BRYAN WILSON – 03.02.2023
In big games, you lean on your leaders.
The Wranglers were in Coachella Valley on Wednesday night taking on the Firebirds in a battle for first place in the Pacific Division, with Calgary skating to a 3-1 win.
Captain Brett Sutter got the scoring started with his 13th goal of the season, while Matthew Phillips notched his league-leading 27th tally on a tremendous individual effort. Ben Jones played a gritty game and was rewarded with an empty net goal to round out the scoring for the Wranglers.
Dustin Wolf was stellar between the pipes against the Firebirds, turning aside 29 of 30 shots he faced in the contest to register his AHL-best 31st win of the season.
CGY Goal Scorers – Brett Sutter – Matthew Phillips – Ben Jones (EN)
The first period saw little in terms of offensive opportunities for the Wranglers, as they were forced to kill off two penalties in the frame. Wolf was the main reason for the scoreless game through 20 minutes, making a series of solid stops – on the penalty kill in particular – for a total of 11 saves in the period.
Calgary trailed 11-1 on the shot clock at the break, but thanks to good goaltending, the game remained tied.
The Wranglers would start to turn things around in the second period.
There were few whistles in the first half of the frame, which allowed for the Wranglers to start rolling their lines and generate momentum from one shift to the next. At the 9:16 mark, Radim Zohorna drove the net with the puck on his stick and threw a backhand chance out front. Sutter was stationed at the edge of the crease and managed to knock the puck into the back of the net to give the Wranglers a much needed lead on the road. Nick DeSimone picked up the secondary assist on the goal.
Calgary outshot Coachella Valley 14-7 in the second period.
The intensity picked up in the third and the Firebirds became undisciplined as the period progressed.
Calgary played a shutdown game in the final frame – backed by Wolf – who continued his strong play. Then, at the 7:42 mark, off a Wranglers dump in, goaltender Chris Driedger went out to meet the puck. He was quickly pursued by Phillips, who stole the puck off Driedger’s stick, wrapped it around the net and slid it over the line to extend the lead to 2-0.
Ben Jones would add an empty net goal to help seal it for Calgary, scoring his 12th goal of the season. Wolf’s shutout bid would be denied late in the game (18:47) as Jimmy Schuldt sent a harmless looking shot towards the net that bounced off a skate and into the net.
3-1 the final score.
With the win, the Wranglers (77 Pts.) moved into a tie for first place in the AHL and are three points up on the Firebirds in the Pacific Division standings. Coachella Valley (74 Pts.) still has four games in-hand heading down the stretch.
Up next: the Wranglers travel to Colorado to face the Eagles on March 3, 2023. Puck drop is at 7:05 pm MST.