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July 31, 2014

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Welcome back: After more than a month, Wranglers hockey has a home game

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Stephen R. Sylvanie

Wranglers defenseman Jeff May (11) skates along the Las Vegas bench in celebration after scoring a goal against the Fort Wayne Komets at the Orleans Arena on Saturday night.

When the Las Vegas Wranglers department heads met Monday for their weekly meeting, a face that had been missing from the past few weeks reappeared.

Wranglers road trip by the numbers

8,143

The number of miles the Las Vegas Wranglers traveled

36

The number of road games the Wranglers play in the regular season. After January’s seven-game road trip, the Wranglers will have completed 61 percent of their road games

10

The amount of games the Wranglers play at home consecutively in February

624

The number of hours that have passed since the Wranglers last played in the Orleans Arena

24

The number of goals the Wranglers scored during their nine-game road trip

2

The number of games the Wranglers have at home before traveling back to Loveland, Colo., for a three-game set

4

The number of teams that have played more road games than the Wranglers in the ECHL

Coach Mike Madill had missed a few meetings because his team was on the road for most of November.

The time away is coming to an end. The Wranglers return to the ice at 7 p.m. tonight when they host the Bakersfield Condors at the Orleans Arena.

“It was like another offseason,” Wranglers President Billy Johnson said. “Mike had this look on his face that said, ‘It’s good to see everyone.’”

The Wranglers last played at home Nov. 3 against Fort Wayne, and have been absent from the Orleans Arena to make room for a variety of events such as college basketball tournaments.

The time away began Nov. 9 in Bakersfield, Calif., and ended Nov. 29 in Boise, Idaho. The trip included stops in Anchorage, Alaska, and Loveland, Colo., and spanned more than 8,000 miles.

They played nine games — roughly one every other day — and went 3-5-1.

“Nobody has a private jet, so that’s how it goes,” Madill said. “Guys have to get used to it. That’s part of the league.”

Because of the schedule, the Wranglers missed spending Thanksgiving with their families — and found it tough to find a good holiday meal.

“Nothing was open,” defenseman Charlie Cook said of spending the holiday in Boise. “So we were forced to eat lunch at a gas station, and we called home and listened to our families say how much food was on the table.”

Their Thanksgiving dinner was the previous night, which proved to be one of the highlights of the road trip. On a team with some new players, it gave them a chance to bond — just like those long bus rides and hotel stays away from home.

“When you’re forced in a situation like that, you’re forced to come together,” said Cook, who said the trip was the longest of his playing career. “Things are starting to get in the right direction.”

With the Orleans Arena having limited open dates in November and January — they are on the road for another three-week stretch — the ECHL had to be creative when forming the Wranglers’ schedule.

“The league had to great creative,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, it’s difficult to not have any ticket sales for 30 days.”

Like the players, Johnson found a silver lining, but even that provided little solace to having the team away for an extended period.

“We got a little more time for our concerts and to sell some groups,” Johnson said. “All things equal, I'd rather have a steady cash flow.”

But even tonight’s game is only a temporary reprieve from the road.

The Wranglers travel to Bakersfield for a quick day-trip before returning for another game at home Sunday against San Francisco.

After Sunday, the Wranglers are back on the road, playing three games in Loveland before getting back to the Orleans for seven of their next eight.

Another three-week road trip awaits the team in January, before hosting 10 consecutive home games in February.

“It seems like our schedule goes: away for a month, home for a month, away for a month, home for a month,” Cook said.

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