call that rolled into another one that kept one of Calgary’s veteran lines out longer than expected. This gave the Firebirds some offensive zone time but nothing that caused any damage.
Once the line rotations got back to normal, the Wranglers quickly drummed up some momentum from some big hits and some scoring chances. Calgary took a face-off in Coachella Valley’s zone that Sam Morton won but they had to redo it. Adam Klapka stepped in for the face-off and tagged up around the Wranglers’ blue line before skating the puck back into the Firebirds’ zone. He made his way through two opponents and scored his first goal of the playoffs with an unassisted marker at 4:10. This goal was impressive as is but even more impressive with all five Firebirds skaters surrounding him on this play.
Just over a minute later, Adam Klapka was called for Calgary’s first penalty call of the game due to a trip. The Firebirds only put up two shots on this power play and the Wranglers penalty killers helped protect their one-goal lead.  
An unfortunate sequence of events resulted in an answer-back goal from Ryker Evans at 13:41. A pretty obvious spearing call on Matt Coronato was missed by the officials and as a result, they went up on a rush and Evans finished the play ripping a one-timer.
The fans made their opinions of this play known with some immediate boos and referee heckling. The frustrations also made their way to the ice where the players were getting more physical and starting to throw some gloves around. Not quite enough to warrant further penalty calls. 
Coachella Valley’s goal-scorer, Ryker Evans was called twice for high-sticking in the back half of the period and gave Calgary some power play time. By the end of the period, the score remained 1-1 and shots were 13-12 Coachella Valley.
In the third period, Calgary got their lead back when Adam Klapka got his stick on a Coachella Valley turnover and took a shot on goal. Mitch McLain was right in front to finish the play off the rebound and put the Wranglers up 2-1. This goal came at 3:16.
The Wranglers had a narrow lead to protect to try and pull off a game one win and this wouldn’t have been possible without the effort on number 32. To say Dustin Wolf was elite through the last half of the period was an understatement. He robbed the Firebirds of any hope of a comeback and turned away multiple runs of grade-A scoring chances from the visitors.
His best save of the game came in the last six minutes of regulation. It was a sprawling save on his stomach where he batted the puck away with his stick. This is a save the Firebirds will likely have nightmares about between their next game and one that literally put the crowd on their feet.
That was the visitors’ best shot at evening up the game and keeping the game within reach. Yan Kuznetsov also had a key part in this play by batting the puck away with his glove behind his netminder. The Firebirds pulled their goaltender at 17:55 and at 18:23 Sam Morton scored an empty-netter assisted by Jakob Pelletier and Matt Coronato.
Driedger was back out for the next face-off and was back to the bench shortly after. Calgary had some extra battling to do with Ilya Solovyov being called for high-sticking at 18:45. They were able to get the puck out of their zone once again, this time with two fewer guys on the ice. Yan Kuznetsov went for the open net on the clear and scored on the empty net at 19:07. 
That extinguished any hopes of a late comeback and the Wranglers were the victorious side at the end of regulation. The final score was 4-1 and the shots finished 36-27 for Coachella Valley. The three stars were all taken up by Wranglers with Mitch McLain earning the third, Dustin Wolf earning the second and Adam Klapka earning the first. 

Scoring stat summary

Mitch McLain – 1G
Yan Kuznetsov – 1G
Matt Coronato – 1A
Adam Klapka – 1G, 1A
Sam Morton – 1G
Jakob Pelletier – 1A

Highlights

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Next up 

This series is only getting started and it continues between the Wranglers and Firebirds on home ice for a Sunday afternoon match-up. This will be the last home game of this round for Calgary and the puck drop is set for 4:00 p.m. MT.
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