Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Saturday, April 3, 2010 | 12:33 a.m.
The Las Vegas Wranglers weren’t tested on Friday night.
Just a day after clinching a National Conference playoff berth, leaving the Ontario Reign to hope for help to get into the postseason, the Wranglers cruised to a 2-1 victory at the Orleans Arena.
“For me, tonight was a must win,” head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “Anytime you’re at home, it’s real important you start playing hockey.”
“For a team like Ontario, to play that hard in the third period says a lot about the character of their team.”
The loss, coupled with a 9-2 win by the Victoria Salmon Kings over the Utah Grizzlies, eliminates the Reign from playoff contention.
“We played really well today,” Wranglers goaltender Joel Gistedt said. “Guys played well in front of me. I saw pretty much every shot.”
Las Vegas scored two first-period goals for all the offense Gistedt needed. He stopped 25 of 26 shots for the win.
Forward Ryan Weston scored 1:50 into the game on a slap shot from the right wing that beat Ontario goalie Curtis Darling top-shelf glove side.
The goal was assisted by forward Jerry Pollastrone and defenseman Jason Krischuk. It was Weston’s sixth of the season.
Defenseman Barry Goers then doubled the Wranglers’ lead with 1:57 left to play in the period, scoring on a rebound in front of the net for his second goal in a Las Vegas uniform.
He scored after Mick Lawrence, from behind the Ontario net, fed the puck out in front.
Alex Bourret misfired on the first shot, but Goers was there to clean up the rebound for the goal.
“I saw an opening going into the slot,” he said. “Mick made a good play to Bourret and I just picked up the rebound and flipped it into the net.”
The goal proved to be the game-winner. At the end of the first period, the Wranglers had out-shot the Reign 14-3.
“It’s been exciting,” Goers said of his short time in Las Vegas. “I’m happy to be helping the team.
“The adjustment has gone smooth. The pro game tends to be more controlled than the college game, but I definitely like it.”
Goers is fresh off his senior season at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and Mougenel expects him to be on the Las Vegas playoff roster.
Ontario’s Michael Pelech scored halfway through the third period to give the Reign their only goal of the contest.
Pelech’s goal deflected behind Gistedt after hitting a Wranglers player in front of the net.
“I’ll be honest,” Mougenel said. “I didn’t like us from the second period on. I thought we were great in the first period. Things were clicking. But our work ethic from our best players wasn’t where it needed to be.”
The Wranglers out-shot the Reign 34-26 for the game, and each team went 0-3 on the power play.
Las Vegas’ first-round opponent has yet to be determined. The Wranglers are in sixth place in the National Conference and will match up with the No. 3 seed.
Three stars: 1. Joel Gistedt (25 saves); 2. Barry Goers (game-winning goal); 3. Ryan Weston (goal).
Roster report: Forward Kyle Hagel was returned from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. Hagel recorded one shot in the game.
One and done: Thursday night’s hero, Ned Lukacevic, who had a hat trick in the playoff-clinching series opener, was loaned to the Texas Stars.
Up next: Fan Appreciation Day at 7:05 p.m. Saturday against the Reign at the Orleans Arena.
Final word: “I want to win,” Mougenel said of the series finale.