Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2023

New-look Wranglers ready for opening night

Aces sweep Wranglers

Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Las Vegas Sun

The Las Vegas Wranglers file off the ice for the final time of the 2008-09 season after being swept by the Alaska Aces in the National Conference finals at the Orleans Arena on May 14. The Wranglers open the 2009-10 season on Friday night against Utah with only three players returning from last year’s squad.

Hockey Talk

Canadian Thanksgiving and opening night jitters

Las Vegas Sun reporter Steve Silver sits down with Las Vegas Wranglers head coach and general manager Ryan Mougenel to discuss a wide array of topics including the history of Canadian thanksgiving, Mougenel's bed building skills and of course opening night this Friday.

Expanded hockey coverage

The Las Vegas Wranglers will take the ice Friday night to launch their seventh season at the Orleans Arena against the Utah Grizzlies.

But there is almost nothing about these Wranglers that resemble last year's squad.

With new head coach and general manager Ryan Mougenel replacing Glen Gulutzan, the Wranglers return just three players from last year's National Conference finalist team.

Aside from forwards Mick Lawrence, Adam Miller and Chris Neiszner, the only recognizable face on the bench is athletic trainer Scott McClay. Some fans might also remember former Wrangler Jason Krischuk from the 2006-07 and 07-08 seasons.

"We are a different team, no question," Mougenel said. "We are going to be a team that is extremely well-conditioned to suit the type of game we intend to play."

The Wranglers even have a new NHL affiliation with the Phoenix Coyotes organization, ending a six-year run with the Calgary Flames.

With these changes, though, comes a younger, faster and more offensive-minded team that could finally bring a Kelly Cup to Las Vegas.

The average age of the 23 players on Friday night's opening roster is 24-years-old. Last year that average age was more than 26-years-old.

"We've got a great group of guys here," Lawrence said. "We're pretty young, everyone is pretty eager to start and play. I like the atmosphere and the attitude of the team here. I think that youth we brought in brought a little more life to the team and we are definitely a lot faster. (Mougenel) brings more of an offensive style and structure, which will keep the flow and pace up."

No matter the age or speed of Mougenel's team, the first-year head coach still has a large legacy to live up to thanks to the success of Gulutzan.

Gulutzan amassed a 254-124-55 regular season record while leading the Wranglers to the playoffs five out of the last six seasons.

"The one think I'm pretty confident in is who I am as a coach and who I am as a guy," Mougenel said. "This organization has a tradition of excellence and I think I've brought in players who embrace that."

As the general manager, Mougenel is also very familiar with the economics of minor league hockey. He knows he has to find a way to fix the Wranglers attendance woes.

Just three years ago, the Wranglers averaged 5,075 fans per game. Last season, the regular season average was 4,621 while playoff attendance plummeted to an average of 3,470.

A full Orleans Arena Friday night, coupled with a victory would certainly help launch Mougenel's tenure in the right direction.

"There is nothing like playing in front of fans that are excited and care for you," Mougenel said. "The one thing that Las Vegas has going for it is that we have a lot of players that have committed to living here, which is different from other towns. These guys are entrenched in the community and that's important to gain the support of our fans. We do have passionate fans here and I'm excited to put on a show for them."

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

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