Midway through this season, the Wranglers lost one of their leading scorers when defenseman Robbie Bina left for Europe shortly before he was scheduled to play in the ECHL All-Star Game.
But with one game left in the regular season, Las Vegas might have finally found Bina’s replacement in defenseman Barry Goers.
The 5-foot-9-inch, 180-pound rookie from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell scored the winning goal for the Wranglers in Friday’s 2-1 victory over Ontario at the Orleans Arena.
“I’m not going to say he’s Robbie Bina’s replacement, but he’s pretty darn close to it,” coach Ryan Mougenel said. “Like most undersized defensemen, they don’t always get a fair crack, but I’m really impressed with Barry and his knowledge of the game, the way he thinks and the way he plays and competes.
“He’s a real solid player at this level.”
Goers, who has completed his classes and figures to be on the Wranglers’ playoff roster, has two goals and three points in his first five games for Las Vegas.
“I like the pro game more,” Goers said. “It’s more controlled, and it tends to be a smarter game than the college game.”
Ryan Weston scored on a blast from the right circle less than two minutes into the game to give the Wranglers a 1-0 lead. Goers made it 2-0 with 1:57 left in the first, when he buried a rebound of a shot by Alex Bourret.
The Reign (30-31-10), who were eliminated from playoff contention by virtue of Victoria’s 9-2 win over Utah, cut their deficit to 2-1 midway through the third period on a goal by Michael Pelech.
Joel Gistedt (7-7-2) stopped 25 of 26 shots for Las Vegas (34-29-8, 76 points), which matched last season’s win total.
The Wranglers outshot the Reign 14-3 in the first period and 23-10 through two.
In other ECHL games Friday, Bakersfield beat Idaho 2-1 to clinch the Pacific Division title and the second seed in the National Conference. Alaska, by virtue of its 3-2 shootout victory over Stockton, wrapped up third place in the conference.
Las Vegas can claim the fourth seed, and the right to host a first-round playoff series, with a win tonight.
“It’s important for us to start playing playoff hockey,” Mougenel said.
■ NOTES — Las Vegas left wing Ned Lukacevic was loaned to the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars but is expected to be back for the ECHL playoffs. Also, forward Kyle Hagel returned from the AHL (Rockford). … Wranglers forward Adam Miller, who has 33 goals and 86 points, needs two goals today to tie Peter Ferraro for the team’s single-season record for goals.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.LAS VEGAS — 2
ONTARIO — 1
KEY: Joel Gistedt stopped 25 of 26 shots for the Wranglers, who led 2-0 after one period.
NEXT: Reign at Wranglers, 7:05 p.m. today