Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, March 14, 2009 | 1 a.m.
Despite winning just one time during a 10-game road trip that spanned nearly a month, the Las Vegas Wranglers showed no signs of jet-lag as they turned the Idaho Steelheads into their homecoming party's piñata with a 4-1 victory in front of 5,797 fans at the Orleans Arena Friday night.
A three-goal scoring binge in the third period helped the Wranglers (28-26-8) snag just their second victory in 14 games.
"It's a big win," said Las Vegas coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan. "We are clawing for points to get into the playoffs. This is a huge one for us. We are getting healthier and we are getting some players back and some guys in from college, so that all helps."
The Wranglers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead at the 2:28 mark thanks to a swift wrap-around goal by Justin Taylor that was set up by Peter and Chris Ferraro.
The National Conference-leading Steelheads (36-19-4) tied the game 1-1 nearly 10 minutes later when forward Sean Garrity capitalized on an Idaho power play.
Following a scoreless second period, Wranglers defenseman Mike Madill scored the eventual game winner on a laser of a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle with 11:21 remaining in the third period to put Las Vegas on top 2-0.
"I had some time to pedal through and I just shot it as hard as I could and it got through somehow," Madill said.
Madill proved even more valuable as a defender a few minutes later when the Steelheads went on a 5-on-3 power play for nearly a full minute and a half. Madill, Bret Tyler and Chris Neiszner helped goalie Glenn Fisher kill off both penalties to really shift momentum back to the Wranglers.
"That was the turning point in my mind for sure," Gulutzan said. "That kill was huge."
After surviving that 5-on-3 power play, the Wranglers seized control of the game when Adam Miller buried a feed from Kelly Czuy for the 3-1 lead with 5:58 remaining.
With the game out of reach, Peter Ferraro added one more on an empty net to seal the 4-1 victory.
The Wranglers have 11 games remaining, eight of which are at home.
"Playoffs start now," Miller said. "We've got eight at home. We should come to the rink every day believing we will put points on the board and then carry that into the playoffs."
Stars of the game: 1. Mike Madill (game-winning goal); 2. Justin Taylor (1 goal, 1 assist); 3. Glenn Fisher (25 saves)
Roster report: The Wranglers added Merrimack College stand-out forward Rob Ricci prior to Friday's game. Ricci, a Brampton, Ontario, native and a Hobey Baker Award nominee, posted 34 goals and 49 assists in three seasons at Merrimack.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound forward registered one assist and took four shots in his professional debut Friday.
"(Ricci) is a real smart, nifty player," Gulutzan said. "I thought he was good tonight. You can see he is smart and he is only going to get better over time."
Black Friday: In honor of Friday the 13th, the Wranglers sported all black jerseys with red, horror movie-esque slash marks. Jason and Freddy Krueger would be proud.
Wigglin' Wolves: When I first saw an elementary dance team take the ice during the first intermission, I was skeptical. But the Wigglin' Wolves of Kitty Ward Elementary are awesome. These young kids put together an impressive hip-hop/street-style dance show complete with a student in full mascot gear. Are any of you kids available to give dance lessons to a sportswriter with two left feet?
Up next: The Wranglers and Steelheads return to the Orleans Arena Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. The ZOOperstars! will provide the intermission entertainment for that game.
Final word: "Our goal is get to the playoffs first," Gulutzan said. "Playoffs is about getting healthy at the right time. Getting your players back at the right time too. So it's getting there, being healthy, staying healthy and getting your players back -- that's how you win in the playoffs."
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].