Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wranglers drop another game to Utah

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009 | 12:40 a.m.

With just over a minute played in the third period of Friday night’s hockey game between the Las Vegas Wranglers and the visiting Utah Grizzlies, the fans at the Orleans Arena were going wild.

But two quick Utah goals hushed the 6,278 people in attendance and led to a 5-3 win by the Grizzlies, their fourth against the Wranglers in five meetings this season.

“We need to learn how to finish games,” center Adam Miller said. “Our next shift has to be our best shift of the game and set a tone for the rest of the period, but we didn’t do that.”

It was a 90-second stretch of hockey in the third period that made all the difference in the game.

Back-to-back goals by Dylan Hunter and A.J. Perry put the Wranglers at a deficit they couldn’t overcome.

“It’s unfortunate that on one shift you have a big high and the next shift you get scored on,” head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “It’s unacceptable. Guys know that and it’s really important that we learn from a game like this.”

Utah came out of the gates quickly, scoring two goals in the first 10 minutes while racking up an 11-1 advantage in shots.

Both goals came as Grizzlies defensemen Dustin Friesen and Jake Gannon flipped wrist shots at the net.

Friesen’s shot was aided by a screen in front of Wranglers goalie Michael Ouzas and Gannon’s shot deflected off of the stick of Grizzlies forward James Sixsmith before finding the back of the net.

Stuck with a two-goal deficit early, Mougenel called a time out to rally his team, and it paid off with the Wranglers tallying two late first-period goals from the sticks of Justin Bernhardt and Miller.

“We’re a strong-minded group of guys here, so we weren’t down too much after those first two goals,” Miller said. “We worked hard to get back into it but in the end, the bounces just didn’t go our way.”

Early in the second period, with the Grizzlies on the power play, forward A.J. Perry lifted a wrist shot directly off the bottom of the crossbar for a goal and a Grizzlies lead.

Robbie Bina’s third goal of the year came courtesy of a slap shot from the blue-line, followed by Utah goals from Hunter and Perry, both assisted by Ryan Kinasewich, the ECHL’s leader in points.

“We’re making (Utah) think that they’re better than they are, and I don’t believe it,” Mougenel said. “I thought we outplayed them. Both our power plays and penalty kills stepped up but, in the end, we just need to be a little more detailed.”

The Wranglers out-shot the Grizzlies 26-25, went 1-3 on the power play and killed four of six Utah power plays.

“It’s a tough loss, but I think we’re going in the right direction,” Mougenel said. “Did I want the two points? Absolutely. But we’re going to get there and we’ll make sure we get there.”

Stars of the game: 1. Utah’s Vlady Nikiforov (3 assists); 2. Utah’s A.J. Perry (2 goals); 3. Ryan Kinasewich (2 assists)

Special teams outlook: The Wranglers streak of 12 straight penalty kills came to an end in the second period, but they managed to kill two of Utah’s six power plays on the game. In addition to Bina’s power play goal in the third period, Miller’s tally came of the shorthanded variety in the first.

Roster report: Center Josh Prudden was held out of the lineup and injured winger Kyle Hagel joined the team on the bench.

Next up: Saturday, the Wranglers travel to West Valley City, Utah, to face off with the Grizzlies for the fourth time in five days.

Final word: “We have to find a way to win these games and limit our mistakes,” left-winger Ned Lukacevic said. “When we do that, we’ll be a very successful team.”

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