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Midnight game buoys Wranglers

Maybe the Wranglers should play all their home games at midnight.

The seventh annual “Midnight Holiday Roundup” game Tuesday at the Orleans Arena produced a larger-than-average crowd of 4,603. More important, it resulted in Las Vegas’ third straight victory, 3-1 over Idaho.

The odd-hour promotion tries to capitalize on Las Vegas being a 24-hour town.

For Wranglers president Billy Johnson, who came up with the idea, this is nothing new. It remains a staple of the team’s promotional efforts.

But first-year coach Ryan Mougenel probably hadn’t been to the rink this late — or is it this early? — since he was a kid growing up in Toronto. But he loved every facet of the midnight game.

“I feel surprisingly good,” Mougenel said Wednesday. “I guess winning helps. But (Tuesday), it didn’t feel any different. We had a 3 p.m. skate, and it seemed normal.”

Mougenel said he was concerned that his team would not be ready to play. But they put his fears to rest.

“Hockey players, like all athletes, are such creatures of habit,” he said. “But our guys were ready to go at first jump, and the fans were really into it. I could tell it was a little different crowd than what we normally get.”

The Wranglers continue to be in a makeshift mode with right winger Ryan Weston being called up to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. That makes seven Wranglers players on AHL rosters.

“When you have a young team, that can be tough,” Mougenel said of the constant transition of the roster. “But we’ve been playing real well of late. We’re a little more systematic, and we’ve been trusting each other. We’ve been more physical, which we need to be if we’re going to be successful, and our goaltending has been solid of late. (Michael) Ouzas gave us a quality start (Tuesday). He’s controlling his rebounds and playing the puck smartly.”

It’s back to normal for the Wranglers, who open the 2010 portion of their ECHL schedule at 7:05 p.m. Saturday against Utah in the first of a back-to-back series at the Orleans. If it were up to Mougenel, he’d play the Grizzlies at midnight.

“I’m petitioning the league to see if we can play the rest of our games at midnight,” he said.

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