Friday, December 4, 2009

Wranglers win two in a row against Victoria

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Dec. 4, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.

Ryan Mougenel was hot.

He was nearly out of breath and nearly out of words, pacing and yelling, throwing a not-so-subtle right jab at the Plexiglas around his bench.

It was midway through the third period of Thursday night’s game against the Victoria Salmon Kings and the Las Vegas Wranglers head coach had just watched his team blow a two-goal, third-period lead.

Three straight Victoria goals had given the Salmon Kings a one-goal lead and suddenly, a game that looked like the second of a nice little two-game win streak for the Wranglers turned into a game that looked like a really big missed opportunity.

So Mougenel kept yelling and screaming. At the Wranglers bench. At defenseman Jason Krischuk. At himself. At nobody in particular.

And then Ned Lukacevic scored to tie the game.

Mougenel didn’t skip a beat behind that bench as he continued to pace and yell as if Lukacevic’s goal never happened.

And then Adam Miller scored to take the lead.

Mougenel stuck on his team, when they were on the ice and when they were off the ice, during timeouts and after whistles.

And then Miller hit an empty net as time ran out for his hat trick, and the Wranglers had beaten Victoria, 7-5, for their first winning streak since the first day of November.

Mougenel smiled and clapped.

“Let’s put it this way: I’m an extremely passionate guy,” he said. “I’m a fiery guy; that’s how I played, and I was hot at the time.

“But the guys know I care. They know I care about them as people and as players, and we were all hot at that time.”

Both teams were hot on the Orleans Arena’s cold ice during the third period of Thursday night’s game, when five goals were scored in the first 10 minutes.

The Wranglers scored and then the Salmon Kings scored. The Salmon Kings scored and then the Salmon Kings scored again.

Las Vegas finally finished with three unanswered goals, and the victory was theirs, the sixth straight time they have defeated Victoria.

“We didn’t come out too hot in the third period and they took the lead just like that,” Miller said. “We were up the whole game and then things just turned.

“We have a lot of character guys in this locker room though and we battled and got the two points.”

Miller finished the game with style, tallying the game-winning goal at the 9:44 mark of the third period on a deflection and icing the Wranglers win with an empty-net goal that drew hats from the stands and a laugh from teammate Mick Lawrence afterward.

“I saw Mick on the other side and he was going for the hat trick, too,” Miller said. “We’re good buddies on the team, so I’ll give him a hard time about that one.”

Lawrence scored twice in the game to bring his season total to seven, the latter of his two goals coming early in the third period.

The goal gave the Wranglers a 4-2 lead before Victoria stormed back.

Consecutive goals by Mike Hamilton, Randall Gelech and Patrick Coulombue put the Salmon Kings ahead with 12 minutes to play in the game.

Victoria’s lead wouldn’t last long, as Lukacevic scored only 38 seconds later to tie the game.

Wranglers goalie Billy Sauer won his second straight contest for the team, stopping 39 of 44 shots and, more importantly, a losing streak that has turned into a winning streak.

“It’s nice to win two in a row,” defenseman Shay Stephenson said. “It’s been a long time coming around here. We have a head of steam now and we’ll look to finish the weekend with three.”

Three Stars: 1. Adam Miller (3 goals, assist); 2. Mick Lawrence (2 goals); 3. Patrick Coulombue (2 goals)

Heavy hitter: Wranglers defenseman Chris Frank, for leveling Victoria’s Randall Gelech late in the second period and drawing a retaliating charging penalty on Gelech the next time down the ice.

Two and done: Billy Sauer’s short but solid performance in net earned him an 11 p.m. flight out of town to rejoin the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League. Said Sauer: “It’s been fun. I really like it here. It kind of sucks that I’m leaving, but I hope I get some more playing time, wherever it is.”

Special deliveries: The Wranglers jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to its special teams play. Ryan Weston’s game-opening goal came shorthanded and Miller followed with a power-play tally.

Up next: Victoria, Friday night, as the Wranglers go for the series sweep.

Final word: “I’m thinking of the first five minutes of the game tomorrow,” Mougenel said. “We need to build on this, so I’m not looking too far ahead.”

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