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October 24, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Wranglers keep hot streak sizzling in 3-2 win

Las Vegas earns seventh straight victory, Peter Ferraro hospitalized with neck injury

The Las Vegas Wranglers are finally starting to look like –- well –- the Las Vegas Wranglers.

After three consecutive 100-plus point seasons, the Wranglers have struggled this year to stay above the .500 mark, let alone make another run to the Kelly Cup finals.

But the defending National Conference champions are not ready to relinquish their crown just yet as the Wranglers knocked off the Phoenix Roadrunners 3-2 Tuesday night at the Orleans Arena to pick up their seventh straight victory.

"I think they are getting more confident in what they need to do night after night and how they need to approach games," Gulutzan said about his squad. "It has taken us a while to find that. Who knows where this is going to go, but it came at a good time."

The Wranglers (25-18-4), who have won nine of their last 10 games, are now tied for the Pacific Division lead with the Ontario Reign (25-17-4).

Las Vegas, conveniently enough, travels to Ontario next for two games against the Reign on Wednesday and Saturday nights for a chance to claim sole possession of the Pacific Division lead.

"We have been waiting a long time to get on our roll," said Wranglers forward Mick Lawrence, who registered two assists Tuesday. "All we kept talking about was getting on this roll and now it's finally here. We proved we could do it and now we have to keep it going."

Chris Ferraro lit up the scoreboard first Tuesday when he buried a doorstep feed from Hugo Carpentier with 4:38 remaining in the first period to put the Wranglers on top 1-0.

Just 58 seconds into the second period, Chris Neiszner capitalized on a two-man power play advantage to extend Las Vegas' lead to 2-0.

A dose of harsh reality, however, struck the Wranglers halfway through the second period when Peter Ferraro went down with a neck injury.

Although the routine body check seemed harmless, Ferraro hit the boards awkwardly and never bounced up. Medical personnel attended to Ferraro for more than 20 minutes before several of his teammates helped lift him onto a stretcher. Paramedics transported Ferraro to UMC.

His twin brother, Chris, never left his side during the scary moment.

"He wasn't really answering questions, he was just holding still," Chris said. "He didn't want to move. My back was turned to the play, so I didn't see it… I was real, real nervous about the situation."

Fortunately, CAT Scans of Peter's head and neck came back normal and doctors expect him to be back on the ice within a week. Ferraro is supposed to return home tonight, but he will remain in an Aspen collar for two days.

Both Las Vegas and Phoenix struggled to return to action after the incident, but the Roadrunners did manage to slash their deficit thanks to a power play goal by John McNabb with 3:26 left in the second period.

The Wranglers regrouped in the locker room and went back up by two goals when Tyler Mosienko fired a wrist shot under the cross bar for the 3-1 lead.

Although the Wranglers allowed another Phoenix goal with just 2:26 remaining in the contest, Las Vegas managed to hold on to improve to 15-8-2 at home and set up the battle for Pacific Division supremacy in Ontario.

"When we were up and down all year we just kept saying, stick with our system," Lawrence said. " We are obviously executing better, but everyone is coming together. Defense is doing their part, goaltenders are playing amazing and us forwards are finding the back of the net."

Stars of the game: 1. Mick Lawrence (2 assists); 2. Chris Neiszner (1 goal); 3. Glenn Fisher (28 saves)

Big Fish: Goaltender Glenn Fisher has turned into a brick wall since joining the Wranglers on Jan. 30 via a loan from the Springfield Falcons of the AHL.

Fisher made 28 saves Tuesday night to improve to 4-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and a .953 save percentage since suiting up for the Wranglers.

"I can't take all the credit for it," Fisher said. "These guys are clearing rebounds, boxing out and scoring goals. It's easy on a goaltender when your team is doing that."

Fisher also spent time earlier in the season with the Stockton Thunder, where he went 2-0-1. In the ECHL this season, Fisher boasts a 6-0-1 record with a 1.99 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.

The 25-year-old could be the secret behind Las Vegas' recent success as Fisher picked up his first victory as a Wrangler in a 5-1 blowout of the Bakersfield Condors on Jan. 31 -- the first win of the team's current seven-game win streak.

"The atmosphere in here has been great," Fisher said. "We are having fun and that goes hand-in-hand with winning. You win when you have fun and you have fun when you win. We have to stay focused because these next two games are huge."

Roadrunner killer: The Wranglers improved to 30-5-4 all-time against Phoenix and 5-3-1 when facing the Roadrunners this season.

But Tyler Mosienko has been the real pain in Phoenix's side this season as he leads Las Vegas against the Roadrunners with four goals and six assists in eight games against the division rival.

Classless act: Less than four minutes after Chris Ferraro strapped his twin brother Peter to a backboard, Phoenix defenseman Jeremy Swanson tried to tee up a high elbow blow to Chris' head in front of the Roadrunners' bench that led to a nice scrum. The altercation landed both Swanson and Ferraro in the penalty box.

Attendance: 3,230 fans braved the chilly Tuesday night weather to see the Wranglers continue their hot streak at the Orleans Arena.

Next up: The Wranglers have a chance to move into first place in the Pacific Division when they travel to Ontario to face the Reign (25-17-4) on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

Final word: "It's a first place game tomorrow and I know (Ontario) is going to be sitting back waiting for us a little bit, but if we can play our game I think we can put ourselves in a good position to win," Gulutzan said.

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

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