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September 22, 2014

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Las Vegas, the home of championship hockey? Wranglers out to make it happen

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Stephen R. Sylvanie

Alaska winger Scott Howes keeps the puck away from Wranglers defenseman Channing Boe during game one of the ECHL Western Conference Finals in April. The Wranglers will be vying for their first Kelly Cup Monday, May 14, 2012, as they meet the Eastern Conference champion Florida Everblades.

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They started their season playing what was touted as “The Last Hockey Game on Earth,” a tongue-in-cheek promotion spoofing a Christian broadcaster’s prediction of the apocalypse.

Seven months later, the Las Vegas Wranglers are still competing, with one series left in their bid to be the last hockey team left standing in the ECHL.

The Wranglers will be vying for their first Kelly Cup as they meet the Eastern Conference champion Florida Everblades at 7:05 p.m. Monday at the Orleans Arena. For Wranglers president Billy Johnson, whose gonzo marketing approach led not only to this year’s “Rapture Night” opener but promotions lampooning Dick Cheney and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the possibility of bringing the cup to Las Vegas is a serious matter.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “The only thing we have ever strived for is to add to our community in some way that’s meaningful.

“As you know with our history, we have always put that in the entertainment fabric of what we do. Something that people can laugh at and show some personality. But the ultimate goal has always been to win a championship. A championship would be a nice contribution to the community.”

Las Vegas advanced to the championship round with a 4-1 series victory over the reigning league champion Alaska Aces in the Western Conference Finals.

After dropping Game 1 at home, the Wranglers won four consecutive games -- including three in Anchorage -- to capture their second Bruce Taylor Trophy.

The Everblades advanced to the Kelly Cup championship with a 4-1 series win over the defending Eastern Conference champion Kalamazoo Wings.

Florida scored 21 goals in the conference championship series, an average of more than four goals a game. The Everblades are led on offense by center Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll and forward Brayden Irwin, who have combined to score 28 points in the playoffs.

“They’re a very offensive team that wants to make it a type of track meet,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “We have to do a good job managing the puck. I think that will be one of the biggest keys. We also have to make good decisions in the offensive end and embrace our team speed.”

Wranglers forwards Eric Lampe and Adam Miller, known as two of the fastest skaters in the league, will look to utilize their speed to the team’s advantage. Lampe is tied with Lalonde-McNicoll for most league playoff points with 16, while Adam Miller is tied for third with 13.

At Wednesday’s media day, Lampe acknowledged the team was feeling confident after beating Alaska but was mindful that the squad’s ultimate goal lies ahead.

“Our confidence is high right now but we have to keep it even keel,” he said. “We’ve got one more series to go. We beat the defending champions and that meant a lot to us winning the Western Conferences Finals. But the main goal all season has been to bring the Kelly Cup here.”

Last week, the Clark County Commission did its part to boost the team by announcing it would recognize the Wranglers at its meeting Tuesday. The commission also will designate May 15 as “Las Vegas Wranglers Day.”

“We’re excited that our fans are behind us and the city is behind us,” Miller said. “It’s nice to see billboards about our team around the city. We hope everyone comes out and supports us as we attempt to bring a championship home to Vegas.”

The team will receive a proclamation for providing family-friendly and affordable entertainment to residents and visitors, and for the team’s ongoing community service efforts near the start of the Commission’s 9:15 a.m. meeting, which is held in Commission Chambers at the County Government Center, located at 500 S. Grand Center Parkway.

The Wranglers have provided nearly $400,000 in charitable contributions to the community during the 2011-2012 season.

Playoff tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through the Wranglers front office at 702- 471-PUCK. Fans can lock in their seats by purchasing playoff strip tickets starting at $18 per game, and tickets for kids ages 12 and under are $8. Individual Wranglers playoff tickets are available by phone at 702-284-7777, and can be purchased in person at all Coast Casino properties, Town Square shopping center or www.orleansarena.com.

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