After squandering an excellent chance to eliminate Stockton in Game 6, the Wranglers had virtually no chance in Game 7 on Sunday in Stockton, Calif.
Las Vegas fell behind 3-0 in the first period at Stockton Arena and suffered a 6-4 loss to the Thunder, who advanced to the ECHL Western Conference semifinals against top-seeded Alaska.
The Wranglers, who reached the Kelly Cup Finals last season, were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in four years.
“I didn’t feel any better after losing the Finals than I do right now,” coach Ryan Mougenel said. “It’s tough to lose the way we did.”
Las Vegas dominated for most of the series, trailing for only 3:20 combined in the first six games. But the Wranglers, who blew a 3-0 third-period lead in Game 6 on Friday, never got ahead Sunday.
“I’d say we’re two evenly matched teams,” Mougenel said. “They were the better team in Game 7, for sure.”
The home team won every game.
“I felt really good going into the playoffs. We just fell short,” Mougenel said. “It’s going to be a long summer. That’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Ryan Constant and Ryan Hayes — who had a hat trick — scored 29 seconds apart midway through the first period for Stockton, which scored first for the first time in the series.
The goals came shortly after a Wranglers goal by Scott Pitt was disallowed because of goaltender interference. Mougenel said that turnaround was the difference.
“I don’t understand it, because if it’s goaltender interference, there should’ve been a penalty,” he said. “That being said, we didn’t respond. We gave up too much.”
Matt Bergland made it 3-0 with 1:42 left in the first.
Andrew Sarauer, who had two goals and two assists, got Las Vegas on the board with five seconds left in the period and added another goal 38 seconds into the second to make it a 3-2 game. But that’s as close as the Wranglers got.
Stockton went ahead 4-2 on Shawn Boutin’s blast through traffic with 5:21 left in the second, and Hayes beat Joe Fallon less than two minutes later and again at 59 seconds of the third for a 6-2 lead.
Defensemen Channing Boe and Matt Campanale scored 41 seconds apart late in the game, but Olivier Roy (26 saves) held off the Wranglers thereafter.
Stockton outshot the Wranglers 33-18 in the first two periods after outshooting them 50-21 in Game 6.
“We were bad all game,” Mougenel said of Friday’s meltdown. “We had defensive lapses, which we hadn’t had all year.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.