Friday, March 19, 2010

Wranglers erase three-goal deficit, top Aces

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, March 19, 2010 | 9:31 a.m.

The Las Vegas Wranglers never led the Alaska Aces during regulation on Thursday night.

Trailing for over 50 minutes and falling behind three goals on three separate occasions, the Wranglers were caught in a game of catch-up.

But with only minutes remaining in the third period, Las Vegas did catch up, and just a minute into the overtime period, Craig Switzer scored to give the Wranglers an 8-7 win at the Orleans Arena.

“We kept believing,” Switzer said. “We felt they were getting kind of tired and we just made some good plays, got some good shots and the win.”

Switzer’s goal capped yet another third-period comeback for the Wranglers, prolonging their five-game win streak as they continue to move up the National Conference ladder.

“I don’t know what to say other than the guys found a way,” Mougenel said. “I’m ecstatic about the two points but we need to rectify some things.”

Early on, the prospects of a fifth consecutive win looked bleak, as the Aces chased starting goaltender Jimmy Spratt halfway through the first period, Spratt allowed three goals on his first seven shots.

Joel Gistedt relieved Spratt and late in the period, and consecutive goals by Alex Bourret and Mike Madill drew the Wranglers within one goal.

But after a second period that saw Alaska push four goals past Gistedt, once again distancing themselves by three, the Wranglers needn’t look any further than their captain for the boost they needed.

Neiszner set the third period pace with a goal just 45 seconds into the period, assisted by Greg Collins and Jason Krischuk.

“He put the team on his back,” Mougenel said. “He was an absolute warrior out there and that’s who Chris Neiszner is.”

Then it was time for the ECHL Player of the Week — center Adam Miller — to bail out the ECHL Goalie of the Week — Spratt.

Miller connected on two consecutive goals, from Krischuk and Bourret and Mick Lawrence and Chris Frank, respectively, to tie the game.

Miller’s goal, his 31st of the season, came at the 3:58 mark of the period, on a deflection after Lawrence shuffled the puck to the net.

“Anytime Miller’s out there you know he’s going to make a play,” said Switzer.

Switzer then found the five-hole of Aces’ goalie Scott Reid for the game-winner early in the overtime period.

“Guys give him a lot of attention,” Switzer said. “He snuck down the side and found me and you have to score those goals.”

The 15 combined goals were the most in any single Wranglers game this season.

“I’m not happy with how we played, obviously,” Mougenel said.

Alaska, who now sits four points behind the Wranglers in the National Conference playoff picture, scored four power-play goals in the contest, but it wasn’t enough, as Reid allowed eight goals on 33 shots.

“We’re going to watch a lot of video tonight and we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Mougenel said. “We’ll try to rectify some of those first two periods, because they were the worst we’ve played all season.”

Two Wranglers posted milestones in the contest, with Miller breaking Chris Kenady’s record by tallying a point in 12 straight games.

He finished with two goals and two assists.

Neiszner also moved past Tyler Mosienko into first place on the Wranglers all-time scoring list on a second period goal from Krischuk.

Krischuk had three assists in the game and Gistedt stopped 17 of 21 shots in relief of Spratt.

“Joel didn’t get a lot of work in the third,” Mougenel said, “But he made some amazing saves. It was about a collective effort in the third.”

Three stars

1. Chris Neiszner (Two goals); 2. Alaska’s Bryan Miller (Hat trick, assist); 3. Craig Switzer (Game-winning goal)

Hat trick

Alaska’s Miller recorded a hat trick in the victory, scoring the game-opening goal and adding two goals in the second period.

Roster report

Forward Andrew Orpik returned from AHL San Antonio with a plus-one rating and Tomas Petruska, signed last week to an amateur tryout agreement, was released.

Behind the bench

Wranglers Special Assistant to the General Manager Keith Primeau watched Thursday night’s game from behind the bench and plans to stay throughout the weekend.

Final word

“You never want to give seven goals up,” Switzer said. “But it’s a testament to our offense.”

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