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Wranglers score 3 unanswered goals in 5-2 victory over Thunder

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Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Wrangler teammates come together to celebrate a second-period goal scored against the Stockton Thunder on Friday night. From left to right are Craig Switzer, Jerry Pollastrone, Alex Bourret and Adam Miller.

Updated Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 | 1:22 a.m.

Wranglers vs. Thunder

Wranglers defenseman Chris Frank (5) takes an errant stick blade to the face from Stockton Thunder captain J. F. Caudron (12) as goaltender Michael Ouzas defends the Las Vegas net during the second period on Friday night. Launch slideshow »

The second period was the Wranglers’ best Friday night.

Thanks to three unanswered goals in the middle frame, Las Vegas returned from a four-game road trip to beat the Stockton Thunder, 5-2, at the Orleans Arena.

“I thought we played the kind of game we needed to play,” head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “Our special teams showed up tonight, and that was nice to see.”

Jeff Hazelwood’s eighth goal of the season just 1:06 into the second period proved to be the game-winner.

“It’s a big building block for our team,” center Chris Neiszner said. “We played 60 minutes tonight, and that’s what it takes in this league.”

Forward Jerry Pollastrone and center Adam Miller each followed with goals to give the Wranglers a three-goal cushion heading into the third period.

In his return from injury, goaltender Michael Ouzas stopped 32 of 34 shots for the victory in his first game since Feb. 6.

“It felt good to get back into the mix of things,” Ouzas said. “The boys played outstanding in front of me and they put me in good position to make the saves I needed to make.”

After the two teams skated to a 2-2 first period tie, the Wranglers took off from there, out-shooting, out-chancing and out-scoring the Thunder.

“We got a couple goals off the rush, and it just goes to show you that hitting the net is a big part of it,” Mougenel said.

The win inches Las Vegas closer to Stockton, which is four points ahead of the Wranglers in the Pacific Division standings.

The two teams face off two more times this weekend at the Orleans Arena — at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and at 2:05 p.m. Sunday.

Three stars: 1. Alex Bourret (goal, two assists); 2. Michael Ouzas (32 saves); 3. Mick Lawrence (two assists)

Roster report: Back from practicing with the Phoenix Coyotes is goaltender Joel Gistedt. The Wranglers goalie was practicing with Phoenix in light of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov competing with Russia in the Olympics. Mougenel said Jimmy Spratt, who won two games for the Wranglers, “is going to stick around.”

Let’s beat cancer: The Wranglers will team up with the Nevada Cancer Institute on Sunday to help promote the campaign to beat cancer.

Click to enlarge photo

Las Vegas Wranglers Chris Neiszner and Mike Madill spend Thursday at the Nevada Cancer Institute.

Last summer, the team lost former trainer Chris Testino to leukemia. Testino was the Wranglers’ trainer for their Kelly Cup Finals run during the 2006-07 season.

“I think it’s real important to let people know that we have a state-of-the-art cancer facility in our backyard,” Mougenel said. “Creating that awareness is so important, because so many of us are affected by cancer.”

On Thursday, Mougenel, captain Chris Neiszner and defenseman Mike Madill made a trip to the cancer institute to spend time with patients, doctors and nurses to show their support.

“Any time you can do something for the community, it’s fun,” Neiszner said. “Any time you can do something to contribute to beat cancer, it’s a bonus.”

Staff members of the cancer institute will be in attendance for Sunday’s game against Stockton and CEO Jay Ruckdeschel will be participating in a ceremonial dropping of the puck.

Final word: “Every game is a big game right now,” Ouzas said. “We need to win them all.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of the Nevada Cancer Institute’s chief executive officer.

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