Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ouzas stands strong in violent game

By Anthony Fenech

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009 | 1:50 a.m.

Take one run at Wranglers goaltender Michael Ouzas and he'll brush it off as playing hard.

Take a second run at him and his teammates will take care of the business.

But take a third run at him, as the Alaska Aces did late in Saturday night's 6-3 loss at Orleans Arena, and he'll take matters into his own hands, both literally and figuratively.

"Obviously the third time they hit me I was going to do something about it," Ouzas said after the game as he pedaled on a stationary bike. "It's part of the game. I'm a competitive guy and I'm not going to back down to anybody."

With just under three minutes left in the game and the Wranglers ahead by two goals, Alaska captain Scott Bert came charging in with the puck.

Bearing down on Ouzas, a Wranglers defender poked the puck from Burt before the left-winger went airborne and full-speed into the goalie, creating a pile-up in front of the Wranglers net.

At the bottom of that pile was Ouzas, sprawled on his back and not-so-kindly introducing Burt to his blocker with a flurry of punches.

"He took a free shot at me and I was doing anything to send a message," Ouzas said. "Hopefully I got some in on him."

While Bert was slapped with a game misconduct for his actions, the second straight game the Aces captain has been ejected, Ouzas was awarded a game misconduct of his own, a matching penalty described as a "deliberate intent to injure."

Ouzas' ejection, which drew much of the 4,321 in attendance from their seats in an ovation that the goalie acknowledged with a fist pump while exiting the rink, drew the ire of Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel, both during and after the game.

"I think sometimes going hard to the net simplifies the game and let's face it, part of the game," Mougenel said. "But unnecessary runs at the goalie? That's a little bit old school. I loved how we responded. They seemed frustrated, they were going to the net hard and I don't think there was much malice or intent, but more importantly, our guys did the right thing. (Alaska's) got to look themselves in the mirror. If they were running our goalie intentionally, then that's something they chose to do and I'm just glad we got the two points."

The incident was the third of the goalie-interference variety in the game, the previous two proving costly for the Wranglers in the form of an Aces goal and busted lip for Ouzas.

The first such occurrence came early in the second period, when Ouzas was interfered with by Aces forward Matt Stefanishion, only to see his teammate, Adam Miller, ushered to the penalty box.

Moments later, Stefanishion trickled in a power-play goal to knot the score at 1-1

Midway through the third period, right after the Wranglers had connected on three goals in 2:37 seconds to take a commanding 4-1 lead, Alaska's B.J. Crum bowled over Ouzas, drawing blood from the goalie's lip.

Crum was ejected with a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.

"I can understand Michael Ouzas' frustration," Mougenel said. "He got run blatantly three times, it was frustrating for him and it was frustrating for our team."

After Alaska pulled to within one goal following Crum's ejection, the Wranglers tacked on two late goals to seal the early-season series victory against their rivals.

"We came out and worked as a team," Ouzas said. "And as tough as it was, we got our two points tonight."

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