Special to the Sun / Stephen R. Sylvanie
Friday, Oct. 30, 2009 | 1 a.m.
- ECHL suspends Wranglers goalie for misconduct (10/26/09)
- Late scoring surge lifts Wranglers past Aces (10/25/09)
- Ouzas stands strong in violent game (10/25/09)
- Fists fly as Wranglers bounce back against Aces in second game of series (10/24/09)
- Aces rout Wranglers in series opener (10/23/09)
- Aces forward continues Las Vegas dominance (10/23/09)
- Wranglers prepare to host arch-rival Aces (10/22/09)
- Rampage assign center to Wranglers (10/21/09)
- Wranglers fall to Grizzlies 5-3 in home opener (10/17/09)
- New-look Wranglers ready for opening night (10/15/09)
It was the stuff nightmares are made of.
The red goal light blazing every few minutes, a young goalie desperately searching for relief, and a downtrodden home crowd streaming for the exits by the second period.
Within minutes of the opening whistle Thursday night, the Las Vegas Wranglers found themselves in a multi-goal hole that soon sunk into a crater as the Utah Grizzlies slammed the Wranglers 9-2 at the Orleans Arena for the worst home loss in franchise history.
No team has ever scored nine goals against the Wranglers at the Orleans Arena in the franchise's seven-year existence.
"I'm embarrassed for us and I'm apologetic to the fans," said Wranglers head coach and general manager Ryan Mougenel. "It's unacceptable. It's immature. It's just not playing our system of hockey. The reality is there are a lot of people barking to come play in Las Vegas. This is the place to play. And if you don't commit yourself you are going to be on the outside."
The Wranglers' night went from bad to worse in a hurry as the Grizzlies scored three goals on their first four shots against Joel Gistedt to take a 3-0 lead less than seven minutes into the contest.
Utah forward Evan Kotsopoulus opened the scoring binge with a blistering power play slap shot from the left circle for the 1-0 lead just 2:24 into the game. Then James Sixsmith and Ryan Kinasewich each buried goals within the next four minutes for the 3-0 advantage.
Las Vegas forward Andrew Orpik tried to spark a rally when he scored off of his own rebound at the 7:43 mark.
But less than four minutes later, Dylan Hunter notched a power goal to send the Grizzlies into the first intermission with a 4-0 lead.
"A couple goals of the hop just kind of deflated us and we didn't respond," Mougenel said. "That's a sign of an immature team. We have to get better."
The Wranglers could not stop the bleeding in the second period either as the Grizzlies scored four more unanswered goals.
Utah defenseman Victory Bartley was left all alone to burn Gistedt from the left circle just 30 seconds into the period to go on top 5-1.
Kinasewich and Hunter each added their second goals of the night within the next nine minutes before Matt Caria joined in the scoring action at the 16:25 mark of the second period to take an 8-1 lead against a lethargic Wranglers squad on another power play goal.
"We know we can play and we have to play a lot more intense than that," Las Vegas center Chris Neiszner said. "Tonight we did not bring the intensity. There are no excuses for your intensity level. That is something you can control all night, every night. We have to be more intense right from the start."
The Grizzlies went 3-for-6 on the power play while the Wranglers were a miserly 0-for-6 with an advantage.
The Wranglers' penalty-killing unit is now the worst in the ECHL with a 69.5 percent (11-of-36) success rate.
"I thought our (defense) was beyond soft," Mougenel said.
Utah inflicted their last damage early in the third period when Jason Dale poked in his own rebound for the 9-1 lead.
Mick Lawrence scored midway through the third period to slash the deficit to 9-2, but that was as close as the Wranglers would come.
Although the Wranglers edged the Grizzlies 35-34 in total shots, Utah obviously found many ways to slip the puck past Gistedt.
Gistedt, (0-2), the Phoenix Coyotes' No. 36 overall draft pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has now allowed 14 goals on 63 shots for a .778 save percentage and a 6.84 goals against average.
Unfortunately, Mougenel had no way to relieve Gistedt Thursday since Michael Ouzas was out with a one-game suspension for defending himself against the Alaskan net crashers on Saturday night.
Mougenel's back-up on the bench, Mike Katz, could only take the ice in the event of an emergency or else the team would face a hefty fine.
"(Gistedt's) on an NHL contract," Mougenel said. "(Phoenix) signed him with the intention that was going to play in the NHL. Can he play in the NHL? Yes he can. He has potential. You have to understand the kid has played really well. I've seen him play extremely well. He's fighting it and he's fighting it early in the season. He's going to work his way out of it. And he has to. There are two ways he can go. You can progress from it or you can digress. He's a kid that needs to go forward. How does he get there? He has to battle through it."
Stars of the game: 1. Matt Caria (1 goal, 4 assists); 2. Dylan Hunter (2 goals, 1 assist); 3. Ryan Kinasewich (2 goals, 1 assist)
Assist machine: Defenseman Robbie Bina's assist of Mick Lawrence's third period goal was his team-leading sixth of the season. Those six points also lead the team. Josh Prudden, Ned Lukacevic and Adam Miller each have five points.
Heavy hitter: Thursday's game was in the books so early that there was not much of a fighting spirit left by the third period. Yet Wranglers defenseman Chris Frank did manage to land a massive hit on Utah forward James Sixsmith in the final period. Unfortunately that led to an interference penalty on Frank and a Grizzlies goal shortly thereafter.
Next up: The Wranglers (2-3) hit the road to face the Ontario Reign (2-3) at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Final word: "We are young and we are going to go through growing pains," Mougenel said. "Mistakes are going to happen, but repeated mistakes can't. They can't. That's my fault and I'm man enough to admit it. I didn't get them ready. It was me -- Ryan Mougenel. That team is going to come out and be on fire tomorrow because they have a ton of pride and I have a ton pride."
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].