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January 21, 2018

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Wranglers fall to Alaska in Game 1 of conference finals



Scott Campbell, left, has his stick lifted by Alaska defenseman Kane Lafranchise as he goes after a loose puck in front of Aces goalie Gerald Coleman during a third period scoring chance on Thursday night.

Wranglers vs. Aces Game 1

Alaska winger Scott Howes keeps the puck away from Wranglers defenseman Channing Boe during the first period of game one of the ECHL Western Conference Finals at the Orleans Arena on Thursday night. Launch slideshow »

Alaska center Ryan Cruthers deflected in a Tyson Marsh slap shot from center ice with 4:06 remaining in regulation, giving the Aces a 2-1 victory over the Wranglers in Game 1 of the ECHL Western Conference Finals best-of-seven series.

“It was something we showed video on and we talked about, but we missed an assignment,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “It’s disappointing. We need to be better. We need to be tougher. It’s not just one guy. It’s a collective effort. We need to be better in front of Joe Fallon and we weren’t.”

After a scoreless first period at Orleans Arena in which Fallon recorded 17 saves, Cruthers put the Aces on the scoreboard with a power play goal at the 9:07 mark of the second period.

Cruthers handled a Chad Anderson pass from near the blue line and fired a blast that clanged off the crossbar and into the net for the first of his two goals on the evening.

Las Vegas tied the score at a goal apiece with less than three minutes left in the second period on Scott Campbell’s fifth goal of the postseason. Wranglers left wing Adam Miller flung the pluck near the Aces’ net, where Campbell directed it through the legs of Gerald Coleman for the equalizer.

Coleman responded in the third period as he stopped all six of the Wrangler shots-on-goal, including a key pad save with less than five minutes remaining to keep the scored knotted at a goal apiece.

Moments after the Coleman save, Cruthers put the Aces ahead for good. Marsh caught a loose puck with his glove, dropped it and sent a slap shot sailing toward the net, while Cruthers used his stick to deflect in the game-winner.

“This was a huge loss but it’s not everything,” Mougenel said. “We’ll be a better team tomorrow night. That’s my job. I will have them ready. Game 1 would have been nice to have, but we didn’t, so we’re going to move on with our lives and get ready for tomorrow.”

With less than roughly 40 seconds to play, Wranglers center Eric Lampe was tripped up near mid-ice but the referees did not the blow the whistle. The noncall negated a Wranglers opportunity to take a two-man advantage with the goalie pulled and a chance to tie the game.

“I thought it was brutal,” Mougenel said. “I get that it's playoff hockey but that’s one of the most crucial points in the game and they don’t call that. I don’t understand that. There are rules in place to protect the integrity of the game. It was definitely disappointing.”

Stars of the game: 1. Ryan Cruthers (2 goals); 2. Gerald Coleman (25 saves); 3. Scott Campbell (1 goal).

Next up: The Wranglers return to action at 7:05 p.m. Friday night at the Orleans Arena as they face the Aces in Game 2 of the conference finals best-of-seven series. Following the game, the Wranglers will travel to Anchorage for possibly four games. If the series is extended to seven games, Game 7 would be played at the Orleans Arena on May 9.

Final word: “Tomorrow night is huge,” Campbell said. “We don’t want to go down two games and head up to Alaska for four games. It’s important that we come out with high intensity. We came out sluggish tonight. We have to be better all the way through.”

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