Fans were denied free tacos early Tuesday morning when the Wranglers failed to deliver on Shawn Limpright's guarantee of five goals. And Las Vegas was denied a win after it squandered a 4-1 second-period lead en route to a 5-4 shootout loss to the Phoenix RoadRunners.
But nothing could dampen the spirit of the 4,632 fans who attended the Wranglers' fifth annual Midnight Holiday Roundup at the Orleans Arena.
"The midnight game is a little flakier. A few of the people have been in the casino a little too long and maybe have had a few too many free drinks," said season-ticket holder Steve Struve, 60. "It's not anything bad. They're just a little louder and rowdier."
Wearing a Wranglers jersey over a full red Santa Claus suit, Robert Delgado double-fisted drinks as he rooted for his team and spread holiday cheer to everyone he met.
"It's going to be a long game, so Santa's got to be prepared," Delgado said as he carried a couple of cocktails back to his seat during the first intermission. "Santa has fun at every midnight game because the kids are sleeping, so Santa can relax a little."
Delgado, who works at Paris Las Vegas, took Tuesday off so he could attend the game.
"I enjoy coming to the games," he said. "People get involved and hoot and holler. It just picks me up and throws me against the wall. I love this stuff."
UNLV students Jacqueline Hicks and Amanda Geiger, attending their first Wranglers game, said the midnight start was perfect for them.
"We don't wake up until midnight," said Hicks, beer in hand. "If they had dollar beer night like at the baseball games, we would come to more.
"It's our first hockey game, and I wish people would be a little more belligerent. We want to see a fight."
Two local cocktail servers also were hoping for a fight as they waited in line for shots of Jack Daniels.
"The only disappointing thing is we have not seen a fight yet," Erin White said. "We want to see the blood fly."
White's friend, Dan Yates, who works at Wynn Las Vegas, said the midnight game "is pretty awesome."
" 'Monday Night Football' followed by hockey, you can't beat that," he said.
For the first time in three years, there was no entertainment provided off the ice at the midnight game, but the teams engaged in a close game.
The Wranglers (19-2-3), who fell to 2-1-2 in the midnight game, took a 4-1 lead over the RoadRunners (9-12-5) late in the second period before allowing three unanswered goals.
During a second-intermission interview shown on the arena's jumbotron, Limpright guaranteed the team would score another goal -- and thereby earn free tacos from Del Taco for the fans in a seasonlong promotion -- but the Wranglers were held scoreless the rest of the way.
"I was just kind of joking around and having fun with it," said Limpright, who was stopped by Phoenix goalie David McKee in the final round of the shootout. "We had our chances, we just couldn't keep it going. We slowed up and let them back in the game."
Las Vegas, 15-0-3 in its last 18 games, appeared to net the game winner in overtime when Aki Seitsonen scored from the slot, but the referee lost sight of the puck and blew an inadvertent whistle to nullify the goal.
"That's one play. We didn't deserve to win," Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We just thought, once we got out to the lead, it would be easy. We wanted to get through the game without getting any bumps and bruises, and that's what happened."
• NOTES -- Right wing Adam Cracknell was returned to the Wranglers from the American Hockey League's Quad City Flames. ... Las Vegas will play at 6:10 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday at Idaho, then return home Dec. 27 to face the Steelheads.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or (702) 383-0354.