BRYAN WILSON – 04.19.2023
It’s all in the details.
That’s what head coach Mitch Love spoke to when asked about his coaching approach heading into the Wranglers inaugural campaign. It’s a message that has been delivered consistently – and communicated effectively – to his players all season long.
It’s clear that the approach worked.
The Wranglers posted a 51-17-3-1 record this season – the ninth best all-time in the AHL – capturing the 2023 Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy (106 Pts.) as the AHL’s regular season champions. They picked up their first Pacific Division in the process, along with a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“I’m proud of that, I’m proud of our group,” commented Wranglers head coach Mitch Love – who is not one to rest on his laurels.
“We’ve got a little bit of time here to digest that and then hit the reset button and get ourselves ready for the playoffs, which is the most important part of our hockey season.”
On April 17, 2023 Love was awarded the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award for the AHL’s Most Outstanding Coach for the second year in a row. He is the first coach to win the award in his first two seasons behind an AHL bench and is the third coach to win the award in consecutive seasons, joining Bill Dineen (’85 – ’86) and Robbie Ftorek (’95- ‘96’) with that distinction.
“It’s obviously a tremendous honour to be voted amongst your peers and the media throughout the American Hockey League for the award,” expressed Love. “But really, at the end of the day, this is a team award, a staff award for a consistent regular season. That’s how I look at it.”
“It goes right back to the players, they’re the ones who do all the work,” Love continued. “As a staff, we layout a blueprint for them and they need to execute it, and they’ve done a phenomenal job of that throughout the regular season.”
Earlier this season, Love was named to the Pacific Division All-Star team as Head Coach, representing the Wranglers at the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic in Laval, QC – alongside players Dustin Wolf and Matthew Phillips.
Focused on Development
As the AHL affiliate of the NHL Flames, there is always an emphasis on developing NHL-ready players, and under Love’s tutelage this season the Wranglers had six players receive NHL recalls this season.
2022-23 NHL Call-Ups:
- (F) Walker Duehr – 27 games
- (F) Jakob Pelletier – 24 games
- (D) Dennis Gilbert – 23 games
- (D) Nick DeSimone – 4 games
- (F) Matthew Phillips – 2 games
- (G) Dustin Wolf – 1 game (1 win)
A handful of Wranglers had career year’s this season, as well.
Wranglers Career-Best’s in 2022-23:
- Matthew Phillips – goals
- Connor Zary – goals, assists, points
- Ben Jones – assists, points
- Emilio Pettersen – goals, assists, points
- Nick DeSimone – (plus/minus)
- Mitch McLain – points
- Ilya Solovyov – assists, points
- Dustin Wolf – Wins, SO, GAA, Sv%
Next Man Up
In response to the recurring recalls and inevitable turnover, Love instilled a ‘Next Man Up’ mentality which permeated throughout the group all season long.
It was especially evident during the tight race for first place in the Pacific Division, as the Wranglers were dominant, going on a 14-2-1 run to end the regular season. Regardless of who was in the lineup on any given night, the expectation was always the same – focus on the details, play the right way.
“Over the course of a long hockey season you’re going to have dips where you are not playing your best. It’s a matter of how long you stay in those dips that make you a good regular season team,” Love continued.
“Our guys did a good job leading the way and making sure our team was prepared every day to go out and compete against some really good teams in our division.”