Sunday, March 25, 2012 | 12:06 a.m.
For the second consecutive night, the Idaho Steelheads defeated the Las Vegas Wranglers 3-2 in an overtime shootout, sweeping the weekend series.
“I think the boys are real frustrated,” Wranglers forward Judd Blackwater said after the game. “Their goalie has been hot. We got a lot of shots on net, but we weren’t getting into the high percentage areas. They capitalized on our mistakes.”
After a scoreless first period, the Steelheads found the net on an Aaron Lewicki power-play goal from the left circle. Prior to the goal, Idaho had been held scoreless on its past 13 power-play chances.
The Wranglers tied the game just over two minutes later when forward Scott Campbell beat Idaho goaltender Jerry Kuhn on a penalty shot goal.
Campbell was awarded a penalty shot after he was dragged down by an Idaho defender on a breakaway opportunity.
Idaho responded with a Chad Nehring goal just over a minute after Las Vegas tied the game.
Nehring handled a pass from forward Ron Meyers in the slot and fired a shot by Las Vegas goaltender Mitch O’Keefe for his 15th goal of the season.
Las Vegas evened the score at the 4:04 mark of the third period when Adam Huxley blasted a Chris Francis centering pass into the back of the Steelheads’ net.
“Francis was awesome,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “He’s arguably my best player right now. He made a great play to find Huxley for the equalizer.”
After a scoreless five-minute overtime frame, Idaho jumped out to an early 1-0 advantage in the shootout on a Lewicki goal on the first shot of the shootout.
The Wranglers answered back with goals from Francis and Adam Miller to take a 2-1 lead after the third round of the shootout.
Las Vegas, however, surrendered the lead as it allowed goals to Marty Flichel in the fourth round and Nehring in the final round as the Steelheads escaped with a 3-2 win.
Stars of the game: 1. Chad Nehring (2 goals); 2. Jerry Kuhn (45 saves); 3. Chris Francis (1 goal, 1 assist).
Packed house: The official attendance of Saturday’s game was 6,989. The near sell-out crowd was one of the largest crowds at the Orleans Arena for a hockey game all season.
Next up: The Wranglers return to the ice Tuesday night as they host the Western Conference-leading Alaska Aces at 7:05 p.m. The matchup will conclude the season series between the two conference foes.
Final word: “The guys basically have three games to earn a roster spot for the playoffs,” Mougenel said. “We’ve got some pretty good players in the American League who will be coming back, so I’ve got some real tough decisions to make.”
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).