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Wranglers face elimination following 3OT loss to Firebirds

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Calgary Wranglers at Coachella Valley Firebirds

The stranglehold playoff game has always been a fascinating one no matter the sport, whether it’s a three-, five-, seven- or (olde tyme) nine-game series.

Win and you’re one away from taking it and either moving on to the next round or claiming the title.

Lose and suddenly that sense of dread clings to you like a film.

The Calgary Wranglers fall in the latter category following last night’s/this morning’s 3-2 triple-overtime loss to the Coachella Valley Firebirds in Game 3 of their five-game AHL playoff set.

The Pacific Division final between the top two clubs in the AHL’s western circuit β€” Calgary (51-17-4) finished three points ahead of Coachella Valley (48-17-5-2) in the standings β€” had been knotted at one a piece.

“We knew this was going to be a tight series,” Wranglers head coach Mitch Love said following the game in front of 8,198 fans at Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, Calif. “We had our chances in overtime, especially that first overtime. It just didn’t fall for us.”

The Wranglers had taken a two-goal lead early in the game on goals by Adam Klapka and Jakob Pelletier at 8:25 and 15:23 of the first period, respectively, but the hosts clawed their way back on goals by Gustav Olofsson 95:28 of the second period) and Max McCormick (2:59 of the third).

Then the minor-league affiliates of the Calgary Flames and the Seattle Kraken played essentially another full game.

And while the Wranglers enjoyed a few A-grade opportunities to win the game over the two-and-a-half periods of overtime that lasted until nearly 1 a.m. Mountain time, Firebirds goalie Joey Daccord put up a tremendous effort, particularly in 1OT when he stopped 19 shots.

Ryker Evans’s shot from the top of the faceoff circle found its way past a screened Wranglers goalie Dustin Wolf for the winner.

Daccord stopped 60 shots for the Firebirds, who now hold a 2-1 series lead in the Pacific Division final. Wolf turned aside 48.

Now, after Calgary opted to play the first two games of the series at home, the Wranglers face having to win the next two games on the road in order to advance.

“It’s a fine line out there and we knew that was going to be the case in this series,” Love said. “We’ve just got to win our battles and stick together as a group.”

Prospect watch

  • Matt Coronato scored the winning goal with about five minutes remaining in the game to lift Team USA to a 3-2 win yesterday over Germany at the IIHF world men’s hockey championship in Tempere, Finland. Coronato, who signed with the Flames in March following the conclusion of his season in U.S. college hockey at Harvard, has that goal and an assist in three preliminary-round games for the undefeated U.S. squad.
  • Lucas Ciona and the Seattle Thunderbirds return to action tonight for Game 3 of the Western Hockey League final against the Winnipeg Ice. Ciona, captain of the Thunderbirds and a top Calgary Flames forward prospect, went scoreless on four shots in Saturday’s 4-2 Seattle win at Winnipeg on Saturday and finished plus-1. The 20-year-old has yet to score against the Ice, but he’s netted five goals and two assists in 16 WHL playoff games so far. The winner of the WHL championship will advance to the Memorial Cup tournament, which is scheduled to begin May 26 in Kamloops, B.C.
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