Las Vegas Sun

October 2, 2022

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Wranglers lose road game to Grizzlies in Utah

Expanded hockey coverage

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Nearly everything that could have gone wrong did.

The Las Vegas Wranglers tried to play catch up from the opening minute Saturday night, but the Utah Grizzlies maintained a relentless attack to maul the Wranglers 8-3 in front of 3,390 fans at the E-Center.

Utah forward A.J. Perry scored just 67 seconds into the contest to put the Grizzlies on top 1-0.

Ryan Kinasewich scored his first of three goals of the night exactly five minutes later to extend the lead 2-0.

Matt Caria would add another goal to send the Wranglers into the first intermission trailing 3-0.

“It’s about consistency,” said Las Vegas captain Chris Neiszner. “We have to be better. Even tonight with the score the way it was, we had flashes. But it’s not good enough in this league. You have to play 60 minutes to win. We have to do that every game. We have to battle. We can’t just go through the motions.”

Newly acquired forward Francis Lemieux provided a glimmer of hope 6:21 into the second period to slash the deficit to 3-1.

But then the Grizzlies went on a scoring binge, notching five consecutive unanswered goals.

Kinasewich recorded a hat trick, while Perry and James Sixsmith each tallied two goals.

“I think Utah is a good team. They are definitely an offensive team,” Neiszner said. “They are doing the things they want to do, but when we have lapses it’s clear that we have lapses and they are going for the kill. It has to be the other way around. We have to be the ones going in for the kill.”

Trailing 6-1 after two periods, Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel benched Michael Ouzas for Joel Gistedt.

Ouzas stopped 18 of 24 shots while Gistedt allowed two goals on four shots.

“It’s not anybody’s fault,” Neiszner said. “It’s a 20-man unit. That’s the thing about hockey. It’s never any one guy’s fault. We have to be better through and through. The situation where the goalie gets pulled is not his fault. We have to give better support for him.”

Lemieux added his second goal of the night and Bernhardt tallied a score in the third period, but by then the game was out of hand.

The Wranglers and Grizzlies will meet three more times next weekend at the E-Center.

Stars of the game: 1. Ryan Kinasewich (3 goals, 2 assists); 2. James Sixsmith (2 goals, 2 assists); 3. A.J. Perry (2 goals, 1 assist)

Kinasewich is king: Utah’s captain tallied five points Saturday night to not only take the ECHL lead in points this season with 27, but he also became the Grizzlies’ franchise all-time leading scorer with 282 career points.

Emotions boil over: Fights broke out all over the ice in the third period as officials handed out four roughing minors and four fighting majors within 15 seconds. Justin Bernhardt and Matt Caria also nearly fought each other from their respective benches before referees regained control of the game.

E-Center comedy: Following Justin Bernhardt’s late third period goal to make the score 8-3, the E-Center played Tom Petty’s song with the line, “Even the losers get lucky sometimes.” Well played E-Center staff, well played.

Roster report: Forwards Kyle Hagel, Josh Prudden, Matt Kang, and Mick Lawrence did not travel to Utah.

Next up: After a few days of what I imagine will be intense practice, the Wranglers head back to Utah to face the Grizzlies at the E-Center on Friday at 7:05 p.m.

Final word: Coach Mougenel declined to comment following the blowout loss.

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