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July 30, 2014

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Miller’s hat trick axes Alaska

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Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Las Vegas Sun

Wranglers forward Adam Miller pictured here on Nov. 1, netted a hat trick and an assist Sunday to lead the Las Vegas Wranglers past the Alaska Aces 4-2.

Despite benefiting from having his family at nearly every home game, Adam Miller had never scored at the Orleans Arena.

That changed in just 16 seconds Sunday afternoon when Miller buried his first Sin City goal to spark the Las Vegas Wranglers to a 4-2 dismantling of the Alaska Aces.

But Miller did not stop there. The 24-year-old forward added two more goals as well as an assist to register his first career hat trick.

"It's always nice getting that goal in the first shift and getting the momentum swinging our way right off the bat," Miller said. "I credit all my teammates and my line mates for getting me the puck. I used my speed well tonight and I think I was a bit hungrier."

Miller helped extend the Wranglers' early lead when he dished to Chris Neiszner during a two-on-one power play break to put the Wranglers up 2-0 heading into the second intermission.

During that intermission Miller must have downed a few dozen Redbulls, because he took the opening face off of the third period straight to the net for his second goal of the night just 10 seconds into the final period to give the Wranglers a 3-0 cushion.

"Adam Miller played real well," said Wranglers coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan. "He is one of our better conditioned guys and he was ready to play tonight and it helped us."

Aces forward Cam Keith eventually lit up the scoreboard for Alaska (17-12-1) about seven minutes later, but the Wranglers (13-14-2) were in cruise control.

With the Aces' goalie pulled in the final minute, the Wranglers desperately tried to dish the puck to Miller to complete his hat trick. After missing two opportunities, Miller finally buried the empty-netter for his third goal of the day.

"I saw the net and kind of got anxious," Miller said. "… But it felt good to finally get one here."

Miller is now second on the Wranglers with 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists) in 21 games this season.

"Adam Miller just needs to continue to keep battling and battling on one-on-ones in puck battles and stick strength and I think he can play at the next level," Gulutzan said. "But that's the challenge for him. Adam Miller needs to battle every night with stick strength in the trenches and finish checks and I think he can play at the next level. You can teach that stuff that I'm talking about, but you can't teach the speed he has."

Vegas vacation: The Wranglers not only beat the Aces Sunday, but they earned two days of vacation this week thanks to their effort.

Gulutzan warned the team prior to the game that if they did not hustle and work hard then he would not give them Monday and Tuesday off.

"It's the old thing, work now or work later, and they dug in," Gulutzan said. "I'm proud of them for digging in. They played hard and you could tell they were falling a little bit more and they didn't have as much gas, but they were committed to 60 minutes tonight and that's a tribute to them."

Brick wall: Goalie John DeCaro performed his best brick wall impression Sunday as he improved to 9-4 on the season by making 35 saves. DeCaro allowed a meaningless goal to Aces forward Joe Foreman with 20 seconds remaining in the game, but was otherwise flawless.

DeCaro boasts a .930 save percentage and a 1.94 goals against average. He picked up his fourth loss Saturday when he entered the game during the second period after Kevin Lalande had already allowed three goals.

"I thought (DeCaro) was real strong tonight," Gulutzan said. "He didn't help himself in the last 20 seconds there, but he gave us the goaltending we needed to win tonight."

Beaudoin watch: Matt Beaudoin continues to excel in the month of December. His two assists Sunday extended his point streak to five consecutive games.

Beaudoin has now posted eight points in his last five outings to bring his December total to 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in nine games. In NBA Jams terms, Beaudoin is on fire.

Stars of the game: 1. Miller (3 goals, 1 assist); 2. Neiszner (1G); 3. DeCaro (35 saves)

Attendance: 3,579 fans gave up the NFL for the Wranglers' Sunday matinee at the Orleans Arena.

Next up: The Wranglers remain in Las Vegas to host the Utah Grizzlies (11-12-3-2) Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Final word: "We give them a little bite here before the game and dug at them a bit and they came out hard," Gulutzan on his pre-game motivational speech.

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

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