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October 21, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Wranglers battle flu to maul Grizzlies

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Justin M. Bowen

The Wranglers Adam Miller shoots and scores Jan. 2 as the Las Vegas Wranglers took on the Utah Grizzlies at the Orleans Arena. The Wranglers beat the Grizzlies 3-1.

Wranglers VS. Grizzlies

Las Vegas Wranglers' Mike Madill hits the ice to stop a breakaway in this file photo. Madill and the rest of the Wranglers hope to regain their footing after a 1-6-3 road trip in a five-game home stand at the Orleans Arena this weekend. Launch slideshow »

Matt Beaudoin spent Friday bedridden with the flu.

But once game time came around, the 24-year-old forward suited up despite his illness.

That proved to be a wise decision as Beaudoin not only led the Las Vegas Wranglers with seven shots, but he also sealed a 3-1 victory over the Utah Grizzlies in front of 4,422 fans at the Orleans Arena Friday night.

"I slept all day," Beaudoin said. "We were short on players, so we had to suck it up. That's what we do. It's our job. We show up when we are asked to. It was a bad day for me, but I regrouped all day in bed and came out tonight … In the third period I needed short shifts for sure."

Although exhausted, Beaudoin buried a dazzling backhand past Utah goalie Mike Mole with 2:21 remaining in the game to put the contest out of reach for the Grizzlies (11-13-5).

Beaudoin was not alone in his selfless efforts, however, as about six Wranglers had to miss Friday's morning skate because of the flu.

"Something is going around the locker room, but I thought they sucked it up and played hard tonight," said Wranglers coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan. "I was impressed with that."

The Wranglers, who are 4-3 in an eight-game home stand, started strong early when Mick Lawrence capitalized on a blocked-shot rebound from Kelly Czuy to put Las Vegas on top 1-0 three minutes into the first period.

Utah's Tom May answered, though, as he tied the game with 1:20 remaining in the first period.

After a scoreless second period, Adam Miller broke the tie with a low backhand laser from Czuy and Sean Owens early in the third period.

"Guys bared down tonight and sucked it up and I thought we played a good game," said Miller, who has 11 points in his last six games. "Utah is a good team, a hustle team. They are always on you and for guys to be sick and play through it really shows a lot about this team."

Las Vegas goalie Kevin Lalande returned to the crease and made 31 saves while improving to 3-4 on the year.

Stars of the game: 1. Adam Miller (1 goal, 1 assist); Kevin Lalande (31 saves); Kelly Czuy (2A)

Cut me Mick: After receiving a left jab to the head from Utah defenseman Jon Gleed, Wranglers forward Mick Lawrence wrestled Gleed to the ground and delivered a crushing right hand to Gleed's face. Although both players drew fighting majors, Gleed also earned a roughing penalty to put the Wranglers on the power play.

That third period fight nicely complemented Lawrence's first period goal. Since returning from a knee injury on Dec. 19, Lawrence has registered two goals and three assists in six games.

"Mick Lawrence has the whole package," Gulutzan said. "He's got some conditioning issues because he's been out for so long and he's trying to get back into it. But Mick Lawrence can play a complete hockey game. He can fight. He can make plays. He can score. If he goes another two or three weeks here and gets into better condition, you might see him up in the American Hockey League."

Unsung hero: Miller and Beaudoin's names have littered the score sheets during the Wranglers' home stand, but both forwards were quick to thank line mate Shawn Limpright for helping them light up the score board.

Beaudoin has racked up nine points in the last seven games, while Miller has picked up 11 in that same span.

"Our line is really gelling," Miller said. "(Limpright's) been unbelievable about getting us the puck. He's not coming out with points. Me and (Beaudoin) are coming out with points, but Limper is the heart of our line and we had a lot of chances thanks to him."

Penalty assassins: Las Vegas continues to excel on the penalty kill. Ranked third in the ECHL entering Friday's contest, the Wranglers successfully nullified six Utah power-play opportunities to bring their season penalty kill rate to 88.4 percent, allowing only 22 goals on 189 shorthanded chances.

Good riddance 2008: The Wranglers lost more games in the 2008 portion of this season than they have in each of the last three seasons.

Las Vegas lost just 12 times in 2006-07 and 13 times in both the 05-06 and 07-08 seasons.

At least the Wranglers are still undefeated in 2009.

Blue men invasion: Wranglers officials announced Friday that Venetian regulars the Blue Man Group will perform at the Orleans Arena during the first intermission of the Wranglers' showdown with the Victoria Salmon Kings at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 24.

Happy birthday: Czuy celebrated his 26th birthday Friday while teammate and fellow forward Justin Taylor turned 26 on Thursday. No birthday suits on the ice, please.

Next up: The Grizzlies stay in town for another round with the Wranglers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Final word: "Every time I try to get over .500 we end up below it, so forget it," Gulutzan said about the importance of the Wranglers improving their record. "I'm not even going to worry about. We are just focusing on one game at a time."

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

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