Las Vegas Sun

October 16, 2019

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HOCKEY:

Wranglers’ losing skid continues

Las Vegas drops fourth straight, fall into last place in division

Expanded hockey coverage

At least the Las Vegas Wranglers scored this time.

Aside from that lone Las Vegas goal, however, the Utah Grizzlies once again dominated the Wranglers at the E-Center.

Utah capitalized on a four-goal effort in the second period Saturday to follow up Friday night's shutout with a 5-1 thrashing of Las Vegas in front of 3,424 fans.

The Wranglers have now lost four straight to the Grizzlies and are a paltry 1-7 against them this season. The Grizzlies have outscored the Wranglers 35-18 in those eight meetings.

More importantly, Saturday's loss drops the Wranglers (6-10) to last place in the Pacific Division thanks to Stockton's victory over Ontario Saturday night.

"Collectively, as a whole, we know we have to get better," said Wranglers head coach and General Manager Ryan Mougenel. "Guys are embarrassed; they have pride. So we'll see how we respond tomorrow. But I'm getting tired of saying the same thing over and over, and I'm sure they are sick of hearing it. It's time for them to come together as a group and step up."

Utah lit up the scoreboard first Saturday night on Vlady Nikiforov's fourth goal of the season with just 35 seconds remaining in the opening period.

The Grizzlies seized that momentum heading into the next period as Tom May notched a power play goal less than five minutes into the second period to put Utah on top 2-0 and spark a scoring binge.

Over the course of the next 14 minutes, the Grizzlies scored three more times with goals by Shea Guthrie, Bobby Hughes and a power play tally by Nikiforov to amass a 5-0 lead by the end of the second period.

"We came out strong, but it's that second nemesis period," Mougenel said. "They get one and then another and another. It's an absolute mental lapse and we have to be way more mentally strong. It's not our younger guys; it's our older guys that need to step up."

Utah's ECHL-leading power play unit went 2-for-6 on the night, while the Wranglers failed to convert on three power play chances.

The Grizzlies also out-shot the Wranglers in each period with a final tally of 37-24.

"We're not making healthy decisions when we are shorthanded," Mougenel said. "When you make mental mistakes against (Utah) it will end up in the back of your net. They are a good offensive team. If you are not detailed, which we haven't been, then we are going to get spanked every game until we understand that. It's a tough lesson to learn, but I'm not going to stop coaching and these guys won't stop working."

Adam Miller scored the only Las Vegas goal 4:08 into the third period for his fifth of the season with assists by Jeff Hazelwood and Shay Stephenson.

Wranglers goalie Michael Ouzas, who leads the ECHL in ice time, drops to 6-8 with a 3.47 goals against average and a .891 save percentage.

Stars of the game: 1. Vlady Nikiforov (2 goals); 2. Vic Bartley (3 assists); 3. A.J. Perry (2 assists)

Next up: The Wranglers close out this seven game series against the Grizzlies at the E-Center Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

Final word: "Everything is about winning," Mougenel said. "For me it's about winning. I've been through rough patches before and I know the best way to get out of them is to create your opportunities and make your own bounces."

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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