Las Vegas Sun

June 23, 2017

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Wranglers prepare to feast on Condors for Thanksgiving

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Special to the Sun / Stephen R. Sylvanie

Wranglers general manager and head coach Ryan Mougenel (center) addresses his team during a stoppage in play on Oct. 23 at the Orleans Arena. The Wranglers are currently preparing for a two-game road trip to Bakersfield following a few Thanksgiving festivities.

Hockey Talk

Talkin' turkey with Mouge

Las Vegas Sun reporter Steve Silver caught up with Las Vegas Wranglers head coach and general manager Ryan Mougenel at the SoBe Ice Arena to discuss American Thanksgiving, Canadian football and a little hockey.

Expanded hockey coverage

When a record-setting snowfall blanketed the valley last year, the Las Vegas Wranglers finally felt at home celebrating Christmas in true winter conditions.

As Thanksgiving rolls around, however, the American holiday is still a fairly new and sometimes strange event for many of the Wranglers' foreign players.

For Andrew Orpik, one of only eight American-born players on the squad, Thanksgiving reminds him of the traditional home-cooked meals at his grandparents' house outside of Boston.

For head coach and General Manager Ryan Mougenel, both the American and Canadian versions of Thanksgiving, have inspired him to volunteer to feed the homeless each year.

For Uddevalla, Sweden, native Joel Gistedt, though, Thanksgiving is still a learning experience.

"We don't have it at home," Gistedt said. "Last year was my first time. I like the ham more than turkey. Christmas in Sweden is the best. Great food — sausage and Swedish meatballs. I miss it."

This season, most of the Wranglers are planning to gather at equipment manager Jeff Maxwell's home for the traditional turkey dinner before loading onto the bus Friday for a two-game stint in Bakersfield this weekend.

Just don't count on many of the Wranglers donning chef hats for this meal.

"Their idea of cooking a turkey is going to Albertsons and getting the rotisserie chicken," Mougenel said jokingly. "They'll probably get 22 rotisserie chickens. But it's always kind of a tradition in the hockey community that the team gets together and enjoys themselves. Everybody is kind of away from their families, and it's good to have each other to lean on and talk about things other than hockey."

Some players, however, still claim they could cook a Thanksgiving meal if needed.

"I can actually cook. I'm surprised nobody asked me to here," Orpik said. "(Josh) Prudden and I usually cook pretty good pregame meals, but we'll just chip in for a Honeybaked Ham this year."

Once the Thanksgiving festivities are over, the Wranglers (6-10-1) will turn their focus to snapping a five-game losing streak against the Pacific Division-leading Bakersfield Condors (12-6).

The Wranglers are 1-2 against the Condors this season, dropping their only meeting at the Rabobank Arena 4-2 on Nov. 7.

Although the Condors lead the division in goals (62) and the Wranglers lead the conference in goals allowed (66), Bakersfield is without top scorer Dan Sexton, who was recalled to Binghamton of the AHL on Monday.

The most vital key to victory this weekend for the Wranglers will be finding a way to break through Bakersfield's seemingly impenetrable penalty killing unit.

The Condors are second in the ECHL with an 87.4 percent PK (90-of-103) while the Wranglers' power play is 14th at 14.9 (15-of-101) percent.

"This week is about getting back to that winning culture and how important that winning culture is to everybody. It's contagious," Mougenel said.

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

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