Facing elimination in the first two rounds of the playoffs brought out the best in the Wranglers, who rolled to Game 7 wins over Bakersfield and Stockton.
But facing elimination against Alaska on Thursday night brought out the worst in Las Vegas.
The Wranglers mailed in an uninspired effort in a 5-1 loss to the Aces in front of an announced crowd of 3,723 at the Orleans Arena.
"We weren't in this hockey game mentally for whatever reason, myself included," Las Vegas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We should've been better prepared to play."
Alaska took a 2-0 lead in the first period and finished off a 4-0 sweep in the ECHL National Conference finals.
"It's a little embarrassing getting swept, especially when you feel you can play with those guys," said Wranglers right wing J.D. Watt, who drew a game misconduct for fighting early in the third period. "There were times when the series could've went either way, but what it all came down to is they were the better team."
The Aces (12-2), who advanced to their second Kelly Cup Finals in four years, outscored the Wranglers (8-10) 14-3 in the series and held Las Vegas scoreless on 22 power plays.
Alaska essentially put Game 4 away early, scoring two goals in a 2:26 span late in the first period to take a 2-0 lead and adding another 35 seconds into the second.
"We got down a couple early, and it hurt us. We couldn't get back into it after that," said Wranglers goalie Glenn Fisher, who allowed five goals on 30 shots. "We believed in ourselves going out there, but we weren't as prepared as we wanted to be."
Lance Galbraith scored on a wraparound shot with 4:59 left in the first to give Alaska a 1-0 edge and Matt Stefanishion made it 2-0 with 2:33 left in the first, blasting a one-timer from the top of the left circle on the power play.
"Down 2-0 in basically a Game 7 for us, that's a big hole to come out of, especially against these guys," Las Vegas center Tyler Mosienko said. "They played good. They kept pucks out of their net, and that's how you win championships."
Colin Hemingway scored 35 seconds into the second period to give the Aces a 3-0 lead.
Luke Erickson netted a power-play goal midway through the second to extend Alaska's advantage to 4-0. The Aces went 3-for-9 on the power play, and the Wranglers finished 0-for-4.
Las Vegas, which was swept in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, avoided a shutout when Mike Hamilton scored a shorthanded goal 3:54 into the third period to make it 4-1.
Fighting was about the only thing the Wranglers did better than Alaska on Thursday.
Las Vegas defenseman Steve Makway brawled with Galbraith late in the second period, and Watt traded punches with Aces left wing Thomas Kana early in the third.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.