Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Physical style of play gives Wranglers a spark

By Anthony Fenech

Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 | 2:08 a.m.

The puck dropped and the gloves followed.

Early in the second period of Saturday night's game between the Las Vegas Wranglers and Ontario Reign — three seconds in, to be exact — Wranglers defenseman Chris Frank and Reign captain James McEwan decided to dance.

"I was just doing my job," Frank said. "He was ready to go so I was ready to go."

And so the pair circled slowly in front of the visitor's penalty box, much to the delight of the 4,000-plus fans in attendance at Orleans Arena.

As the crowd rose to their feet, the two drew closer together.

"He was kind of taking control of the situation because I turned him down a couple of times earlier," Frank said. "He started to use that power trip thing on me and I was ready."

Frank initiated contact with a right hand to McEwan's head. McEwan responded, and back and forth it went, the two swinging and stopping, swinging and stopping, before a flurry of punches caused the Reign left-winger to lose his balance and fall to the ice.

"You know what guys like to scrap on the other team before the game," Frank said. "And you just go up to him, ask him if he's ready to go and he'll say yes or no."

The Wranglers knew about McEwan and picked on him in both games of the home-and-home series.

During the first period of Friday night's game in Ontario, Wranglers forward Kyle Hagel lured McEwan into a fight, igniting the Las Vegas bench early.

"When you see a guy like Kyle Hagel, who will do anything for the team, step up and fight a pretty tough guy in McEwan, the team comes together," Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said.

The physicality continued later in the game, when both Mick Lawrence and John Schwarz squared off with Ontario counterparts.

"It's all about coming together," Mougenel said. "If the guys don't understand that the physicality is a huge part of winning, then they're in the wrong sport."

If nothing else, the Wranglers physical play seemed to get into the head of the Ontario captain, who angrily barked at the Las Vegas bench during Friday night's game and was held pointless in both contests.

The Wranglers are now 3-1 against Ontario this season, winning 2-1 on Saturday and falling 3-2 on Friday in a shootout. The Wranglers don't play a game until they face Ontario again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Orleans Arena.

"If you ever need a momentum swing or need to get the guys going, get physical," Frank said.

With four fights in two games turning into three much-needed points for the Wranglers, getting physical could be just what they needed to get going.

Home cookin': With Saturday's win, the Wranglers improved to 6-2 at Orleans Arena in their last eight games. The reported 4,792 in attendance was the third-highest total this season.

Teddy tally:: After Adam Miller's second-period goal Saturday night, Wranglers fans showered the ice with teddy bears to support the club's 7th annual Teddy Bear Toss, which benefits Sunrise Acres Elementary School.

Streak snapped:: The ECHL American League's South Carolina Stingrays (22-6-4) saw their 13-game winning streak snapped Sunday at the hands of the Charlotte Checkers, 4-2. The Stingrays lead the ECHL with 48 points and hadn't lost a game since Nov. 24.

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