Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wranglers can't contain power play, fall to Thunder, 6-4

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Feb. 28, 2010 | 1:41 a.m.

The Las Vegas Wranglers couldn’t contain the Stockton Thunder power play Saturday night.

In the middle game of a three-game set at the Orleans Arena, the division-leading Thunder scored three power-play goals en route to a 6-4 victory.

“It was a game of special teams,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “Our penalty kill didn’t step up and we have to be better.”

Oren Eizenman’s power-play goal past Michael Ouzas late in the second period provided the Thunder with the insurance they needed for the victory.

Wranglers left-winger Mick Lawrence pulled the team within one goal early in the third period, but a pair of late penalties and an empty net goal thwarted any chance for a comeback.

“We put in a good effort but we made some mistakes,” Wranglers defenseman Craig Switzer said. “They have the best power play in the league and that hurt us when we took some penalties that cost us.”

Las Vegas accumulated eight minor penalties in the game.

After Adam Miller scored his 19th goal of the season midway through the opening period to give the Wranglers a 2-1 lead, Stockton struck for back-to-back power-play goals just 1:06 apart.

Goals by defenseman Anthony Aiello and right-winger J.F. Caudron gave the Thunder a one-goal lead heading into the second.

In the second, Ned Lukacevic tied the game on the man-advantage with his team-leading 23rd goal of the season, assisted by Miller and defenseman Mike Madill.

“We had our opportunities tonight,” Las Vegas’ Jeff Hazelwood said. “But the late penalties did us in.”

Stockton then struck for two consecutive goals in the second half of the period, chasing Ouzas when Caudron came from behind the net and slipped a pass through the crease to Eizenman, who knocked it home for a one-timer.

Joel Gistedt replaced Ouzas in the third period and, Mougenel said, will start on Sunday.

“I thought he gave us the boost we needed,” Mougenel said. “He was real good.”

With the loss, the Wranglers (23-25-6) miss an opportunity to stay ahead of the Ontario Reign, which is now one point ahead of Las Vegas in the Pacific Division standings.

“We’re pretty anxious to get back out there,” Mougenel said. “We can still salvage a good weekend.”

Three stars: 1. J.F. Caudron (goal, two assists); 2. Oren Eizenman (goal, assist); 3. Adam Miller (goal, two assists).

Heavy hitter: Stockton’s Bryan Young for putting a hard body check on Jason Krischuk halfway through the third period. With the Wranglers on a man-advantage, the defenseman entered the Thunder zone and was promptly floored by Young.

Going for gold: The Orleans Arena will open its doors at noon on Sunday, and to accommodate Olympic hockey fans, will be showing a live broadcast of the game on the arena’s video board.

Up next: A Sunday matinee against Stockton, the rubber match of this series, starting at 2:05 p.m.

Final word: “We will forget about this and get back at it tomorrow,” Switzer said.

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