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August 23, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Beaudoin lifts Wranglers past Phoenix

Matt Beaudoin should buy a Lexus, because he is having one sweet December to remember.

The 24-year-old center scored two goals, including the game-winner Friday night, to flatten the Phoenix Roadrunners 3-1 in front of 3,965 fans at the Orleans Arena.

In just seven games this month, Beaudoin has posted eight goals and two assists.

"We need him to score and he's doing that," said Wranglers' coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan. "He scored a big goal tonight. He's worked really hard and he's in great shape. He's doing really well for us."

After the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League sent Beaudoin to the Wranglers, the former Ohio State star suffered a concussion in Phoenix on Nov. 29 that knocked him out of commission for five games.

But Beaudoin cashed in his payback Friday by breaking a 1-1 tie in the third period with a power play goal set up by Chris Neiszner and Mike Madill.

"(Phoenix) blocked the shot and the defender was looking for the puck," Beaudoin said. ."I think the goalie thought I was going to go to our player backdoor and that's what I was actually thinking about doing, but the puck got caught so I put it on net and I think the goalie got confused."

That power play goal not only proved to be the eventual game-winner, but it also provided a sign of life to the Wranglers' flat-lining power play.

The Wranglers are a paltry 18-for-155 on the power play. That 11.6 percent success rate is the worst in the ECHL.

"We have so much skill on our team, it's unbelievable all the chances we miss and all the goals we don't get on the power play," Beaudoin said. "Once we get a normal power play – we don't even need the best in the league – just a normal one we will be in pretty good shape. I think it's a matter of keeping with it and not getting frustrated. Just keep putting it on net and good things will happen eventually because there is too much skill in that locker room right now to not be better on the power play."

Although Las Vegas could not cash in on more than one power play opportunity Friday, the Wranglers did kill off seven of their eight penalties. The Wranglers are second in the ECHL with an 89.2 percent penalty-killing unit.

A large part of that special teams success is due to the play of goalie John DeCaro, who made 22 saves Friday to improve to 8-3 with a 1.96 goals against average.

"(DeCaro) was steady when we needed him to be and he made the saves we needed him to make and that was key," Gulutzan said. "I thought he was good tonight and you need good goaltending. I don't think he was outstanding, but he made the saves we needed him to make and that is the key."

Beaudoin added his second goal of the night on an empty net with 1:06 remaining in the game. He should thank Shawn Limpright for setting that one up.

"You actually get a little nervous on those because you don't want to miss it," Beaudoin admitted. "But I made sure I went for the middle of the net and kept it nice and easy."

Hot starts: Neiszner's opening goal less than five minutes into the second period proved vital in leading the Wranglers to victory. Las Vegas is 9-2-0-1 when scoring first this season.

Stars of the game: 1. Beaudoin (2 goals); 2. Neiszner (1 G, 1A); 3. DeCaro (22 saves)

Heavy hitter: Late in the first period Wranglers' rookie Mick Lawrence tattooed Phoenix defenseman Dane Crowley as Crowley crossed the blue line with his head down. The hit knocked Crowley off his skates and out of the Las Vegas city limits.

Was that Charlie Conway?: Neiszner streaked down the ice on a wide open breakaway less than two minutes into the second period, but the veteran forward lost his footing and ended up wiping out. Neiszner slid into Phoenix's goalie while the puck headed to the corner. As they said in the Mighty Ducks, "nice move Spaz-way."

Neiszner did make up for his miscue, however, with one goal and one assist Friday to bring his season total to 17 points (9G, 8A) in 25 games.

Next up: The Wranglers kick off a two-game home stand against the Alaska Aces (16-11-0-1) Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Orleans Arena. The Wranglers and Aces will then meet in a Sunday afternoon duel at 2:05 p.m.

Final word: "Everyone is trying to string wins together, but I think we play well enough that we could do it," Gulutzan said about the Wranglers' chances of winning back-to-back games. "We just have to keep getting better at the little things."

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

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