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August 19, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Wranglers’ shootout woes continue

The Las Vegas Wranglers desperately need shootout lessons.

For the fourth time this season, the Wranglers failed to pick up a shootout win as the Victoria Salmon Kings skated away from a marathon 10-round shootout with a 2-1 victory in front of 5,108 fans at the Orleans Arena Friday night.

Although Las Vegas forward Mick Lawrence scored the first goal on the first shot of the tiebreaker, the Wranglers could not capitalize on that momentum as they fell to 0-4 in shootouts this season. Victoria forward Shawn Landolt scored the third and game-clinching goal in the shootout.

"Shootouts and us don't jive," said Wranglers coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan. "It was a good goalie battle, but that's what happens when you make mistakes."

The Wranglers (16-16-4) out-shot the West Division-leading Salmon Kings (27-10-4) 14-5 in the first period before taking a 1-0 lead in the second period off Kelly Czuy's power play goal.

Defenseman Dan Spang cycled the puck down low to Lawrence, who fed Czuy in front of the net for an easy tap-in.

Las Vegas controlled the tempo of the game until late in the third period when former Wrangler Sean O'Connor tipped in a Patrick Coulombe power play shot to tie the game 1-1 with 8:32 remaining.

"I was pleased with the way we played," Gulutzan said. "I thought for the first 50 minutes of the game we were out-chancing them. But you can tell why they are a first-place team. They have that poise -- that striking ability. They are a good team."

Nobody is safe: Unwilling to accept a "moral victory" for nearly beating a first-place team, Gulutzan said he will make some roster changes before Saturday's rematch, if necessary. The Wranglers' roster is full with eight defensemen and 12 forwards, so some skaters will be riding the pine.

"I'm really evaluating players right now," Gulutzan said. "Who can play in big games? These are big games in a crucial time of the year for us … So if there is somebody here who is not cutting it then they are not going in tomorrow. We will watch video tonight and put our lineup up tomorrow."

Stars of the game: 1. Todd Ford (31 saves); 2. Kelly Czuy (1 goal); 3. Dan Spang (1 assist)

Entertainment drought: The first intermission on-ice entertainment consisted of a bunch of little girls performing some sort of figure skating dance set to the songs of the musical "Hairspray." There is nothing like a little Broadway musical to get the Wranglers in a fighting mood.

Blue Men provide hope: The Wranglers will make up for Friday's intermission show with an on-ice performance by the Blue Man Group Saturday during the first intermission. All is now forgiven.

Prison uniform night seat auction: The much-anticipated Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich night on Jan. 30 is quickly approaching and the Wranglers have opened an eBay auction for a seat between the benches. The special seat, normally reserved for media photographers, comes with free concessions all night and one of the Wranglers' prison-style jerseys. The ebay item number is 230320032903. As of the third period, the seat price was up to $325 thanks to 14 bids.

Next up: The Salmon Kings stay in town for another duel at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Orleans Arena.

Final word: "Obviously playing a first-place team you want to see what they got, but we've been there before -- we know what it's all about," said Wranglers center Tyler Mosienko. "It's nothing new to us. It's just hockey out there. They put their skates on the same way we do."

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

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