Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Wranglers open home season in poor fashion

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Justin M. Bowen

Chris Farraro puts a member of the Reign into the boards Thursday night.

Wranglers Home Opener

The Las Vegas Wranglers were last year's National Conference Champions. Launch slideshow »

Next game

  • Opponent: Ontario Reign
  • Date: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Orleans Arena

After dropping their first two games of the season in Anchorage, the Wranglers returned to Las Vegas and did more of the same – lose.

Either the 2008 National Conference championship banner raised before the game mesmerized the Wranglers, or they were still jetlagged, because it took nearly an entire period for Las Vegas to show any signs of life in a 4-2 loss to the Ontario Reign.

The Reign captured an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Darren McMillan and Geoff Walker less than seven minutes apart.

Wranglers' center Chris Neiszner picked up his first goal of the season with 6:24 remaining in the first period when he redirected defenseman Bret Tyler's power play slap shot from the point. That score not only slashed the Wranglers' deficit in half but it also gave Tyler his first professional assist.

But the second period would prove disastrous as Jon Francisco capitalized on a four-minute double minor penalty on Mike Hamilton to cushion the Reign's lead, 3-1.

Las Vegas committed nine penalties, which were good for 18 minutes in the box.

"Stupid penalties," Wranglers coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan said. "It hurt us. It hurt us. Those penalties hurt us. Being down 2-1 versus 3-1 is a huge difference against a stingy team."

Ontario right-winger Brad Mehalko netted his first goal of the season with less than two minutes remaining in the second period to all but seal the Wranglers' fate.

Despite out-shooting the Reign 10-6 in the final period, the Wranglers couldn't find a way to climb back into the game.

"We weren't consistent for 60 minutes. That's the way it goes," Gultutzan said. "We made some mistakes. We made some preventable mistakes. They worked real hard and they out-competed us in the tough areas. That was the difference."

Going streaking: Thursday's loss not only marks the Wranglers' first home opener loss in four years, but it is also the first time in franchise history that the team has not won one of its first three games. Las Vegas is now 4-2-0 in home openers.

Heavy hitter: Wranglers captain Shawn Limpright provided most of the physical firepower Thursday night as he laid out several nasty body checks throughout the game. Early in the second period Limpright caught Shawn Germain with his head down while skating around the net. The ensuing collision left Germain helmetless and enlivened the crowed.

Minding the net minders: Ontario goalie Jeff Zatkoff won this duel. Despite facing 30 shots, Zatkoff allowed only two goals, both while shorthanded. Las Vegas' goalie, Martin Houle, was in distress for most of the game, allowing four goals on 24 shots

"I thought their goalie played well," Gulutzan said. "I thought we had some chances, but we need to convert on our chances. That's just the way it goes and we need to bounce back (Friday)."

Stars of the game: The three stars of Thursday's game were Ontario right-wing Geoff Walker (1 goal, 2 assists), Las Vegas center Chris Neiszner (1 goal, 2 shots) and Las Vegas defenseman Mike Madill (1 goal, 3 shots).

Injury update: Gulutzan confirmed after Thursday's game that veteran center Tyler Mosienko is suffering from an injured shoulder and will not play tonight. Mosienko, who notched 52 points in 71 games with the Wranglers last season, is currently on the seven-day disabled list.

Attendance: 5,019 fans received free 2008 conference championship T-shirts on opening night.

Up next: The Wranglers return to action at the Orleans Arena again tonight against the Reign at 7:30 p.m.

The final word: "I thought our defense settled down after the first period, but (Ontario) won the battle of the trenches in front of our net and that's how they got a couple goals," Gulutzan said. "They just were hungry in there. We need to do a better job in there."

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

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