Midnight still right time

Rod Blagojevich Prison Uniform Night on Jan. 30 promises to be one of the Wranglers’ most popular promotions, as "Dick Cheney Hunting Vest Night" was two years ago.

However, the team’s annual midnight game remains "the most anticipated game on the schedule," team president Billy Johnson said.

"If you walk around town, people don’t talk about our record or how we did in the playoffs last year. They still talk about the fact we play a game at midnight," said Johnson, who patterned his promotion after the University of Kentucky’s "Midnight Madness" men’s basketball practice. "The midnight crowd is really cool. It’s a whole different crowd. It’s unique."

The Wranglers, who claim to be the only pro sports franchise to have hosted a midnight game, will play the Ontario (Calif.) Reign at 11:59 tonight in their sixth Midnight Holiday Roundup.

At past midnight games, fans have come wearing bathrobes, pajamas, slippers and even Santa Claus outfits. Likewise, the diverse crowd has been a mix of hardcore hockey fans, students with their families on holiday break and people who just want to party.

"This game’s really cool. I really enjoy it every year," said Las Vegas forward Tyler Mosienko, who has played in the past two midnight games. "We get a little different fan base and we always have a really good crowd.

"It’s just kind of fun to have a midnight game. It never happens. I’m sure we’re the only team in professional (sports) history to do it."

While "Mini Kiss" and a Billy Idol impersonator have added a schlock factor at past midnight games, there will be no special performers tonight.

"We didn’t feel like it added a great deal to an already strong idea," said Johnson, who considered hiring a major act. "Any entertainment for the midnight game going forward will be of a much larger variety. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it great."

Las Vegas (10-11-2) entered last year’s midnight game with a 19-2-2 record, but lost to Phoenix 5-4 in a shootout after blowing a 4-1 lead in the third period. The Wranglers are 2-1-2 in midnight games, with four of them going to overtime or a shootout.

Tonight’s game begins an eight-game homestand for the Wranglers, who erased an early 2-0 deficit to win 5-2 at Bakersfield on Saturday, their first win this season when trailing after two periods.

"We found it in ourselves to keep working as a team," said Mosienko, who had a goal Saturday and is second on the team with 20 points in 20 games. "Individually, we have a lot more talent and skill than last year; we just haven’t come together as a team yet."

The Wranglers, who trail Ontario (13-9-2) and Fresno (17-9-1) in the ECHL Pacific Division, are 4-8-2 on the road and 6-3-0 at home, where they have outscored opponents 33-18.

Las Vegas, looking to win its second straight game tonight, has won two in a row only twice this season and has yet to win three straight.

"We’re looking for some consistency," Mosienko said. "This homestand will be good for us. We need to start putting up some points to get ourselves back in first place."

• NOTES — Forwards J.D. Watt and Hugo Carpentier were recalled by Quad City of the American Hockey League, goalie Brent Krahn was reassigned to Chicago (AHL), and Quad City reassigned center Dan Ryder to Las Vegas.

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

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