BRYAN WILSON – 05.09.2023
Out of the frying pan and into the Firebirds.
It was a hard-fought series against the Abbotsford Canucks in Round 2, but Wranglers head coach Mitch Love and his team must quickly reset and prepare for Round 3, where they will take on the Coachella Valley Firebirds, beginning on Thursday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. (TICKETS).
Coachella Valley finished the season three points back of the Wranglers (51-17-3-1) with the second-best record in the AHL (48-17-5-2), and pressured Calgary the entire way down the stretch, right until the last game of the season – the last few minutes in fact.
“They present a lot of different challenges, they’re a good hockey team,” he said.
As for what to expect from their Round 3 opponent, Love referenced the game between the two teams on April 5, when the Wranglers won a 3-1 contest on the road.
“We had some meaningful affairs in their building down the stretch,” he said. “I think that was a little more of the makeup of each team.”
“They’re a really good team,” he continued. “Everybody in the league knows that – we know that – and our challenge will be, sticking to our gameplan and being mature and managing the games. No different than last series, it just gets elevated from series to series.”
After earning a first-round bye as the top team in the Pacific Division, Love felt his group got out of the gates rather slow to start their Round 2 series with the Canucks, however he said they were able to turn things around quickly.
“We came off 11 days off while the other teams played a best-of-three,” he explained. “I don’t care who you are, or what kind of team you are, your execution isn’t going to be there. Your game reps, your game condition isn’t going to be there. We made those adjustments after game one, our guys were much better in game two against Abbotsford.”
This time around, the Wranglers are in full stride.
“If you don’t have intensity and emotion this time of year, you’re in big trouble and you probably shouldn’t be playing.”