Las Vegas Sun

June 16, 2021

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Wranglers respond at key moments to down Utah, 6-3

Wranglers vs. Grizzlies

Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Wranglers forward Ned Lukacevic (center) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a second-period goal against Utah in Game 3 of the first round playoff series between the two teams at the E-Center on Saturday night.

Wranglers vs. Grizzlies

Wranglers captain Chris Neiszner celebrates from inside the Utah net after scoring a first-period goal on Saturday night in West Valley City, Utah. Launch slideshow »
Ryan Mougenel

Ryan Mougenel

After Saturday night’s 6-3 victory over the Utah Grizzlies in Game 3 of the National Conference quarterfinals, Las Vegas Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel talked about responding.

“The playoffs is all about responding and which team responds the quickest,” Mougenel said.

“There were a lot of significant points tonight where the guys responded, and that’s how to win in the playoffs,” he said.

Left-winger Ned Lukacevic responded late in the second period, scoring his second goal of the game as the Grizzlies tried to mount a comeback.

Captain Chris Neiszner responded in the third period as Las Vegas led by two, blocking a pair of point-blank shots.

And if the Wranglers can respond tomorrow to their series-leading victory tonight, they will be heading to the second round of the conference playoffs.

“It was a big win,” Mougenel said. “The guys bought in and played the type of hockey they needed to be successful.”

Las Vegas wasted no time playing that type of hockey, scoring three goals in the final 10 minutes of the first period to take a healthy lead into the break.

ECHL Player of the Month Adam Miller scored his first goal of the playoffs, followed by the second postseason tallies from Josh Prudden and Neiszner.

Miller’s goal came as Utah’s Brock Wilson sat in the penalty box after an elbowing call. Prudden’s was of the shorthanded variety, assisted by Lukacevic and defenseman Jason Krischuk.

“Any time you can score the first goal, it’s huge,” Mougenel said. “The guys did a great job of understanding how important it was to get off to a good start.”

The Wranglers didn’t slow down after the intermission, as Lukacevic scored his first playoff goal 4:47 into the second period to give Las Vegas a commanding 4-0 lead.

Lukacevic recorded four points on the night, scoring twice and adding two assists.

Utah then cut Las Vegas’ two-goal lead in half midway through the second period, as defenseman Matt Sorteberg and left-winger Ryan Kinasewich scored.

Kinasewich’s goal came shorthanded and gave the Grizzlies momentum inside the E-Center.

But with time winding down in the second frame, Lukacevic scored on the power play, assisted by Miller and defenseman Craig Switzer.

“Sometimes it’s as easy as committing to as simple a game plan as possible,” Mougenel said. “And that’s what they did.”

The Wranglers played Utah tough defensively, allowing just 14 shots the first two periods, something Mougenel attributes not only to solid defensive play but also back-checking of the forwards.

“Part of having a good defensive game is having forwards that commit to playing below the goal line,” he said. “As good as the defense was, I thought it was even more about our transitional game.”

Goaltender Jimmy Spratt won his second consecutive playoff game, stopping 22 of 25 shots for the victory.

Three Wranglers — Lukacevic, Miller and right-winger Alex Bourret — recorded multiple points.

Bourret scored a third-period goal that extended the Wranglers’ lead to three for the third time in the game.

Las Vegas has an opportunity to eliminate the Grizzlies at 3:05 p.m. Sunday in West Valley City, Utah.

“We’re going to approach it the same way we have before,“ Mougenel said. “By playing one period at a time.”

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