January 17, 2012 - 2:02 am
Sidelined for eight weeks with a high ankle sprain, defenseman Jeff May returned to the Wranglers lineup Monday afternoon without missing a beat.
May had two goals and an assist to help Las Vegas to a 5-1 ECHL victory over the Colorado Eagles before a crowd of 3,397 in a Martin Luther King Day matinee at Orleans Arena.
“Getting Jeff May back was a huge boost. We’ve been playing short on the back end,” coach Ryan Mougenel said. “He looked awesome (today). He’s physical, he’s mean, he’s got an offensive upside, and he moves the puck extremely well.
“It’s definitely a bonus having him here, because every American (Hockey) League team’s looking for a kid like him.”
May was one of five players with multiple points for the Wranglers (24-11-4, 52 points), who have won 11 of their last 12 at home, including five straight, to improve to 16-3-2 on home ice.
Eric Lampe had a goal and two assists, Adam Miller had a goal and an assist, Josh Lunden had three assists, and Ned Lukacevic had two assists for Las Vegas, which fell behind early before scoring five consecutive goals, three in the third period.
Jason Beatty buried a rebound on the power play at 9:11 of the first period for the Eagles (21-13-4, 46), but May tied it on a power play less than two minutes later on a blue-line shot through traffic that beat Kyle Jones (25 saves).
About five minutes later, May assisted on a power-play goal by Chris Francis that put the Wranglers ahead for good.
The 24-year-old May, a former fifth-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings, made it 3-1 early in the third on a one-timer from the left circle.
Joe Fallon (19-6-4), who stopped 32 of 33 shots by Colorado, the league’s highest-scoring team, praised May’s play.
“He can shoot the puck, he can move it up the ice, he has a pretty good presence out there, he can hit. He can do it all,” he said. “He’s a real good player, and we’re glad to have him back.”
The 6-foot-1-inch, 186-pound May, who has extensive AHL experience, said waiting for his left ankle to heal was a frustrating process.
“Skating, you tweak it every day,” he said. “We were cautious with it and took it slow. It felt awesome (today). Hopefully I can keep going.”
Lampe and Miller continue to pile up points at a rapid rate for the Wranglers. Lampe’s goal in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Ontario (Calif.) has since been credited to forward Pete MacArthur, but Lampe still leads the ECHL in goals with 28 and is second in points (48).
Miller is tied for third in the league with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists).
Colorado’s Chad Costello, who had an assist, leads the league with 55 points (20 goals, 35 assists).
Several players were ejected with 25 seconds remaining, when Beatty and Liam Huculak each lunged at players on the Las Vegas bench. Each received a minor penalty for roughing and a major for inciting, while Lukacevic was penalized for slashing and inciting.
“I like how our team came together through it,” Mougenel said. “I like how our guys stick up for each other.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.LAS VEGAS 5
■ KEY: Jeff May had two goals and an assist, and Joe Fallon made 32 saves for the Wranglers, who scored three third-period goals.
■ NEXT: Wranglers at Stockton Thunder, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Stockton Arena