SANDRA PRUSINA – 02.27.2023
A recent season-high six-game homestand gave the Wranglers a lot to think about, despite going into the stretch as the first team to 30 wins this season.
First, a tale of two overtimes. Blueliner Ilya Solovyov’s first goal of the year was the winner on Feb. 17 versus Colorado. Then, five days later, a penalty-filled battle against Henderson went to extra time, with the visitors coming out on top.
Although the Silver Knights sit toward the bottom of the Pacific Division standings, they’ve had the Wranglers’ number this season. Calgary allowed three powerplay goals in that 5-4 OT loss, a rarity for one of the league’s top-ranked penalty-kills. Post-game, head coach Mitch Love talked about discipline, namely the lack of it — the teams combined for 84 penalty minutes. Once the playoffs roll around, the Wranglers can’t take their strong PK for granted and exhaust the specialty team players.
"Discipline's obviously an important component for us…"
Wranglers head coach Mitch Love addressed the media after a penalty-filled setback to Henderson on Wednesday night. pic.twitter.com/VWsmdNcMBl
— Calgary Wranglers (@AHLWranglers) February 23, 2023
Henderson forward and local product Sheldon Rempal went on a tear that night with two goals and two assists. He had his own cheering section, and over 20 family and friends were on their feet when he was announced the game’s first star. Many AHL players in the Pacific have Calgary ties and have upped their games when visiting the Scotiabank Saddledome: Ryker Evans, Dino Kambeitz, and Tristen Nielsen, to name a few. The Wranglers must get used to this and figure out how to curb it.
📹 Zary with the sweet snipe! pic.twitter.com/M6BrYYdQXt
— Calgary Wranglers (@AHLWranglers) February 20, 2023
During the homestand, Connor Zary was amid an 11-game goal drought. I chatted with coach Love about the third-year forward, asking what the 2020 Flames first-rounder needed to do to light the lamp again. He explained goals wouldn’t always come off the rush or a powerplay one-timer, and the winger had to get into dirty areas. Zary netted the winner on Feb. 19 against the Eagles, driving to the net with two Colorado players draped over him. With Jakob Pelletier and Walker Duehr up with the big club, Zary’s contributions are critical to the Wranglers’ success.
Odds and Ends:
- In this edition of jersey spotting, a Matthew Phillips Victoria Royals blue sweater. The Calgary-born forward spent parts of four seasons with the WHL club, wearing the ‘C’ in his final year, putting up 112 points in 71 games — a team record.
- An honourable mention jersey spotting mention to a Kunlun Red Star when the Silver Knights came for their two-game set. One-time Calgary Flame Spencer Foo played for the KHL squad before returning to North America and signing with the Vegas organization.
- The remainder of the Wranglers’ regular season is road heavy. Only six of the 19 games left are at the Saddledome, all in March.