Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 | 10:43 p.m.
There's something about the third period that seems to bring the Las Vegas Wranglers to life.
Down two goals in the final 20 minutes, the Wranglers rallied for three goals to come away with a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Eagles on Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 4,159 fans at the Orleans Arena.
Through five games, the Wranglers have scored eight of their 15 goals in the third period or later (one goal came in overtime), and with those comes a reputation that the team is happy to foster.
"We want to known as a third-period team," said center Eric Lampe, whose goal with 1:18 left to play gave the Wranglers their third win of the season (3-1-0-1) "The third period is the most important, and we get closer as a group."
Lampe scored both of his goals in the third period, while Adam Hughesman added a shorthanded goal and assist. Las Vegas product Chris Francis scored the other Wranglers goal.
Finding the net late gave the team a sense of relief, especially after the Wranglers outshot the Eagles 24-10 in the first two periods. Many of the chances whistled wide of the net or were saved by Colorado goalie Kyle Jones. (33 saves)
"The boys stuck with it. The first 40 minutes, we weren't getting the bounces," Hughesman said. "We deserved that win."
Right from the get-go, the Eagles and the Wranglers engaged in a highly physical contest. Six seconds into the game, Adam Huxley, who logged 203 penalty minutes last season, dropped his gloves and battled with Colorado's Norm Ezekiel in a compelling fist fight that set the tone for the first period.
In all, there were nine penalties in the opening 20 minutes.
"It was a weird start to the game with the penalties going back and forth," Lampe said.
In essence, it put the spotlight on an intriguing battles between one of the league's best power play offenses (Colorado, seventh in the ECHL) against a top penalty kill unit (Las Vegas, fourth).
The Eagles' prowess on the man-advantage showed early on, as Joey Sides scored his first goal of the game at the 2:09 mark of the first period.
The Wranglers tightened up their defense on the penalty kill on ensuing moments when they were down a man, capped off by Hughesman only goal. Hughesman stole the puck in the Eagles zone, and scored a goal to level the game at one with 14:15 left to play in the first period.
"I tried a quick shot, and was lucky to beat the goalie," Hughesman said.
The tie lasted until a little more than six minutes, as Sides struck again at the 11:23 mark. Just as the Wranglers were returning to full strength following a Josh Lunden penalty, Sides took a pass and snuck the puck past Joe Fallon to give the Eagles the lead again.
Then after Trent Daavettila gave the Eagles a 3-1 lead with 19 seconds to play in the second period, it set up another thrilling finish for the Wranglers, who have become accustomed to such as all of the games this season have been decided late.
"They're a mature bunch," Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said. "They're a team you don't have to overcoach, which is a good thing."
Just two minutes into the final 20 minutes, Lampe scored his first goal. Nine minutes later, Francis scored the equalizer, setting up Lampe's game-winning score.
Admittedly, not scoring on its numerous chances was a frustrating experience for Las Vegas — it outshot Colorado 37-18 for the game. The Wranglers persisted and got the goals when it mattered, leaving them with the sweet taste of victory heading into the upcoming week.
"We want every one to go in," Lampe said. "You just have to keep throwing pucks at the net. You can't keep get down on yourself. You never know what will happen."
Three Stars: Eric Lampe (two goals), Adam Hughesman (one goal, one assists), Chris Francis (one goal)
Up Next: The Wranglers are off until Nov. 2 for a two-game set against the Ontario Reign. Both games are scheduled to start 7 p.m., at the Orleans.
Final Word: "It's not something I want to see him do all the time." — Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel on Adam Huxley's fight six seconds into the contest.