Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Sunday, March 2, 2014 | 3:18 p.m.
Perhaps the Las Vegas Wranglers should think twice before auctioning off the Spider Man jerseys they wore Saturday night.
The Wranglers put together one of the most complete efforts of the season Saturday against a talented Idaho Steelheads club in a 3-1 victory before nearly 6,000 raucous fans. Las Vegas snapped a four-game losing streak thanks in large part to stellar goaltending from Travis Fullerton, who earned his seventh win of the year, stopping 30 of 31 Idaho shots.
Wrangler forward Matt Tassone opened the scoring at 4:40 of a gritty, physical first period with his 11th goal of the season.
Hard checking would continue throughout the second period, reaching a boiling point after Idaho defenseman Patrick Cullity tripped a speeding Adam Huxley, causing him to impact the boards awkwardly with an apparent injury. Cullity was assessed a tripping minor penalty, and Huxley would not return to the game. Two minutes later, Wrangler forward Matt Tassone would fight Cullity as a result of the play, and Cullity was targeted the remainder of the game by Wrangler players at any opportunity.
At 7:45 of the second period, Chad Nehring would score his 12th goal of the year to give the Wranglers a 2-0 lead after two periods of very physical hockey between Las Vegas and Idaho, as the clubs traded hard checks and several stoppages in play resulted in scrums.
At the start of the third, Wrangler fans were left wondering if the home team would again be stricken with a third-period let-down after Idaho forward Tommy Grant netted his 18th goal of the year less than a minute into the period. The fans would not be disappointed this time, as the Wranglers fought off a flurry of third-period opportunities and constant pressure by the Steelheads. In the final minute of the game, Idaho pulled goaltender Josh Robinson in favor of an extra attacker. After a scrum for a loose puck in the Wranglers end, John Armstrong found the puck on his stick and fired it the length of the ice into the empty Idaho net to seal the 3-1 victory for Las Vegas.
The Wranglers will hit the road starting March 5 for three games against the Steelheads in Idaho, then make a three-game swing through California. Las Vegas returns home March 20 for the final home stand of the season.