Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 | 1:30 a.m.
- Wranglers lifted by Primeau’s presence (11/13/09)
- Nothing can keep this defenseman down (11/12/09)
- Wranglers’ home ice woes continue against Utah (11/11/09)
- Wranglers and Grizzlies embark on extra-long series (11/11/09)
- Wranglers miss opportunities, suffer first road loss of season (11/8/09)
- Wranglers pull out narrow victory (11/7/09)
- Wranglers forward scores for local food bank (11/6/09)
- Bakersfield blasts Wranglers at home (11/6/09)
- Bonanza grad returns home to help defeat Wranglers (11/5/09)
- Madill completes long road to recovery (11/5/09)
- Wranglers edge Ontario, 2-1 (11/2/09)
- Wranglers rebound on the road (10/31/09)
- Grizzlies blow out Wranglers in record-setting fashion (10/30/09)
It was a night of many firsts at the Orleans Arena on Thursday.
The Las Vegas Wranglers blasted the Utah Grizzlies 4-0 in front of 3,681 fans for the first Thursday night victory of the regular season, the first win over Utah in four tries and goaltender Michael Ouzas' first shutout of the year.
"We had to win," said Ouzas, who made 37 saves to improve to 6-4 overall. "We needed to win pretty badly after losing two in a row... I thought we started off real good, probably for the first time in a few games. We had one of the best first periods in a long time so that was really important."
In fact, the Wranglers' first shift of the opening period could not have fared any better.
Just 50 seconds into the game, Matt Watkins buried a rebound off of a Craig Switzer shot for the Wranglers' early 1-0 lead.
Later in the first period, Las Vegas seized an even greater hold on the game's momentum after killing off a double-minor penalty by Robbie Bina for hooking.
As Bina exited the penalty box, Shay Stephenson hit him with a breakout pass that Bina used to burn Utah goalie Parker Van Buskirk for a 2-0 advantage at the 7:25 mark.
With that goal and two assists Thursday, Bina now leads Las Vegas with 12 points. His two goals and 10 assists are also second among all defenseman in the ECHL.
"I don't even know how I did it. I just got lucky," Bina said. "I put on a move and must have confused him, and I got the goal. We needed to get some confidence against these guys. It was great to win tonight, but we have to come back (Friday) and get it done again."
Following a scoreless second period, Chris Neiszner extended the Wranglers' lead to 3-0 when he banged in a loose puck in front of the net 7:21 into the third period.
Matt Kang capped off the impressive night with an empty-netter, his first goal of the season, to seal the 4-0 victory with 1:11 remaining in the game.
"Being able to bounce back is a sign of a good team," Ouzas said. "We played two very average games (Saturday and Tuesday) and it was very important for us to bounce back."
Ouzas' 37 saves and the defense's ability to kill off all eight Utah power plays greatly contributed to Thursday's victory – snapping Utah's 3-0 record in Las Vegas.
Ouzas now boasts a .911 save percentage and a 2.73 goals against average this season.
"(The Grizzlies) are a real good offensive hockey team and I thought we did a great job of clogging up the middle," said Wranglers head coach and General Manager Ryan Mougenel. "I thought we were real good in front of Ouzas and Ouzas obviously gives us a chance to win every night. His consistency is something we feed off. He's only going to get better and better."
Stars of the game: 1. Michael Ouzas (37 saves, shutout); 2. Robbie Bina (1 goal, 2 assists); 3. Shay Stephenson (2 assists)
Special teams outlook: Although the Wranglers' power play unit went 0-for-4 Thursday night, the struggling penalty kill held strong by blanking Utah on eight opportunities.
Las Vegas' power play is now 14th in the ECHL with a 13.9 percent success rate (11-for-79) and the penalty kill is also 14th in the league at 79.5 percent (62-of-78).
Roster report: The Wranglers activated Justin Bernhardt from the injured reserve while transferring Kyle Hagel to the seven-day IR and placing Mick Lawrence on the three-day IR.
Heavy hitter: Thursday's award goes to John Schwarz for taking down Utah forward Evan Kotsopoulus during a fight in the second period. Although it didn't last long, Schwarz took the bout with a unanimous decision.
Next up: The Wranglers stay put to host the Grizzlies once again at the Orleans Arena Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Final word: "I'm a pretty focused guy," Ouzas said. "When I come to the rink, my goal is to win every night, and I always want to give the team a chance to win. So I might not always be smiling too much, but after a good win I sure will."
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].