BRYAN WILSON – 05.16.2023
For the first time in the Calder Cup playoffs the Wranglers are up against the ropes, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-five series and are now in a ‘must-win’ scenario for the next two games.
During the last month of the regular season, the Wranglers were in a tight race with the Coachella Valley Firebirds for the top spot in the division and the AHL.
During that stretch, every game was, in essence, a ‘must-win’ as well, so this isn’t necessarily new territory for them.
“We knew this was going to be a tight series,” said head coach Mitch Love, whose team fell 3-2 in triple overtime in Game 3 Monday night. “We had our chances in overtime, especially that first overtime, it just didn’t fall for us.
“We knew we were going to have to come here and try to win hockey games. Now we’ve got to win two in a row, and we’ve got to try and win on Wednesday.”
Game 3 was a grind, especially in OT, and the Wranglers put forth a heckuva effort and carried the play for most of it.
“Honestly, we probably played some of our best hockey of the night in the overtime periods,” explained Love. “Obviously, it doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs when you lose.
“It’s a tough one but hey, it’s playoff hockey. We’ve just got to get some rest and try to win a hockey game on the road on Wednesday.”
As for the plan heading into Game 4, there isn’t a whole lot they need to change. The Wranglers fired 19 shots on net in the first OT, and 62 shots total in the contest, but were stymied by some hot goaltending.
“We’ll reset and we’ve got some things we can continue to look at as a team, but our last two games have been better,” said Love. “We had a 2-0 lead on the road. Obviously, you don’t want to see those things get salted away, but it’s a fine line out there and we knew that was going to be the case in this series. We’ve just got to win our battles, stick together as a group and maybe the day off in between will be a good thing for us.”
Overall, although he wasn’t happy with the result, Love was impressed with the effort his team displayed, continuing to battle through the adversity, frustration, and physical demands of the game, especially in the three overtimes.
“I was proud of the guys,” he said. “That’s a lot of hockey. It’s not easy to do mentally and physically, but I was proud of the guys for sticking with it.”