Friday, February 12, 2010

Wranglers' John Schwarz scores winning goal in 6-5 victory over Condors

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 | 11:54 p.m.

John Schwarz' first professional goal couldn't have come at a better time for the Las Vegas Wranglers.

With just over two minutes played in overtime and the Wranglers offense furiously trying to end the game, Schwarz slapped home the game-winning goal in a 6-5 victory over the Bakersfield Condors at the Orleans Arena.

"I just dove at the puck and tried to smack it as hard as I could," Schwarz said. "I don't score that many goals, so it's always nice when you get one."

Schwarz connected on the goal thanks to a cross-ice pass from Adam Miller.

"He found me in the middle of the ice and couldn't have made a better pass," Schwarz said.

The goal put an end to a back-and-forth game that saw Las Vegas cough up two-goal leads in each of the first two periods.

Six different Wranglers tallied goals on the way to outshooting the Condors, 40-36, including a 9-0 run in overtime.

"I'm happy for the win, that our guys found a way," head coach Ryan Mougenel said. "But we could have played a lot better."

Las Vegas' victory halts a two-game losing streak at home, the longest of the season. The Wranglers also outshot their opponents for the first time in nine games.

"It says a lot about guys like Chris Neiszner and Kyle Hagel," Mougenel said. "When they're scoring goals for you, it really gives the team a boost."

Neiszner and Hagel opened the scoring with two quick goals within the first six minutes of play, giving the Wranglers an early two-goal lead, but the division-leading Condors responded with back-to-back goals of their own from Mathieu Aubin and Matt Pope.

After the two teams traded goals again in the second period, with Las Vegas scoring the first two of the period before Bakersfield answered, the game entered the third period knotted at four.

On the man-advantage with 7:46 left in the game, Mick Lawrence netted a power-play goal to give the Wranglers a late lead.

"The puck just kind of came to me," Lawrence said. "It felt good. I haven't scored in a couple games."

But the late lead was not enough, as the Condors floated the equalizer past Ouzas just under two minutes later off of an Eric Regan wrist shot from the point.

Joel Gistedt, in relief of an injured Michael Ouzas, stopped 31 of 36 Bakersfield shots.

"We need to make our routine saves," Mougenel said. "And Joel knows that."

After a blistering start to the overtime period, where Ned Lukacevic and Miller each nearly connected on scoring chances, Schwarz' unlikely goal ended the game.

"With Schwarz getting his first goal, everyone's real happy, especially for him," Lawrence said.

The defenseman was greeted with chants of "MVP!" from his teammates in the post-game locker room.

"It was huge," Schwarz said. "We needed that point. You look at the standings, we're battling for a playoff spot and to take two from the top team in our division was big."

A dozen Wranglers tallied points in the victory, as the team leapt the Ontario Reign for the third spot in the Pacific Division with a 20-23-5 record and 45 points.

Defenseman Jason Krischuk scored a goal and added an assist, leading the way against Bakersfield this season with seven points in six games.

Three stars: 1. Alex Bourret (goal, two assists); 2. Bakersfield's Mathieu Aubin (two goals); 3. John Schwarz (game-winning goal)

Injury update: Right-winger Alex Bourret was injured with 6:25 left in the first period after taking a hit just in front of the Wranglers bench. Bourret, who was helped off the ice by a trainer and teammate, returned in the second.

Roster reports: Center Justin Bernhardt and forward Andrew Orpik were reassigned to AHL San Antonio on Thursday, and Gistedt, fresh off a very brief stint with the Rampage, was reassigned to San Antonio once again after Friday night's game.

Ouzas out: For the first time in four games, Michael Ouzas was not in goal for the Wranglers because of a concussion. Mougenel did not know who would start in Bakersfield on Saturday night.

Up next: The Wranglers travel to Bakersfield on Saturday for the second half of the home-and-home series.

Final word: "I think everybody in here has their confidence," center Josh Prudden said. "It's just a matter of playing our style."

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