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October 23, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Emotions boil over as Aces sink Wranglers

Brawl leads to two ejections and season-ending injury for Chris Ferraro

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Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Las Vegas Sun

The Las Vegas Wranglers and Alaska Aces erupt into a riot on the ice during the second period at the Orleans Arena on March 24, 2009. The ensuing scrum resulted in Chris Ferraro being taken off on a stretcher with a broken leg and the Wranglers being left shorthanded by two skaters for a full five minutes, during which the Aces scored three power play goals in their 5-3 victory.

Updated Thursday, March 26, 2009 | 11:59 p.m.

March 24, 2009: Alaska down Wranglers on "Over 18 Night"

The Las Vegas Wranglers' mascot, The Duke, showers a section of visiting Alaska Aces fans with popcorn late in the game Tuesday night. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

The Las Vegas Wranglers mascot, the Duke, runs from the beer-spraying, middle-finger waving wrath of angry Alaska Aces fans after he threw a bag of popcorn on them Tuesday night at the Orleans Arena.

It is only fitting that on "Over 18 Night" the Las Vegas Wranglers and the Alaska Aces would engage in an R-rated brawl that sent one player to the hospital and decimated the Wranglers' roster.

After Las Vegas lost three players in the aftermath of a violent second period melee, Alaska capitalized on a five-minute, two-man advantage with three consecutive goals to sink the Wranglers 5-3 in front of 3,744 fans at the Orleans Arena Tuesday night.

The game-defining brawl, which involved nine players, erupted after a collision between Las Vegas center Chris Ferraro and Alaska forward Matt Stefanishion less than three minutes into the second period.

With Chris Ferraro writhing in pain on the ice, the referees struggled to control the growing scrum. When the punches subsided, the officials dished out 16 penalties to seven players, including game misconducts to Tim Spencer for kicking and Peter Ferraro for spearing.

"I just tried to come in there to help Chris and I think all the emotions were running high from the last few games and everybody just wanted somebody," Spencer said. "I guess emotions got the best of some of us, but to give us ejections and none to (Alaska) was definitely the wrong call."

Chris Ferraro had to leave the ice on a stretcher and doctors later confirmed that Ferraro suffered a broken left leg and will most likely miss the rest of the season.

The Ferraro brothers and Stefanishion have a long history of malcontent toward each other that certainly boiled over Tuesday night.

"My style of game is hard hitting and obviously (the Ferraros) don't like that part of the game, so maybe they shouldn't be involved with it," Stefanishion said.

In addition to losing one of their most valuable veterans, the Wranglers also had to deal with a strange ruling that put them on the short end of a five-on-three power play for five minutes due to fighting majors.

The National Conference-leading Aces (43-22-3) immediately took advantage of the lopsided opportunity as Cam Keith and Josh Soares notched power play goals within 36 seconds of each other. Nick Tuzzolino then extended the Aces' lead to 3-1 with another power play goal in the final seconds of the two-man advantage.

"I'm just speechless right now about how that all went down," Spencer lamented. "You can't even put words into what happened tonight… (Alaska) started it all and then we get kicked out and suffer the penalties."

Although the Wranglers had to play the rest of the game with only 12 skaters, they managed to mount a valiant comeback before the second intermission.

Trailing 4-1 thanks to a power play goal by Scott Burt with 9:06 remaining in the second period, Kelly Czuy buried his own power play goal to cut the Wranglers' deficit in half 4-2.

Rookie forward Scott McCulloch pulled Las Vegas even closer as he tallied his second goal of the night and second as a professional to make it 4-3 with 1:52 left in the second period.

"It's always a nice feeling to reach those personal accomplishments, but I'm just worried about getting those two points in the win column," said the fifth-year senior from Colorado College.

The short-handed Wranglers could not even the score in the third period, however, as Luke Erikson eventually sealed the 5-3 victory on an empty netter with 10 seconds left in the game.

The Wranglers (31-29-8) are now 19-12-2 at home and just 2-6-1 against Alaska this season with another rematch looming on Friday night.

"We outworked them, we out-chanced them and we out-shot them," Spencer said. "I think we deserved to win that game and to have this outcome just frustrates everybody."

Stars of the game: 1. Scott McCulloch (2 goals); 2. Kelly Czuy (1 goal, 1 assist); 3. Chris Neiszner (2 assists)

Suspensions looming: Spencer is no stranger to suspensions resulting from match penalties, which means his involvement in Tuesday's brawl could lead to a lengthy sentence. Spencer's match penalty for kicking coupled with a checkered disciplinary record, including a one game suspension for eye gouging in a 2-1 loss to Idaho on Feb. 21, will most likely lead to a multiple game suspension.

Peter Ferraro will also serve at least a one game suspension.

"I didn't kick anybody," Spencer said. "I was on the ground with (Stefanishion). And Pete got kicked out? It's mind boggling."

With Steve Makway already serving a two-game sentence this week, the Wranglers will be at least four players short for Friday's rematch against the Aces with Makway, Spencer and both Ferraros out.

Roster report: Prior to Tuesday's game, the Wranglers loaned center Justin Taylor to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. Taylor has posted 12 goals and 17 assists in 34 games with Las Vegas this season. He joins fellow Wranglers Matt Beaudoin, Jeff May, Mike Hamilton, J.D. Watt, Matt Keetley, Tyler Mosienko, Chris St. Croix and Adam Miller in the AHL.

The Duke dominates: Late in the third period the Wranglers’ mascot, Duke, silenced the cow-bell toting Alaska fans with a popcorn shower. The Aces’ fans apparently do not have a great sense of humor as they retaliated by throwing beer on the Duke. The folks in Anchorage need to relax a bit. It’s just popcorn.

Next up: The Wranglers and Aces meet again at the Orleans Arena Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Final word: "I just had a hit on one of the Ferraro brothers, I'm not even sure which one and he retaliated with a slash and then mayhem happened," Alaska's Stefanishion said about his role in Tuesday's brawl. "The refs had me down on the ground trying to protect me and when guys are spearing or kicking you when you are on the ice it's uncalled for. There is no place for that in hockey."

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

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