Wranglers down 2-0 to Alaska after 3-1 loss

For the second straight game, the Wranglers scored late in the first period to quiet the constant clanging of cowbells at Alaska’s Sullivan Arena.

And for the second straight game, the Aces answered with a pair of quick strikes to take control.

Alaska scored two power-play goals in the final 2:08 of the first period to take a 2-1 lead and held on for a 3-1 victory over Las Vegas on Saturday night before a crowd of 4,239 in Anchorage.

“We just had a few miscommunications on the penalty kill, and it cost us,” Wranglers coach Mike Madill said. “We took a couple penalties tonight we might not have needed to take. But we played really well.”

The eighth-seeded Wranglers, who lost 5-1 in Friday’s Game 1, trail the top-seeded Aces 2-0 in the best-of-7 ECHL Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series.

Games 3 and 4 are scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Wednesday and Friday at Orleans Arena, with Game 5, if necessary, slated for Saturday.

“We’re right there. We’re excited to get home and get going,” Madill said. “We took a big step in the right direction from the first night.”

Shawn Skelly, who was cut by Alaska this season in his second stint with the team and didn’t play in Game 1, beat Olivier Roy (18 saves) at 14:13 to break a scoreless tie and give Las Vegas its first lead of the series. Chad Nehring assisted on the score.

Aces defenseman Drew MacKenzie tied it 1-1 at 17:52 off a backdoor feed from Nick Mazzolini (three assists), after Wranglers defenseman Charlie Cook was whistled for holding.

Alaska defenseman John Ramage beat Travis Fullerton (34 saves) with a blast from the point with 24 seconds left in the first after Las Vegas forward Adam Huxley was penalized for slashing.

The Wranglers stayed out of the penalty box in a scoreless second period before killing two penalties in the third, when they couldn’t capitalize on a man advantage.

Ramage scored his second goal of the game into an empty net with two seconds left for Alaska, which held a wide edge in shots (37-19) for the second straight game.

“Fullerton played incredible again,” Madill said of his rookie goalie. “We had a lot of good chances tonight, but we’ve got to score. Our penalty kill stepped up big in the third, but our skill guys have got to score a goal.

“We’re very, very close. We know we can win games against these guys.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.