Wranglers coach looking for grinders

The ECHL regular season is a week old, but in the mind of Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel, he’s still conducting preseason tryouts.

That means much of his roster still has something to prove.

“We’re still tinkering with the lineup. Guys are still trying to earn a spot here,” Mougenel said. “The first 10 games, you’re establishing who can play, who’s going to contribute and who’s going to be someone you think can make a good championship run.”

After opening with two losses at defending ECHL champion Alaska, Las Vegas (0-1-1) hosts the Ontario (Calif.) Reign (1-1-0) at 7:05 p.m. today in its home opener at Orleans Arena.

The Wranglers also will host Bakersfield (Saturday), Utah (Tuesday) and expansion Colorado (Thursday and Oct. 28) on their five-game home stand.

Toughness is high on the list of attributes Mougenel is watching for.

“I’m looking for a little bit of grit,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s something we lack, but it’s something that I want.

“If you’re going to provide some grit, some girth, some weight, some abrasiveness, you’ll have a spot on this team.”

Mougenel made a move to bolster the Wranglers’ back line Thursday, signing rookie defenseman Channing Boe (6 feet 3 inches, 190 pounds) from Minnesota State-Mankato. Defenseman Eddie DelGrosso, a local product, was released and quickly claimed off waivers by Ontario.

“Boe is a big defenseman who plays the right way. He plays mean and hard,” Mougenel said. “He’s a big body and adds a little bit more presence on the back end.”

The Wranglers kept pace with the Aces on Alaska’s spacious home ice in their Oct. 14 opener, losing 2-1 in a shootout, but allowed three goals in a span of 2:31 en route to a 5-1 loss Saturday.

“We’ll see a different team here this weekend,” Mougenel said. “I hate making excuses, but it really is a tough thing to go up on the big sheet of ice. It’s different.

“They looked like a team that had been together for two years, and we looked like a team that had just got put together in seven days.”

After generating only two goals in their first two games, by Scott Campbell and Eric Lampe, the Wranglers are eager to kick their offense into gear.

“I’m pretty excited, especially to get the taste out of our mouth from the way the season started in Alaska. It couldn’t come any sooner for us,” forward Pete MacArthur said. “Our compete level has been great in practice. If we compete the way we have the last few days this weekend, we should see some positive results.”

MacArthur, a former Boston University standout who has played in the American Hockey League the past three seasons, is expected to be one of the team’s top scorers.

“I don’t know how much longer we’ll have Pete, because he’s got such a good (AHL) resume,” Mougenel said.

MacArthur is playing on a line with Adam Miller and Ryan Weston. The other lines are expected to feature Lampe, Judd Blackwater and Ned Lukacevic, and Campbell, Geoff Paukovich and Sean Wiles. Lukacevic and Campbell are questionable with upper-body injuries.

Goalies Joe Fallon and Mitch O’Keefe will split time in net, and the defensive pairings will feature Barry Goers and Jeff May, Jamie Fritsch and Michael Busto, and Boe and Shawn Fensel or Luka Vidmar.

Defenseman Mike Madill, the team captain, is day to day as he tries to resolve an immigration issue, and forwards Ash Goldie, Josh Lunden and Robbie Smith are on injured reserve. Goldie, whose wife, Nichole, gave birth Tuesday to the couple’s first child, is expected to join the team next week.

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

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