Recap: Calgary Wranglers debut new banners and win home opener against the Colorado Eagles
Photo credit:Terence Leung/Calgary Wranglers
30 days ago
The Calgary Wranglers hosted the Colorado Eagles for their home opener on Saturday afternoon. They finally got to introduce their 2023-24 squad to the fans and take the time to celebrate their successes from last season. They added two banners for the Wranglers in the Saddledome rafters that they debuted on Saturday. One for being the Pacific Division Champions and the other for being the Regular Season Champions. Both titles they earned in their inaugural season in 2022-23. They had even more to celebrate in their first appearance in front of a home crowd of 3,800 with a 2-1 win.
Game at a glance
Before I dive into the game details, the reports were true. Darryl Sutter was in attendance for this game. Not for any reason to do with his job last year but for the sole purpose of watching his son play. Might I remind you his son, Brett Sutter is the captain of the team. Chris Sutter was also in attendance to support his brother. The Sutters took in many games last season and there’s nothing more to his attendance than family supporting each other.
Now to the details. Calgary usually has a bit of jitters going into their first game on home ice. It did show in the earlier parts of this match-up with a bit of a slow start. I’d also pin that on the type of opponent they had on the other end. The Eagles have yet to win on the road and compared to a fast and physical team they just played in the Abbotsford Canucks, the Eagles probably felt like a bit of a break that allowed them to play more on their heels.
That look of lethargy was not a theme that carried across the whole game thankfully. The first period did not have a lot of earth-shattering action and both teams kept on pace with each other on shots. After 20 minutes, they were tied at eight shots each and no score on the board.
In the second period, the slower pace continued at the start, but you could see the Wranglers starting to pick up the pace. A classic example of breaking out of playing down to the opponent’s level was needed to get out of their own way in this game. Mitch McLain finally broke up the goose eggs on the scoreboard and netted his first goal of the season.
A beautiful play set up by Nick DeSimone, who made a pass not only behind the net but also behind his back up to McLain paid off when McLain jammed it home while he was screening the net. This goal came late in the second 17:01 into the period and Ben Jones picked up the other assist.
The Wranglers finished the second period up 1-0 despite the Eagles outshooting them 10-7 in the middle frame. In the third, Calgary’s pace visibly picked up and they were looking for another goal to give them a bit more breathing room for the last 20 minutes of regulation. They did find it with a smart play by the Wranglers’ top scorer Connor Zary.
Zary entered the zone on a rush with Cole Schwindt and positioned himself to make the pass up to Schwindt on the left side. He opted to take the shot himself and faked out Eagles goaltender Justus Annunen and scored Calgary’s second goal of the day.
The hype of the two-goal lead did not hold for the rest of the game as Colorado got one on the board about two minutes later. Riley Tufte had the puck behind the net and then went for a wraparound that he jammed past Wolf. That would be the last of the lamp lighting in this game and the Wranglers gave their fans a 2-1 win.
The Eagles out-shot the Wranglers 29-24 and all three stars were awarded to the home team. Dustin Wolf picked up the third star, Mitch McLain picked up the second star and Connor Zary earned himself the first star of the night.
The Wranglers and Eagles rematch will take place exactly 24 hours after they started their first match-up with a 1:00 p.m. MT start time at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday afternoon. The Wranglers look to sweep on opening weekend and continue their perfect record in regulation.
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