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November 27, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Ontario provides rude awakening in midnight game

The Ontario Reign crashed the largest slumber party in professional hockey as the Las Vegas Wranglers fell 1-0 in the franchise's sixth annual midnight game.

Although a season-high 5,101 fans packed the Orleans Arena in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Wranglers could not find the back of the net to please their sleep-deprived fans.

Las Vegas outshot Ontario 35-20 and had four power plays, but could not score.

"I thought we had some jump tonight," said Wranglers coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan. "I thought we played fine tonight. We gave up a couple chances maybe early on that we shouldn't have, but otherwise we played a pretty solid game."

Neither team could create much offense in the first period. But less than two minutes into the second period, Ontario forward Chris Curran tipped in a rebound from a behind-the-net Geoff Walker shot for the game's only goal.

That goal eventually held up to snap Wranglers goalie John DeCaro's six-game winning streak and drop Las Vegas to 10-12-2. Ontario improves to 14-9-2.

"I took a quick peak out to see if anyone was in the slot and as soon as I took a quick peak out he took a shot from the side and then before I knew it the puck hit me in the side of the pants and rolled in," said goalie John DeCaro, who still maintains a 1.44 goals against average and a 6-2 record in nine appearances.

The Wranglers created several scoring opportunities late in the game and seemed poise to tie the Reign with a 5-on-3 power play in the third period.

Yet despite the two-man deficit, Ontario goalie Jeff Zatkoff turned away five Las Vegas shots to hold on for his first career shutout.

"Once again I thought we had some good chances there," Gulutzan said. "I don't think we would have done anything different if we had another chance. We just couldn't get it in the net."

Pajama party: The midnight start time drew some interesting outfits from the fans at the Orleans Arena that included bathrobes, pajamas, slippers and even a few Santa Clauses.

"It wasn't too bad, but I wouldn't make it a regular thing," DeCaro said about the midnight start.

Penalty assassins: The Wranglers entered Monday's contest second in the ECHL in penalty killing with an 89.4 percent (135-for-151) success rate. The defensive specialists killed all three Ontario power plays Monday to improve to 89.6 percent (138-for-154).

Roster moves: The Wranglers placed center Justin Taylor on the seven-day injured reserve list and defenseman Bret Tyler on the three-day IR. Goalie Kevin Lalande was placed on bereavement leave after a death in his family and left-winger Mick Lawrence has started skating with the team this week after missing more than a month with a lower body injury.

No angels allowed: During the second period, the Orleans Arena public address announcer read through the list of groups attending the game in what is a rather mundane ritual at Wranglers game. But when he uttered "Criss Angel's Believe," the crowd erupted in a raucous chorus of booing. Apparently Las Vegas does not believe in the glorified street magician after all.

Next up: The Reign stay in Las Vegas for another showdown with the Wranglers on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Final word: "We are going to take some rest and get back to our routine this week and work on creating an identity for ourselves and a team that is everyday getting a little bit tighter," Gulutzan said.

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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