What a debut season for the Calgary Wranglers after relocation. Last year’s Stockton Heat was among one of the top teams in the AHL but saw their Calder Cup run fall short. Since making the Saddledome their home base, the newly-named Calgary Wranglers went and improved upon their results and got even better.
Regular season dominance
Poised to make a deep run as Calder Cup contenders, the Wranglers finished off the regular season with some pre-playoff hardware. In the penultimate day of the AHL regular season, the top team in the league was still yet to be decided. With a jam-packed slate of hockey, both the Wranglers and the Coachella Valley Firebirds were scheduled to play in the late games. The outcome of their games would decide the regular season champions. They battled for the right to be the best team in the AHL and to win the Kilpatrick Trophy.
The Wranglers controlled their own fate as a win would have earned them the top spot, whereas the Firebirds needed to win while hoping the Wranglers would lose. Well, the Wranglers won 3–2 against the Abbosford Canucks, the the Firebirds stumbled against the Bakersfield Condors losing 4–2.
This was particularly high drama as the Wranglers dropped two straight games against the Canucks heading into their season finale. So instead of clinching the top spot earlier on, the top two teams of the AHL would be watching one another’s scoreboards as their games went on to see who would come out as the best team. Luckily for the Wranglers, they picked up a win when they needed it most.
Overall, the Wranglers finish 51–17–3–1, good for 106 points; while the Firebirds finished 48–17–5–2, good for 103 points.
The trophies earned by the Wranglers
The AHL is a bit unique in that there are many regular season trophies to be won when a team is at the top. Here’s what the Wranglers earned by winning the regular season:
|John D. Chick Trophy||Pacific Division regular season champions|
|Norman R. “Bud” Poile Trophy||Western Conference regular season champions|
|Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy||AHL regular season champions|
Wranglers playoff implications
By being the top team in the AHL, the Wranglers will have home-ice in every series they play. As the Pacific Division’s top team, they also receive a first-round bye and will start their Calder Cup campaign in the best-of-five division semifinals. Due to the AHL’s imbalanced divisions, only one Pacific team earns a bye, so their season finale win had more benefits attached than just home-ice advantage.
Here’s a quick look at the Calder Cup playoff format for reference.
|First Round||Division Quarterfinals||Best-of-Three|
|Second Round||Division Semifinals||Best-of-Five|
|Third Round||Division Finals||Best-of-Five|
|Fourth Round||Conference Finals||Best-of-Seven|
|Final||Calder Cup Final||Best-of-Seven|
In the first round, eight teams get byes: the top two Atlantic, top three North and Central, and top overall Pacific teams get to rest for a bit while the best-of-three division quarterfinals are played out. Given that the AHL saw its top two teams both come out of the Pacific Division, it needed the two teams’ season finales to determine the overall regular season champion. It was clear that important hockey was played right through to the final buzzers of the regular season.
Get ready for Calgary playoff hockey
While the Calgary Flames bowed out of playoff contention, the Wranglers are very much looking like they can be potential Calder Cup champions. They head into the playoffs as favourites and have excellent players on their roster. With Matthew Phillips and Dustin Wolf named to the First All-Star Team, Jeremie Poirier named to the All-Rookie Team, as well as being dominant on home ice, they’ll hope to rise up to expectations and give their best shot at the Calder Cup.
Best of luck to the Wranglers in their 2023 playoff run!
Photo from CalgaryWranglers.com.