Chris Wahl – 02.05.24

You can’t blame Matt Coronato for having a bit of extra jump.

The 21-year-old was flying around the ice at WinSport Thursday, as the Calgary Wranglers went through final tune-ups ahead of their second round AHL playoff series against Coachella Valley, beginning Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

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It’s his first opportunity to play post-season hockey as a pro, and while those heavy May flakes in the Stampede City are having their challenges sticking to the ground, Coronato is hoping the Wranglers’ playoff fortunes will snowball.

“We just want to keep it rolling,” Coronato said of his group’s momentum, days after Calgary knocked off No. 2-seed Tucson in Round 1 of the Calder Cup chase.

It’s been a season of learning for Coronato, the 2021 first-round pick, his season split between the Flames and Wranglers.

But at the end of the day, the winger got into 34 games with the big club, chipping in with nine points along the way.

His role with the Wranglers is more bent on production – each shift offers Coronato the opportunity to unleash his deadly wrist shot – but he’s quick to focus on team goals first, when pressed about his ability to provide highlight-reel moments as an individual.

“For me, it’s the same mentality I have whether I’m with the Flames or the Wranglers, I want to help the team win,” he said. “If it’s scoring and producing offensively, if that’s something I’m counted on to do, that’s what I’m going to try to do while also doing the right things defensively.

“I think that’s a big part of what I’ve learned this year, is how to play the game the right way defensively. Both coaches (Ryan) Huska and (Trent) Cull have helped me a ton with that.”

For Wranglers head coach Trent Cull, there’s no question Coronato’s return adds a game-breaking presence to his lineup.

In 41 games at the AHL level this season, the New York product collected 42 points, and he’s carried that pace over to the playoffs.


“He’s a point-a-game guy in our league, and we certainly missed him when he wasn’t here,” Cull said following Thursday’s practice. “To have him back, picking up that pace again, the idea is that he can do things that can change the flow of a game, and that’s really what we needed, he’s helped us out.”

It’s also hard to ignore the smile on Coronato’s face when he’s on the ice.

And why not?

He’s getting top-line minutes alongside Cole Schwindt and Jakob Pelletier, both of whom earned spells at the NHL level this season as well.

Much like Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, whose Standards Trio records are part of 20th-century jazz canon, the Wranglers trio has the freedom to improvise offensively, while also staying true to the cadence of the game.

“They’re both great players, Pelts is such a fun guy to be around, so he’s awesome to play with,” Coronato said. “Both guys can make plays, both guys want to score and be offensive, and both guys also are good defensively. I love playing with both of them.”

The series format calls for the Wranglers to host Games 1 and 2, despite being the lower seed. For Coronato and Co., Friday and Sunday’s home fixtures offer the opportunity to start on the front foot, while taking advantage of what they all hope to be boisterous home crowds.

“It’s awesome to start at home here, excited to be back at the ‘Dome,” Coronato said. “It’s a great team we’re playing, I know these two teams matched up last year so there’s a bit of history, too.

“Our group’s really excited for it.”