BRYAN WILSON – 03.10.2023
The Wranglers have punched their ticket to the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Calgary (41-15-03) became the first team in the AHL to clinch a playoff spot this season, after blanking the Ontario Reign in their barn by a score of 2-0 on Friday night.
Clark Bishop scored the game-winning goal for his eighth of the season and Cole Schwindt added a powerplay marker – his second goal in his last two games.
Dustin Wolf picked up his league leading 34th win (34-9-2) and AHL-best fifth shutout of the season, turning aside all 34 shots he faced in the game.
CGY Goal Scorers: Clark Bishop – Cole Schwindt
Wolf was a big factor between the pipes in the first period, as the Reign peppered 10 shots on net in the opening 20 minutes.
Chances were limited for the Wranglers; however, they would break the scoreless stalemate at the 18:49 mark when Bishop sent a shot towards the goal that fooled Cal Petersen and found the back of the net. Kevin Rooney picked up an assist, and so did Brett Sutter, who has five points (2g, 3a) in six games against his former team this season.
It was 1-0 Wranglers at the break.
The Reign continued to pour on the pressure in the second period with two powerplay chances, but the Wranglers killed them both off. The Wranglers’ Pacific Division leading penalty-kill is operating at 84.2 per cent this season.
The score remained the same after 40 minutes.
It started to get a little more chippy in the final frame.
Calgary took advantage of the increased physicality, adding to their lead in the first five minutes courtesy of the powerplay. Nick DeSimone started the play in the offensive zone, walking the blue line and sending a pass to Connor Zary along the half-wall. He then found Schwindt in the high slot, who redirected the pass through the legs of Petersen to extend the lead to 2-0.
Ontario pulled their goaltender in the late stages, but even with a powerplay in the final minute, they couldn’t solve Wolf, who has four wins in his last five games. He was named the ‘First Star of the Game’ for the second-straight game.
The playoff-bound Wranglers sit in first place in the AHL standings with a record of 41-15-3. They’ll face the Reign for the final time this season on Sunday, March 12.