“Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?”
The Wranglers might not know the answer to that question posed by the classic jazz song, but they soon will know what it means to miss the Orleans Arena.
Las Vegas played its final game at the 7,773-seat venue that has been its ECHL home for the past 11 seasons Friday night in a 3-2 loss to the Alaska Aces before a crowd of 2,543.
The Wranglers were swept out of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs in four games by Alaska, which dominated their Western Conference quarterfinal series, outscoring Las Vegas 16-5 and holding a 153-80 edge in shots.
Drubbed 5-1 at home Wednesday in a Game 3 effort coach Mike Madill called “embarrassing,” the Wranglers showed some fight in Game 4.
They erased a 2-0 first-period deficit before allowing a decisive power-play goal to Peter Sivak with 24 seconds left in the second.
“We came out a little bit slow in the first, but we responded really well in the second and third and gave ourselves a chance,” Madill said. “It’s frustrating, but that’s how it goes in pro sports. Alaska’s a great team.”
Boyd Gaming, which owns the Orleans Arena, chose not to renew the Wranglers’ lease after this season. The team plans to play inside a tentlike structure situated on a ground-level parking lot at the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas next season.
Madill, a former team captain and defenseman, played five seasons for the Wranglers, helping them to the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals in 2008 and 2012.
“I love it,” he said of the Orleans Arena. “Half the reason I came back my second year was because I love the rink so much. It’s a sad night. But we march on, and we make the best of the next step that’s ahead of us.”
Sivak scored the series clincher off a feed from Nick Mazzolini, beating rookie goalie Travis Fullerton (35 saves) from point-blank range. Alaska went 5-for-14 on the power play in the series.
Sivak, who opened the scoring at 8:14, had five goals and three assists in the series for the top-seeded Aces, and Mazzolini had two goals and eight assists.
Eighth-seeded Las Vegas tied it with two goals within 2:04 in the second, when Carlo Finucci beat Olivier Roy (21 saves) at 13:59 and Chris Francis scored at 16:03.
“I thought we played really well tonight,” Francis said. “They’re a great team. We can’t take anything away from them.”
Finucci scored on a blast from the slot off assists from DelGrosso and Brendan Rempel, while Francis buried a doorstep feed from John Armstrong. Charlie Cook also assisted on the play.
The Wranglers couldn’t capitalize on a man advantage with 3:15 left to play, finishing 0-for-4 on the power play and 1-for-13 in the series.
The Aces took a 2-0 lead in the first, when Sivak scored on a deflection at 8:14 and Zach McKelvie buried a backhander in the slot at 12:49. John Ramage assisted on both goals, firing a shot from the blue line that Sivak redirected past Fullerton, who turned away 35 of 38 shots and made 138 saves in the series.
Las Vegas was eliminated from the ECHL playoffs in the first round for the second straight season and fourth time in five years. During their tenure at the Orleans, the Wranglers qualified for the playoffs 10 times, advancing to the finals in 2008 under coach Glen Gulutzan and in 2012 under coach Ryan Mougenel.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.