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The Calgary Wranglers are bucking the AHL’s playoff scheduling trend (and succeeding)

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Photo credit:David Moll/Calgary Wranglers
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
When the American Hockey League announced the schedule for the third round of the Calder Cup playoffs, fans of the Calgary Wranglers scrambled find out when the team would play. And then they had a simple question: “Why are the Wranglers playing their first two games at home? (Again?)”
Well, the short answer is “because they’re allowed to choose.” But the longer answer is because the Wranglers (and the Stockton Heat before them) are bucking the AHL’s scheduling trend.
So, the AHL introduced their best-of-five format into the playoffs in 2012. Some of their series – usually based on distance between the two cities – have a 2-3 split format, with the higher-seeded team having the choice of having the first two games at home or the last three games.
We don’t have a detailed scheduling breakdown from 2012, 2013 or 2014, unfortunately.
But from 2015 through to the current round in 2023, there have been 35 series that have used the 2-3 split format. In 32 of those 35 series, the higher-seeded team opted for the three home dates to finish the series. In just three of those series, the higher-seeded team has opted to start off with a pair at home.
Mitch Love, at the helm of first the Stockton Heat (2022) and now the Wranglers (2023, twice) is the only coach to ever opt for the pair of games at home to start.
YearTop SeedChoiceResult
2015Hershey3-5won in 4
2015Utica3-5won in 5
2015Grand Rapids3-5won in 5
2015San Antonio3-5lost in 3
2015Rockford3-5won in 3
2016Hershey3-5won in 5
2016Providence3-5lost in 3
2016Toronto3-5won in 3
2016Lake Erie3-5won in 3
2016Ontario3-5won in 4
2016San Diego3-5won in 4
2017W-B/Scranton3-5lost in 5
2017Syracuse3-5won in 4
2017Toronto3-5won in 4
2017Chicago3-5won in 5
2018Lehigh Valley3-5won in 4
2018W-B/Scranton3-5lost in 3
2018Grand Rapids3-5lost in 5
2018Tucson3-5won in 4
2019Charlotte3-5won in 4
2019Milwaukee3-5lost in 5
2019Bakersfield3-5won in 4
2019San Jose3-5lost in 4
2022Charlotte3-5won in 4
2022Manitoba3-5lost in 5
2022Ontario3-5lost in 3
2022Stockton1-2won in 4
2022Charlotte (again)3-5lost in 3
2023Calgary1-2won in 4
2023Hershey3-5won in 4
2023Texas3-5won in 3
2023Milwaukee3-5won in 5
2023Coachella Valley3-5won in 5
2023Calgary (again)1-2TBD
2023Texas3-5TBD
Teams that selected to host the last three games (if necessary) went 21-10 in their series. In the two instances where Stockton and Calgary opted to host the first two games, they won both series.
In the regular season, the Wranglers went 25-9-2-0 at home (for second in the league) and 26-8-1-1 on the road (for first in the league). When everybody is worse on the road than your team is, you probably feel comfortable starting at home and attempting to gain an advantage in the series (and push pressure on your opponents in the back half of the series) rather than waiting for the final three games.
So far, in two previous series across two playoff years, the gamble has paid off for the Heat/Wranglers. We’ll see if that trend continues against Coachella Valley.

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