Tuesday, April 3, 2012 | 9:44 p.m.
With ECHL Second Team goalie Joe Fallon playing with the Houston Aeros in the American Hockey League, Wranglers goaltender Mitch O’Keefe has taken advantage of his opportunity to start in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
A night after stopping 21 shots in a shutout victory over the Grizzlies in Game 1, O’Keefe recorded 46 saves, including 19 in the third period, to help the Wranglers take a 2-0 series lead with a 3-2 victory Tuesday.
Las Vegas forward Judd Blackwater scored the opening goal of the game at the 3:41 mark of the first period. He was aided with assists from Eric Lampe and Adam Miller.
Utah tied the game midway through the first period on a Kory Falite power-play goal. Falite scored on the man advantage after Wranglers center Geoff Paukovich was called for a hooking penalty.
Las Vegas took the lead for good on a Chris Francis goal in the final minute of the opening period as he was able to beat Utah goaltender Andrew Engelage for the game-winner.
The Wranglers extended their lead early in the second period on a Michael Busto goal. Lampe and Miller were each credited with their third assists of the game on the goal.
Utah’s Josh Burrows narrowed the gap for the Grizzlies on a goal with 7:12 remaining in regulation, but O’Keefe made several saves down the stretch to preserve the victory for the Wranglers.
Stars of the game: 1. Mitch O’Keefe (46 saves); 2. Chris Francis (one goal); 3. Eric Lampe and Adam Miller (three assists).
Next up: The Wranglers return home to the Orleans Arena on Thursday for Game 3 of the best-of-five series against Utah with the puck scheduled to drop at 7:05 p.m. Las Vegas will have up to three chances on its home ice to close out the series and advance to the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs.