Series Preview: Calgary Wranglers (7) vs. Coachella Valley Firebirds (1)

Eugene Erick - Inside the Rink

After a two game sweep of the number two ranked Tucson Roadrunners in the first round of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Playoffs, the Calgary Wranglers #SaddleUp into a best of five game series with the Coachella Valley Firebirds.

FLASHBACK TO ROUND ONE

After a regular season split (2-2) and a practically fantastical roster for the Roadrunners, the seventh ranked Wranglers seemed to be backed into a corner against Dylan Guenther, Josh Doan, Jan Jeník and Conor Geekie.

The Wranglers stifling ability to clear the puck on the penalty kill and take away the high percentage offensive zone areas and passing lanes froze Tucson’s offensive prowess.

Doan and Guenther, two of the team’s top performers for most of their time with the Roadrunners, were held to a combined for 25 shots on goal, with one goal credited to Guenther in game two of the series.

The story of the series does not rest solely on the negatives for the Roadrunners, but the light shines on Dustin Wolf, the Wranglers goaltender who spent most of the year in the NHL, for his save numbers against the Roadrunners.

The 86 saves on 89 shots alone is enough to paint the picture for just how important Wolf was to the Wranglers sweep, but doesn’t show the quality of chances created in the offensive end by Jakob Pelletier, Adam Klapka and Cole Schwindt to name three of the important players for Calgary.

Pelletier and Klapka missed time with the Wranglers alongside Wolf in the NHL this season, but all three fell back into their strides in the first round.

Of his two points on the postseason, Schwindt’s goal in game one was enough for the Wranglers to force Steve Potvin, head coach of the Roadrunners, to have sturdy goaltender Matthew Villalta, vacate his net, allowing a lockdown empty net goal late in game one.

Game two of the series had Calgary’s highest point accumulation, with nine players recording points.

For reference, 18 players appeared in the series for Calgary.

WAITING IN THE WINGS

Coachella Valley finished the season atop the Pacific Division with a commanding 103 points, as well as a 46-15-6-5 record.

Three rostered forwards for the Firebirds on the regular season finished within the league’s top 20 in points, T-5th Kole Lind (17-48–65), T-9th Max McCormick (32-28–60) and T-12th Cameron Hughes (25-32–57).

Goaltenders Chris Driedger and Ales Stezka finished in the league’s top 20 goaltenders in GAA, Driedger 4th at 2.26 with a .917 SV% (6th) and Stezka 9th at 2.48 GAA and a .914 SV% (8th).

SEASON HISTORY

Coachella took six of the seven meetings with the Wranglers on the regular season, winning all three games in Calgary (1-1, 1-2 & 3-26) and three of four at home (1-19, 1-31 & 2-1).

Coachella outscored the Wranglers 30-17.

The only goaltender on the Calgary roster to beat the Firebirds this season is Connor Murphy (not currently listed on Calgary’s active playoff roster).

PLAYOFF HISTORY

After defeating the Roadrunners in three games last season, the Firebirds went on to defeat the Wranglers in five games enroute to a Calder Cup Final appearance in the first year of the franchise’s existence.

Calgary won game two at home and game three in Coachella Valley last season.

Coachella Valley has proved to be better at winning games in Coachella Valley in the postseason with 10 of their 12 wins in last season’s playoffs being at the Acrisure Center in Palm Desert.

SERIES SCHEDULE

Game 1: Coachella Valley @ Calgary – 5/3 – 6 PM PST (9 PM EST)
Game 2: Coachella Valley @ Calgary – 5/5 – 3 PM PST (6 PM EST)
Game 3: Calgary @ Coachella Valley – 5/8 – 7 PM PST (10 PM EST)
*Game 4: Calgary @ Coachella Valley – 5/10 – 7 PM PST (10 PM EST)
*Game 5: Calgary @ Coachella Valley – 5/12 – 3 PM PST (6 PM EST)

James Mackey

Credentialed Writer Covering the Arizona Coyotes

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