Thursday, May 3, 2012 | 10:48 a.m.
The Las Vegas Wranglers, who have treated Vegas to such gonzo promotions as “Dick Cheney Hunting Vest Night” and “Rod Blagojevich Prison Uniform Night” to draw attention in an entertainment-drenched environment, are now hoping to make a splash by bringing something else to the Nevada desert for the first time.
That would be a league championship.
Four years after falling in their only Kelly Cup Finals appearance, the Wranglers earned their second berth in the championship series Wednesday with a comeback victory in Anchorage.
Las Vegas overcame an early goal deficit to defeat the Alaska Aces, 3-1, in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals best-of-seven series.
With their fourth consecutive victory against the Aces, the defending ECHL champion, the Wranglers captured their second Bruce Taylor Trophy as Western Conference champions.
After Alaska’s Dan Kissel scored a power-play goal just over five minutes into regulation, the Wranglers tied the game with an Eric Lampe power-play goal at the 14:28 mark of the first period. It was Lampe’s sixth goal of the postseason.
Las Vegas center Judd Blackwater scored the eventual game-winning goal with 1:38 left in the opening period. Blackwater was assisted by Lampe and Adam Miller on the score.
After a scoreless second period, Las Vegas’ Josh Lunden clinched the series with a shorthanded empty-net goal in the waning seconds of regulation facing an Alaska two man advantage.
Wranglers goaltender Joe Fallon, who allowed only seven goals in the conference finals, collected 17 saves to improve his record to 6-1 in the playoffs.
After eliminating the Aces on their home ice — and notching their third straight win at Sullivan Arena — the Wranglers advanced to the finals for the first time since falling to Cincinnati in six games in the 2008 Kelly Cup championships.
The Wranglers will face the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Florida Everblades and Kalamazoo Wings in the Kelly Cup Finals.
The Everblades hold a 2-1 series lead over the reigning Eastern Conference champion Wings, with Game 4 of the conference finals to be played Thursday night in Florida.
Kalamazoo lost in five games to Alaska in last year’s Kelly Cup championship.
Stars of the game: 1. Eric Lampe (1 goal, 1 assist); 2. Judd Blackwater (1 goal, 1 assist); 3. Joe Fallon (17 saves).