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Wranglers post-season recap: Shut out and sent packing

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Photo credit:Mike Zitek/Coachella Valley Firebirds
Paige Siewert
1 month ago
The Calgary Wranglers had their backs against the wall on Friday night as they trailed their best-of-five series against the Coachella Valley Firebirds 2-1. The Firebirds just needed one more win to advance to the next round and the Wranglers needed the win to even think about the possibility of a game five. Unfortunately, Calgary was completely shut down in game four and were shut out to wrap up their season. The final score in their final game of the year was 3-0. 

Lineup notes

The Wranglers did opt to make some changes in this game after dropping their last two games. Slotting into the lineup were Sam Honzek and Rory Kerins for their first post-season appearances of the year. The team also went back to the classic combination of 12 forwards and six defencemen as every other game has been 11 forwards and seven defencemen.
Coming out of the lineup for this game were two veterans, Mitch McLain and Colton Poolman, who had both played the entirety of playoffs up until this point. The starting goaltenders remained the same with the match-up of Dustin Wolf and Chris Driedger. 

Game at a glance

In no surprising manner, this game wasted no time getting the action going. Just 16 seconds into play, the Firebirds put up their first shot on Dustin Wolf and by 1:10 the first penalty was called. Riley Damiani was called for holding and while it was an early call, it was not the type of start a team behind in the series would’ve hoped for.
Wolf turned away three shots on this early penalty kill and the team was successful in the damage control. Calgary was able to register their first shot on goal at 3:28 from Sam Morton. There were a couple of brief minutes of back-and-forth opportunities but it would be the Firebirds who would draw first blood at 6:40.
Cale Fleury took a shot around the top of the faceoff circle and the shot through traffic made it all the way through. This first goal was assisted by Logan Morrison and Luke Henman.
Just over a minute later, Jakob Pelletier was sprung on a breakaway for one of his best chances of the game but was denied by Driedger. At 10:38, the Wranglers found themselves on their first power play of the game and managed to register three shots on this opportunity. After a successful penalty kill the Firebirds regained control of the puck and scored their second goal off a Shane Wright breakaway at 15:38. Cameron Hughes and Ryan Winterton assisted.
There were a couple of opportunities both ways in the last couple of minutes of the opening period but Calgary was once again penalty killing when Ben Jones was called for hooking at 18:45. His penalty would carry over to the second and by the end of 20 minutes, Coachella Valley had taken a quick 2-0 lead and had a 14-11 edge in shots.
In the second period, the Firebirds continued their confident play with their two-goal cushion. The Wranglers didn’t bring as much drive or energy into the middle frame as they went the first half of the period only registering one shot on goal. 
Calgary started catching up to the rushes in the second half of the period but nothing to change their zero on the scoreboard. The second period was played with very few interruptions except for a late goaltender interference penalty call against Adam Klapka at 19:08. This was the second period in a row Calgary finished the frame down a skater and at the end of 40 minutes, the score remained 2-0 Coachella Valley. Shots in the second were 12-5 for the Firebirds. 
The third period felt like the do-or-die mentality was really settling in. Calgary had some of their best opportunities of the night in the offensive zone but weren’t given much room against their tight-checking opponents. The pressure continued to elevate with every passing minute and felt even heavier when Devin Shore scored the third Firebirds goal of the night off a one-timer at 7:13. His third of the playoffs was assisted by Cameron Hughes and Gustav Olofsson.
After this goal, all eyes kept a lookout on Dustin Wolf to see how long it would take the coaching staff to pull him for the extra attacker. By 13:34, he skated to the bench and let his skaters try and close the gap in the scoring. The top two lines were getting their work in and were racking up the minutes and shifts in the last six and a half minutes. 
William Stromgren, Jeremie Poirier and Matt Coronato had a few looks and luck seemed to go their way when Kole Lind cleared the puck into the crowd and was called for delay of game with 1:27 to go in regulation. This gave Calgary a six-on-four and enough to get two more shots on the net but no goals. 
Time ran out and the 2024 Calgary Wranglers’ Calder Cup playoff run came to a close. Chris Driedger posted a shutout in game four and shots finished 32-31 for Coachella Valley. Neither team capitalized on their minimal power play opportunities and Matt Coronato and William Stromgren lead the way in shots for the Wranglers with six each.
It’s hard not to feel some deja vu as it was the same team that ended the Wranglers season last year but Coachella Valley played a solid series. The Firebirds advance to the next round of the playoffs now to face the Ontario Reign in the Pacific Division Finals starting next week.

Off-season

As the second season in Wranglers’ team history comes to a close, there aren’t any upcoming games to report on or any pressing news to share. There will be some loose ends to sort out in the off-season but first off, this tired team will make their way home and clean out their lockers in the coming days. 
There will be plenty of questions to answer this summer. The one that’s already got people talking is, will Brett Sutter hang up the skates or return for another season? He didn’t give a direct answer in the post-game media availability on Friday but fresh off that heavy of a loss, can’t blame him much on that one. 
There will be a laundry list of contracts to either renew or let go and new faces to add to next year’s roster. Some of these guys may not see much time in the AHL past this game and some might not even be playing in the same country anymore. That’s the nature of the league. Friday, May 10 wrapped up this chapter of Calgary Wranglers hockey and while this squad didn’t make it all the way to hoisting a cup, they still showed a lot of heart and strong response to the adversity of the season. They can hang their hats on the fact they finished the year in a very respectable spot. 
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