Shortly after losing to Cincinnati in last season’s ECHL Kelly Cup Finals, high-scoring Wranglers Tyler Mosienko and the Ferraro brothers — twins Peter and Chris — talked about taking care of some "unfinished business" this year.
True to their word, the talented trio is expected to return to lead Las Vegas in the 2008-09 season.
Mosienko, who scored 79 points in the regular season and playoffs, was the first player to re-sign with the Wranglers, who currently have 10 other players under contract: forwards Adam Miller, Brandon Kaleniecki and Matt Beaudoin, defensemen Jason Dest, Mike Madill, Gerard Miller, Bret Tyler, Brandon Straub and Jim Jorgensen, and goaltender John DeCaro.
The 35-year-old Ferraros have agreed to terms, but aren’t expected to sign their contracts until they return to Las Vegas from their native New York in a week or so.
Players must report for physicals on Oct. 2, training camp starts Oct. 3 and the Wranglers are scheduled to host Bakersfield at the Orleans Arena on Oct. 9 in their lone home preseason game.
"I am excited to get back on the ice with the boys. We’re really looking forward to it," said Peter Ferraro, who led Las Vegas with a franchise-record 36 goals and 73 points in the regular season and scored 21 points in the playoffs.
"We love Las Vegas. The attention we get from the local community and fans there was a lot better than we ever expected."
Chris Ferraro finished fourth on the Wranglers with 51 points despite playing in just 46 games because of a severe concussion incurred in a March 1 game at Victoria. But he said he’s feeling much better now.
"I’m doing good," he said Monday. "There are still some residual symptoms that may stay with me forever … but things have cleared up a little bit.
"I’m going into training camp like any other player and I’ll play hard like I always do."
Although the Wranglers return several standouts from their first National Conference title team, including Adam Miller — who scored 16 points in the playoffs after joining Las Vegas late in the season from Ferris State — they lost many more to the American Hockey League, Europe and elsewhere.
Players not expected to return include forward Ryan Donally, who signed a two-year deal with the NHL’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks; goalie Daniel Manzato, under contract with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes; defenseman Aaron Power, who is playing in Germany; forward Bruce Mulherin (Great Britain); defenseman Jason Krischuk, who has returned to college; and defenseman Gerry Burke, who has reportedly retired.
Players who could return but are expected to contend for roster spots in the AHL include forwards Kelly Czuy (Springfield), Curtis Fraser (Peoria), Adam Cracknell (Quad City) and Aki Seitsonen (Quad City); defensemen Jason Jozsa (Grand Rapids) and Tyson Strachan (Peoria); and goalie Kevin Lalande (Quad City).
Veteran forward Shawn Limpright (shoulder surgery) could return to the team, but is expected to be out until at least late October.
"There’s been quite a bit of turnover," Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan said. "It’s always tough, but that’s kind of the way the ECHL is. Everybody loses quite a few guys and starts over."
Fortunately for the Wranglers, Gulutzan, a former ECHL Coach of the Year, decided to return for his sixth season after rejecting an offer to become an assistant coach in the AHL.
Assistant coach Brent Bilodeau accepted a head coaching job with the Central Hockey League’s Wichita Thunder and will be replaced by former Wranglers defenseman Mike McBain.
A couple of newcomers expected to make an impact are Beaudoin and DeCaro.
Beaudoin, who the Wranglers traded early last season to Dayton, exploded for 38 goals and 68 points in 61 games and led the league with 16 power-play goals.
DeCaro was named Goalie of the Year the last two years in the CHL, where he set league records last season with 11 shutouts, a 1.63 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
The Wranglers open the regular season Oct. 17 at Alaska, with their home opener scheduled for Oct. 23 against the Ontario (Calif.) Reign.
While "unfinished business" will be the rallying cry for many returning players, Gulutzan isn’t looking that far ahead.
"For me, it’s just about getting off to a good start and establishing our identity as a hockey club," he said. "We’ve got to make the playoffs first, that’s always the goal."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.