Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wranglers ready for series-deciding game at Utah

By Anthony Fenech

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.

The Las Vegas Wranglers will be looking to extend their season Tuesday night.

After 72 games of regular-season hockey and four playoff games, the Wranglers will battle the host Utah Grizzlies in the series-deciding fifth game of the National Conference quarterfinals for the right to keep playing in the 2010 ECHL playoffs.

"It's time to leave it all on the ice," Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel said. "I'm excited. With the kind of character we have in that dressing room, you have to be."

The Wranglers and Grizzlies have flip-flopped the first four games of the series, with each team winning a game in their own building and one on the road, setting up Tuesday's series-deciding Game 5 at the E-Center in West Valley City, Utah. The Wranglers had a 2-1 lead in the third quarter Sunday, but Utah rallied for a 4-2 victory to even the series and force the deciding game.

"It's the quote, 'Play every shift like it's your last,'" Wranglers captain Chris Neiszner said. "You have to go out, compete and do things the same way you always have."

Both Neiszner and Mougenel have competed in their shares of series-deciding games, where each minute is more magnified, each call more criticized and every play second-guessed.

"Anything can happen in a game like this," Mougenel said. "You can't worry about what you can't control. There will be lucky bounces and there will be bad bounces, you just need to stay focused."

Mougenel, part of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies team that won the 2003 Kelly Cup Championship, has played in multiple series-deciding games, dating back to the Ontario Hockey League as a youngster.

"We have a good base with good players," he said. "And we have a strong belief about what we can accomplish."

As always, the goaltender matchup will be key, most likely pitting rookie Jimmy Spratt against Utah's Mike Morrison.

In two of the series' four games, Morrison has relieved starting goaltender Mikko Koskinen, and Morrison was the goalie of record in Utah's 4-2 Game 4 win.

"We've been through it before," Neiszner said of the Las Vegas franchise, noting series-deciding games with Stockton and Bakersfield last year. "We need to embrace it and at the same time, go out and put it on the line for 60 minutes."

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