Lack of offense leaves Wranglers at loss

After scoring four goals in their season-opening win over Bakersfield, the Wranglers had reason for optimism.

But after netting only five goals in four games since then — and going 3-for-32 on the power play this season — Las Vegas has cause for concern.

The Wranglers were shut out for the first time this season Friday, losing 3-0 to the Alaska Aces in front of a crowd of 3,873 at the Orleans Arena.

Alaska goalie Gerald Coleman (4-1) stopped all 31 shots he faced to send Las Vegas (2-3) to its second straight defeat and third in four games.

The highlight of the night for the Wranglers, who went 0-for-6 with the man advantage, took place when 5-foot-7-inch forward Blake Gallagher — the smallest player on Las Vegas’ roster — won his brawl against 5-11 Aces forward Zach Harrison early in the second period.

“I still love this team,” Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said. “I’m just disappointed. We had a good crowd tonight, but other than the fight, I don’t know if there was much to cheer about.”

Harrison helped set up the decisive goal for perennial ECHL power Alaska (4-1), firing a blast from the right point that Chris Langkow deflected into the top corner of the net, just under the crossbar, 2:53 into the second period.

The puck sailed over the right shoulder of Las Vegas goalie Michael Ouzas (2-1), who stopped 27 of 30 shots en route to his first loss of the season.

The Aces made it 2-0 when defenseman Chad Anderson scored on a two-handed backhander in front of the net with 2:28 left in the second period before plowing into Ouzas and getting penalized for goaltender interference.

But the Wranglers again failed to capitalize on the power play and were left searching for remedies for their suddenly anemic offense.

“We’re just on our own page. No one sticks to the game plan. We’re doing our own thing out there,” said Las Vegas right wing Ned Lukacevic, who has two points in four games this season after scoring 65 in 61 last season. “We’ve got to stick to our game plan. We’re not the Red Army. We’ve got to play hard-nosed, 1-2-3, A-B-C hockey.

“We do it for half the time, and the other half we’re on our own page.”

Alaska capped the scoring on its first shot of the third period, when Jerad Stewart scored on a backhanded blast from the left circle at the 40-second mark.

“We’re getting the chances, which is a positive,” said Wranglers left wing Ryan Huddy, who has four of the team’s nine goals. “We’ll find the back of the net, and hopefully it will come sooner than later.”

■ NOTES — Wranglers center Geoff Paukovich remains on the 21-day injured reserve with a broken foot, but right wing Vince Bellissimo (seven-day IR) and defenseman Kevin Schaeffer (three-day IR) are expected to make their season debuts Friday at home against the Utah Grizzlies. Also, center Tyler Mosienko is expected to return from the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage for Friday’s game.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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