Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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HOCKEY:

Late scoring surge lifts Wranglers past Aces

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Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Las Vegas forward Matt Watkins (16) is tripped by Aces defender Derick Martin as he lets a shot go in the second period of the Wranglers 6-3 victory Saturday night at the Orleans Arena.

Wranglers topple aces in series finale

Wranglers goaltender Michael Ouzas is plowed by Aces defenseman B.J. Crum in the third period of play on Saturday night. Launch slideshow »

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The Las Vegas Wranglers certainly know how to start a party.

Despite playing three games in as many nights, the Wranglers showed no signs of fatigue as they used a late scoring binge to knock off the Alaska Aces 6-3 in front of 4,321 fans at the Orleans Arena Saturday night.

The Wranglers scored five third-period goals, including three goals within the first five minutes of the period for their second consecutive victory and to set up a celebratory Saturday.

"No magic potion or anything in the (second) intermission," defenseman Jason Krischuk, who notched two goals on the night, said jokingly. "We just went in the locker room, listened to some music and talked about how Saturday night's in Vegas are must-wins. You have to go out and celebrate. It's not like winning a game in Elmira or somewhere where there is nothing to do. We want everyone in the building to go out and party with a win."

Krischuk started the festivities with the first goal of the night as time expired in the first period.

With the Wranglers on the power play and the clock winding down, Krischuk fired a slap shot from the blue line that somehow made its way into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.

"To tell you the truth, in our league if any defenseman tells you he can score a goal from the blue line without anybody tipping it, then he must be lying or a superstar," Krischuk said. "It definitely hit somebody and changed directions to go in."

The Aces answered back early in the second period, though, as Matt Stefanishion capitalized on a questionable power play with his third goal of the season to tie the game 1-1 at the 18:04 mark.

Prior to that goal, Stefanishion had essentially tackled Wranglers goalie Michael Ouzas, but Adam Miller received a roughing penalty for pulling Stefanishion off of a prone and defenseless Ouzas.

"They gave them momentum for sure," Miller said. "The ref wasn't good for either team. You can't run a goalie three times in a game and still have them come up with power plays. The officiating was bad, but you can never blame it on them."

As emotions began to boil due to a frustrating officiating situation, the Wranglers managed to focus those feelings into an offensive onslaught.

Josh Prudden snapped the 1-1 tie just 1:56 into the third period with a power play goal set up by Craig Switzer and Ned Lukacevic.

Miller then extended Las Vegas' lead to 3-1 just 31 seconds later as he batted in a loose rebound on the power play.

The Wranglers were not done, though, as Krischuk tallied his second score of the night about two minutes after Miller's goal to put the Wranglers on top 4-1.

"The guys here care about each other," said Wranglers head coach and General Manager Ryan Mougenel. "When I got this job I talked about getting the right players, not just the best players. We have a special group here. I'm impressed with how they have responded to each other and how they responded to me. They are playing hard for everyone, for themselves, for the front office and for the fans."

Alaska did stage a bit of a comeback as Colin Hemingway and Derek Martin scored within three minutes of each other to slash the deficit to 4-3 with 7:16 remaining.

But Lukacevic sealed the victory by burying a feed from Prudden at the 14:38 mark to take a 5-3 lead.

Miller then iced the night with an empty-netter with only 1:35 left in the game.

"It's great to put together back-to-back wins," Krischuk said. "You can't be a good team without being able to put a few games together. They can't say anything about it being a fluke now."

Stars of the game: 1. Jason Krischuk (2 goals); 2. Josh Prudden (1 goal, 2 assists); 3. Michael Ouzas (19 saves)

Blind zebras: Officials handed out 93 penalties and seven game misconducts for a whopping 296 penalty minutes during this three-game series.

Ouzas received the most shocking penalty of the weekend, though, as he received a game misconduct for defending himself after withstanding three separate blows by Aces players barreling into the crease.

Although Ouzas had to continuously fend off Alaska players landing in his lap, he made a number of key saves to earn the victory, which, oddly enough, is currently owned by Joel Gistedt for his few minutes of relief duty.

"It's a funny world being a goaltender," Mougenel said. "It's lonely and I think a guy like Michael Ouzas has a good perspective of the game. He thinks the game really well… I'm impressed with his professionalism, how hard he works, his competitive nature, everything about him. I think he is in for a great year."

Read more about Ouzas' rocky night here.

Extra special teams: The Wranglers power play went 3-for-12 while the penalty killing unit held the Aces to two goals in eight power play opportunities.

Welcome back: Center Chris Neiszner returned from a three-game stint with the Texas Stars of the AHL prior to Saturday's game. Neiszner did not register a point during his time in Austin, but he recorded two assists against the Aces Saturday as well as a rare fighting major for using Chris Morehouse's head as a punching bag late in the third period. Always glad to have you back Neiszner.

Self-promotion: I'll be joining the Heatwave Sports crew to talk hockey this Sunday night at 11 p.m. on Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. True Wranglers fans will tune in...so do it!

Next up: The Wranglers stay in Las Vegas to host the Utah Grizzlies at the Orleans Arena on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. for the LasVegasWeekly.com Thirsty Thursday $1 beer night.

Final word: "I'm proud with how we responded from Thursday night and made it a pretty solid weekend to build on," Mougenel said. "This is just a start. There are a lot of things we have to get better at, but as a whole I like the effort and the spirit."

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

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