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Alaska leaves Wranglers flummoxed after sweep

So much for the Wranglers’ strong start.

After winning their first two games of the coach Mike Madill era over Utah, Las Vegas was steamrolled by perennial ECHL power Alaska, which swept a three-game weekend series from the Wranglers at Orleans Arena.

Las Vegas (2-3-0), which lost 3-0 to the Aces (4-1-0) on Sunday afternoon in its first shutout loss, was outscored 13-4 in the series while getting outshot 134 to 48.

“We just got hesistant out there,” defenseman Jeff May said. “We gave them too much credit. They’re a very good team, but we were giving them too much room, and it hurt us.”

Alaska took a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Nick Mazzolini (4:12 on the power play) and Tim Coffman (13:22). Jordan Kremyr added a goal in the third period off Mitch O’Keefe, who made 40 saves in the loss.

Joni Ortio stopped all 18 shots he faced for the Aces.

“We ran up against probably the best team in the league, and now we have a measuring stick to reach for going forward,” said Wranglers forward Geoff Paukovich, who was at a loss to explain the disparity in shots as Alaska held an advantage of nearly 30 per game.

“I’ve been trying to think for three days to come up with a good answer,” he said. “That’s the way they play. They love to shoot from everywhere, and they funnel pucks to the net. That’s something we need to learn how to do.

“We’re trying to make too many plays. We’ve got to start minimizing the turnovers and make them play 200 feet.”

Madill, who helped lead Las Vegas to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2008 and 2012, also tried to take positives from the sweep.

“It’s a quick lesson for the guys, because Alaska’s always one of the best teams in the league, so you get a chance early to see the competition you’re going to have in the playoffs,” he said. “We’re supposed to be a similar style, but all of our guys that are good at certain things weren’t good at those things in these three games.”

The first-year coach and general manager said some of his players may have been a bit overconfident after starting 2-0.

“Some guys do well the first couple games and think it’s going to be easy, but it’s not,” he said. “Every game’s a dogfight.”

For the third time in four home games, a Wranglers player dropped his gloves in the opening seconds, as forward Alex Mentink fought Alaska defenseman Dustin Molle at the four-second mark.

Las Vegas tough guy Adam Huxley was penalized for boarding at 3:28, which led to Mazzolini’s power-play goal.

The Wranglers, who went 0-for-5 with the man advantage, will try to get back on track Tuesday at home against the Florida Everblades.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys learning a new system,” May said. “We can use that as an excuse, but we’ve got to figure it out sooner or later.

“We have the talent. We just have to go and execute.”

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

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