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August 22, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Wranglers back on track after exceptional defensive performance

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Stephen Sylvanie

Wranglers team captain Mike Madill knocks Colin Vock off his skates while killing a Grizzlies power play during the second period of play on Saturday night at the Orleans Arena.

Las Vegas Wranglers vs. Utah, Feb. 18, 2012

In a rare home start, Las Vegas goaltender Mitch O'Keefe rips a slapshot out of the air with is glove during the second period of play on Saturday night. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas forward Josh Lunden scored two power-play goals and goaltender Mitch O’Keefe collected 25 saves as the Wranglers snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday with a 2-1 victory against Utah at the Orleans Arena.

“It’s a huge win. It’s something we needed,” Lunden said. “We haven’t been getting the bounces lately, but things will start to turn our way as long as we stay persistent. Tonight was huge. We needed these two points to continue gaining on Alaska and to stay away from Ontario.”

Lunden scored the opening goal of the game at the 1:49 mark of the first period after Utah’s Kory Falite picked up a slashing penalty 42 seconds into play to give Las Vegas a man advantage.

Lunden picked up his second power-play goal of the game midway through the second period as he secured the puck near the slot and blasted it by Utah goaltender Andrew Engelage for his 19th goal of the season. Adam Miller and Jeff May were credited with assists on the goal.

“It was a broken play,” Miller said. “I gave the puck to Lundy and the goaltender got screened. Lundy shot it and the goaltender didn’t have a chance.”

Utah cut its deficit in half with 3:09 left in regulation when Falite scored on an unassisted backhanded wrist shot from the slot for the Grizzlies' lone goal of the game.

The Grizzlies had a couple good scoring opportunities in the final minutes of play but were unable to cash any of them in for the game-tying goal.

Utah had a shot fire off the left post with 2:25 to play and O’Keefe came up with a key pad save with just seconds remaining to secure the win for the Wranglers.

“The guy’s been a great teammate all year,” Miller said of O’Keefe. “He’s had some injuries. He’s been our No. 1 supporter and fan when he was out. It’s great to get him a win. He played solid for us. It’s great to have a one-two punch like that.”

The Grizzlies outshot the Wranglers 12-4 in the final period but were unable to overcome the two-goal deficit.

Stars of the game: 1. Josh Lunden (2 goals); 2. Mitch O’Keefe (25 saves); 3. Adam Miller (2 assists).

Fallon rests: Goaltender Joe Fallon received a rare night off for the Wranglers. Fallon leads the ECHL in minutes (2,489), games played (43) and wins (26). O’Keefe recorded his fourth win of the season in Fallon’s place.

Penalty killers: The Wranglers killed all four of the Grizzlies' power play chances, including a stretch late in the second period when Utah had a 5-on-3 advantage for almost two minutes.

Next up: The Wranglers and Grizzlies finish the three-game series Sunday night during the Wranglers' Midnight Circus featuring contortionists, magicians, stilt walkers and more. The puck is scheduled to drop at 11:59 p.m. for the second time this season at the Orleans Arena.

Final word: “That says a lot about your team when you kill a 5-on-3 for a solid two minutes,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “Guys were in lanes blocking shots. That’s not an easy thing to do. The penalty kill was on tonight. The best penalty kill is usually your goalie and Mitch was awesome.”

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