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April 18, 2014

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Wranglers continue to struggle at home

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Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

A panoramic image of the Orleans Arena as the Wranglers hosted the Colorado Eagles on Saturday night before a crowd of 6,519.

Wranglers vs. Eagles: Jan. 19, 2013

Fans react as Cameron Cooper hits the ice face-first after being upended by Joey Sides during the third period of play on Saturday night at the Orleans Arena. Launch slideshow »

Sun coverage

Maybe the Wranglers should play their game away from the Orleans Arena for the time being.

The Wranglers are 8-11-0-1 at home, following a 4-2 loss to the Colorado Eagles on Saturday. The home record puts Las Vegas 22nd in the 23-team ECHL.

"It's frustrating to sit there and watch. I'm sure it's frustrating for a fan to sit there and watch," Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel said. "I apologize. It's not good losing at home."

The record in Las Vegas is a far cry from last season. The Wranglers went 24-7-0-5, which was the fourth best mark in the ECHL.

While losing at home is expected, captain Mike Madill hasn't experienced these types of home struggles in five seasons in Las Vegas.

"It hasn't happened this often that's for sure," he said. "We have to find a way to get better. It starts with me. Guys have to make plays and go tape to tape. They have to be ready to make your plays. It's everyone. We have to find a way to get it done."

Colorado's Joey Sides scored two goals to lead his team. His teammate Trent Daavettila scored once and had an assist. Isaac Smeltzer also had a goal for the Eagles (20-18-1-2).

Las Vegas' Charlie Cook and Scott Pitt each had two assists, while Geoff Paukovich scored a goal in the second period.

The Wranglers made things interesting at the end. With less than a minute to play, Andrew Sarauer scored a power-play goal to bring the Wranglers within one (3-2).

Las Vegas pulled goalie Joe Fallon to add an extra attacker, but it was unable to control the puck, allowing Sides to bang home his second goal of the night into the empty net.

The sting of losing has Mougenel once again talking about the potential of making roster moves.

"We're not very good right now," Mougenel said. "I have to reexamine. I have guys who I thought could contribute in a certain way. It's going to suck, because it's going to be kids I love and have been with me.

"Not that the culture has to change, but the personnel has to change."

As the team nears the ECHL All-Star break, the Wranglers can take solace in a few positives. Entering Monday's game against the West-leading Alaska Aces, the Wranglers have earned 38 points — one for each game they played.

Another positive is the team's defense, which remains one of the league's best, ranking in the ECHL's top 10. The Wranglers are also fourth in the league in penalty kill.

"We definitely have the talent to do damage in the playoffs," Madill said. "There is a lot of stuff we have to work on."

Three Stars: 1. Trent Daavettila, Colorado (1 goal, 1 assist); 2a. Charlie Cook, Las Vegas (2 assists); 2b. Scott Pitt (2 assists).

Up Next: The Wranglers have Sunday off before returning to the ice Monday for a afternoon game against the Alaska Aces. It will be the Wranglers last game before the ECHL All-Star break.

Final Word: "It's not good at all, but the good news was that our power play was brutal last year and we made it to the finals," — Las Vegas Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel on power-play woes.

Paul Delos Santos can be reached at 990-2416 or [email protected]. Follow Paul on Twitter at twitter.com/pauliedelos.

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