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October 1, 2014

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hockey:

Watt’s hat trick lifts Wranglers over Phoenix

Next game

  • Opponent: @ Bakersfield Condors
  • Date: Monday, Nov. 10 7:05 p.m.
  • Where: Rabobank Arena

Luck is a precious commodity in Las Vegas and J.D. Watt claims he had plenty of it Saturday night as his hat trick helped the Wranglers pound the Phoenix Roadrunners 6-2 at the Orleans Arena.

Watt ignited the Wranglers’ offense by tapping in an easy doorstep goal just 27 seconds into the game, thanks to swift passing by Tyler Mosienko and Chris Ferraro.

“I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to play with (Mosienko) and (Ferraro),” said Watt, who added an assist to his three-goal outing. “They are very good players in this league. It’s not hard to score goals when you play with those two. You just go to the right place and they’ll find you. They were working the puck on the corners and winning the battles. It makes it really easy to play.”

Although Roadrunners’ defenseman Michael Wilson answered Watt’s early goal less than two minutes later, the Wranglers continued to terrorize Phoenix goalie Craig Kowalski as Las Vegas rang up four goals in the first period.

Both teams were unable to score in the second period, but the Wranglers opened the third period with goals by Ferraro and Watt to extend their lead to 6-1.

Phoenix defenseman Dave Crowley added a late goal, but by then the game was far out of reach.

Las Vegas goalie John DeCaro finished the night with 26 saves.

“We are still trying to find good chemistry, but tonight was a good sign,” said Wranglers coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan. “Players looked liked they were having fun and making plays. That’s what you are trying to build is this chemistry amongst your team and I think we took a step forward in that direction tonight.”

Stars of the game: 1. Watt (3 goals, 1 assist); 2. Mosienko (1G, 3A); 3. C. Ferraro (1G, 3A)

Heavy hitter: Las Vegas left winger Shawn Limpright was a late addition to the Wranglers lineup after spending seven days on the injured reserve list and he wasted no time throwing some heavy blows.

Early in the third period Limpright flattened Phoenix defenseman Matt Burke behind the Roadrunners’ net, which then led to a wild flurry of punches. Without a clear knockout, the judges’ decision most likely went in favor of Limpright.

In the ensuing aftermath of the fight, Phoenix drew a bench penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when coach Brad Church did his best Bobby Knight impression and started throwing water bottles and screaming at the ref. Church even slammed a stick on the ice.

Limpright, however, wasn’t finished. The 5-foot-11 forward took on Phoenix forward James McEwan with 6:34 remaining in the game. But this time Limpright was on the receiving end of most of the punches.

“For people who have never come to a game, they have to understand that it’s not like it’s planned,” Gulutzan said. “One team is getting beat pretty badly and that is just frustration coming out. They take a few liberties with some cheap shots and you know that’s a part of hockey.”

Thank you for playing: With his coach ranting and raving on the bench, Phoenix center Matt Fornataro earned himself a one-way ticket to the locker room by drawing a game misconduct penalty with 16:37 remaining in the game.

Fornataro snapped his stick in half on the way to the locker room, because obviously the stick was to blame.

So long streak: The Wranglers’ dismantling of the Roadrunners not only netted another notch in the win column Saturday, but it snapped Phoenix’s six-game unbeaten streak.

Blood-work: Wranglers forward Tim Spencer went toe-to-toe with Roadrunners defenseman Brett Thurston. Spencer relentlessly battered Thurston until the refs stopped the fight as blood poured from Thurston’s nose.

“Oh yeah, it looked like he broke his nose,” Watt said. “You know guys like me, Ferraro and Mosienko got the points tonight, but it all starts with battling plays from guys like Limpright and Spencer.”

Attendance: 4,429

Next up: The Wranglers travel to Bakersfield, Calif., to face the Condors at 7:05 p.m. Monday at Rabobank Arena.

Final word: “We were a step ahead tonight,” Gulutzan said. “(Phoenix) played six games in nine nights and we just had a little jump on them and we did some little things really well. We went to the net good and we got rewarded for it. The guys played a real good game tonight. It was a solid hockey game from start to finish for a lot of players tonight.”

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