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September 2, 2014

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Wranglers find net first again, take control of series against Stockton

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STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Wrangler fans cheer and wave signs taunting the Stockton Thunder and their goaltender Olivier Roy after Las Vegas handed the visiting Thunder a third defeat in three nights at the Orleans Arena to take a 3-2 series lead in the best of seven ECHL Western Conference quarterfinal matchup.

Wranglers up in series

Wrangler goalie Joe Fallon and defenseman Channing Boe guard the Las Vegas net against Maxime Boisclair, who lost his balance reaching for a deflected puck during the first period of game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series between Stockton and Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Launch slideshow »

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The Las Vegas Wranglers had one awful habit during the regular season.

Las Vegas, more often than not, struggled to score first in games, findings itself trailing before staging dramatic rallies to pick up wins.

The trend has done a complete 180 in the postseason.

The Wranglers have scored first in all five of their playoff games — most recently in a 3-0 victory Wednesday over the Stockton Thunder at the Orleans Arena — and the bugaboo of not scoring first is a thing of the past.

“It’s a lot different than we played all year,” forward Andrew Sarauer said with a laugh. “Game is crazy sometimes. ... We were behind a lot in the first period, and we found a way to come back in most games.”

One thing that hasn’t been any different from the regular season has been the Wranglers defense, which finished the 72-game stretch in the top 10.

The Wranglers were impenetrable during the three games inside the Orleans Arena. Stockton is on an extended scoring drought.

The Thunder last scored with 2:27 left in the first period in Game 4, meaning they have gone a little more than 102 minutes without a goal.

At the forefront of the defensive effort has been goalie Joe Fallon.

Fallon has played all five games, and has really turned it up as of late. He saved 32 shots against Stockton on Wednesday, tallying his second shutout in three days.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Fallon said, who admitted to losing a bit of water weight during the last three nights. “Playing at home helps a lot. You’re able to go home and do your own thing, come to the rink and have stuff available.”

Offensively, the Wranglers have found enough scoring to take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6.

Sarauer continued the streak of scoring first when he corralled a pass from Scott Pitt to give the Wranglers the lead with 2:27 remaining in the first period.

Judd Blackwater added a much-needed insurance goal in the third period with Sarauer getting credit for the primary assist. Sarauer added an empty net late to seal the victory.

While they haven’t won a road game in the postseason, the Wranglers played well in the first two games of the series.

The Wranglers led in Games 1 and 2 before losing games in overtime, but,like the regular season shortcomings, Sarauer isn’t worried about the past.

“We want to take care of business and get it done,” Sarauer said. “We just have go down there and win one.”

Game 6 is scheduled to take place Friday at 7:05 p.m. in Stockton, Calif.

The Wranglers have put a premium on finishing the series in Game 6 to get some important rest after playing a schedule that featured five games in six nights.

That and avoiding a Game 7 on the road would be ideal.

“(Stockton has) worked hard for their home ice advantage,” Las Vegas Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said. “It’s a huge task (to win on the road). We have to be ready for the challenge.”

Three Stars: 1. Joe Fallon, Las Vegas (32 saves, shutout); 2. Andrew Sarauer, Las Vegas (2 goals, 1 assist); 3. Judd Blackwater, Las Vegas (1 goal).

Up Next: Game 6 will take place 7:30 p.m. Friday in Stockton. An if-necessary Game 7 would take place 4 p.m. Sunday.

Final Word: “It’s a lot to put on the athletes. Three games in three nights. I’m not a big fan of it.” ― Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel on the schedule.

Paul Delos Santos can be reached at 990-2416 or [email protected]. Follow Paul on Twitter at twitter.com/pauliedelos.

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