Friday, October 30, 2009

Wranglers pack up for first road trip of the season

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Oct. 30, 2009 | 6 a.m.

When some members of the Las Vegas Wranglers think about road trips, they think of bus rides, movies or much-needed sleep.

Not head athletic trainer Scott McLay. He thinks of relief.

"It's a little less strenuous, a little less work on our part," he said.

At the Orleans Arena, McLay said, it's the Wranglers job to set up both benches, do laundry for both teams and, basically, take care of the away team.

On the road, they get a break from the long days they put in at their home arena.

"To be honest, it's a relief," he said. "Here, you're on all-hours-of-the-day kind of thing. You're doing the everyday things to run a hockey team."

Friday morning, the team travels to Ontario, Calif., to face off with the Ontario Reign (2-3) for its first road trip of the regular season.

The Wranglers lost to the Reign, 4-3, in Ontario earlier this month in its second and final preseason game.

"The first trip of the year really helps get some camaraderie, because everyone comes together and you get to know the guys a little better," defenseman Chris Frank said. "Instead of going back home to your apartments and doing your own thing, everyone's together doing things, eating, hanging out on off-days, and it brings the team together."

Sitting at 2-2 early in the season, the trip could come at just the right time to give the young team a spark.

"It's something to be excited about, especially with this group," head coach Ryan Mougenel said. "It gives us a chance to get away and room with different guys in the group, see different personalities and, most importantly, play hard on the road."

And it can also help build the identity of a team. Last year, the Wranglers went 12-19-6 on the road.

"I want to be a great road team and I talk about it a lot with the guys," Mougenel said. "There's a psychological edge to go in other people's buildings and play hard. We have a lot of young pros on our team and if they want to be successful, they're going to have to learn to play hard on the road."

The Wranglers will be taking the four-hour trip southwest to the Los Angeles suburb to take on their Pacific division rivals for a game at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Forward Adam Miller said the travel should be a breeze thanks to the team bus.

"We have the nicest bus in the league, so it's not hard at all," Miller said. "Nobody's complaining about going on the road. You bond more with your team on the road by being together all the time, especially by playing in different rinks with hostile crowds."

For the television lovers on the team, there are big-screen sets with DirecTV on them. But for Matt Watkins, a chair is good enough.

"Other guys play cards, read or watch movies," Watkins said. "I'm more of a nap guy. I like to get my pregame sleep in usually."

And while he likes playing in other buildings, the right-winger said he prefers being at home.

"I'd definitely rather be at home," Watkins said. "Gives me more time to get my pregame nap in."

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