BRYAN WILSON – 04.12.2023
It has been more than a month since the Wranglers etched an ‘X’ beside their name on the AHL standings back on March 11 as the first team to punch their ticket to the postseason, but they’ve still got plenty to play for.
The Wranglers (50-15-3) earned their 50th win of the season on Saturday against the Gulls and have picked up points in 14-straight games (13-0-1). They currently sit three points up on the Coachella Valley Firebirds for first place in the Pacific Division – and top spot in the AHL – with 104 points, and look to secure a first-round bye in the postseason with a successful series against the Abbotsford Canucks to close out the regular season.
So, this is certainly not the time to let off the gas pedal, said head coach Mitch Love.
“We’re in a dog fight here for top place in our division and every point is critical, obviously with Coachella right behind us here,” he explained. “We knew it was an important game in Coachella on Wednesday and equally as important were the two games in San Diego.”
“We’ve got plenty to play for in terms of trying to finish first place and get that first round bye,” he continued. “So, there’s lots to play for, and on top of that, rounding out our team-game as we prepare for the playoffs.”
There are just three tilts remaining on the regular season schedule, all against the Canucks, and while the head-to-head results favour the Wranglers this season – with seven wins in nine tries (7-2) – the games have been close and tightly contested.
It’s another tough test for the Wranglers, but Love and his group are embracing the challenge … and the opportunity.
“We’re on the road here, so it’s even more of a challenge going into other teams’ buildings to get points and we’ve got to try and keep that going here in a hostile atmosphere in Abbotsford,” he said.
The Canucks have been playing well lately, too, with a 5-3-1-1 record in their last 10 games.
“They’ve played really good hockey over the last month or so, I anticipate that eventually they’re going to get some bodies back from the Canucks themselves, so they present a great challenge for us,” Love explained. “Especially going into that building. When we were there in January, the crowds were great, our guys really felt that, and we’re excited to get up there and try to get some more points.”