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October 23, 2019

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Hockey:

Wranglers miss opportunities, suffer first road loss of season

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Missed opportunities coupled with a struggling power play unit doomed the Las Vegas Wranglers Saturday night.

The Bakersfield Condors used two late goals by Dan Sexton to hand Las Vegas its first road loss of the season 4-2 in front of 5,368 fans at Rabobank Arena.

Despite jumping out to a 2-1 lead, the Wranglers' futile 0-for-9 effort on the power play caught up to them late in the game when Sexton scored two goals within nearly two minutes of each other to seal the victory.

“I thought we really outplayed them, but tonight the power play was the difference in the game,” said Wranglers head coach and General Manager Ryan Mougenel. “Our power play let us down. When you have that many opportunities to score on the power play, you better get it done. That’s the problem when you play on the outside, and that’s going to be the emphasis this week. We have to get on the inside, in the tough areas to score. And if you aren’t willing to do that, then you won’t have a spot on the power play.”

Las Vegas forward Mick Lawrence lit up the scoreboard first off of a feed from Jason Krischuk just 4:29 into the game.

Bakersfield forward Kyle Calder answered back just 3:09 later for the Condors' only power play goal of the night to tie the game 1-1.

Lawrence delivered the final blow of the period at the 16:03 mark for his second goal of the night and the 2-1 lead.

Once again, though, Calder tied the game 8:33 into the second period at 2-2.

“It’s not the outcome we want, but it’s building blocks,” said Wranglers captain Chris Neiszner. “It’s a 60-minute game and we have to play all 60 minutes to win. We can’t have lapses.”

The Wranglers’ power play problems continued into the third period as Las Vegas failed to muster any offensive pressure late in the game.

“Their PK was pressuring and we didn’t adapt well,” Mougenel said. “We were making rash decisions and rushing. When you are doing that on the power play you are not being diligent and detailed. It was just mulligan after mulligan. We didn’t embrace the ability to score.”

Then, with less than five minutes remaining, Sexton scored twice within about two minutes to lift the Condors to a 4-2 lead.

Sexton now has eight goals and eight assists for a team-high 16 points.

“We let it slip away there with two goals late in the game, and we have to be better than that,” Neiszner said. “They are a very skilled team and you can’t break down on a team that good.”

Stars of the game: 1. Kyle Calder (2 goals); 2. Dan Sexton (2 goals); 3. Mick Lawrence (2 goals)

Powerless play: The Wranglers power play unit is now 10-for-72 for a 13.9 percent success rate after its 0-for-9 outing in Bakersfield.

“The power play is a matter of outworking the other team,” Neiszner said. “You have to be mentally strong. We have to outwork their PK. We have to get pucks to the net and battle. That is where the outworking comes in. We have to create havoc in front of the net and jam pucks in there.”

Roster report: Las Vegas only suited up five defensemen

Heavy hitter: Early in the first period, Chris Frank squared off against Erick Lizon to earn some payback for Kyle Hagel. Hagel suffered two busted eyes at the hands of Lizon during a fight Thursday night. The 6-foot-1 Frank held his own against the 6-foot-4 Lizon. Judges rule it a draw.

Self promotion: Once again, a shameless plug for everyone to tune in to the Heatwave Sports Show on Fox Sports Radio 920 AM Sunday night from 10 p.m. to midnight. I’ll be on talking about everything Wranglers at 11 p.m.

Next up: The Wranglers return home to host the Utah Grizzlies at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday at the Orleans Arena.

Final word: “Three games in three nights is tough, but I thought the guys did an admirable job with it,” Mougenel said.

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