Wranglers get tough, rally to playoff-clinching victory

With Wranglers tough guy Adam Huxley loaned to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on Thursday, Las Vegas needed someone else to step up against San Francisco on Friday night at Orleans Arena.

Channing Boe and Robbie Smith showed their mettle, engaging in two second-period brawls for the Wranglers, who erased an early 1-0 deficit with two power-play goals en route to a 2-1 victory over the Bulls that clinched an ECHL playoff spot before 6,131.

“We wanted to not back down and show them that even without Huxley we were going to play tough,” said the 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pound Smith, who pounded San Francisco defenseman Scott Langdon in their fight. “Boe stepped up there, and I figured I should step up, too, and it kind of set the tempo for the rest of the game.”

Boe squared off against Jordan Clendenning at 4:26 of the second. A couple of minutes later, Adam Hughesman beat Thomas Heemskerk for the tiebreaking, power-play goal on a play set up by Eric Lampe, who blew past a defender before dropping a pass to Hughesman, who had an open net.

“Lampe made an amazing play,” said Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel, who was proud of his players for standing up for each other. “That was awesome. It just shows the guys care and Smitty and Boe care a lot.

“That’s what they have to do to contribute, to be in the lineup. It’s not always an easy job, but sometimes it needs to be done.”

The game was chippy from the start, with Mikael Tam penalized for a boarding major on Chris Francis at 6:50 of the first. Wranglers left wing Andrew Sarauer drew a double minor for roughing after coming to Francis’ defense.

Mougenel said the chippy play probably stemmed from the teams’ last meeting, on Feb. 6, when Bulls left wing Hans Benson started a fight with Josh Godfrey with 27 seconds left in Las Vegas’ 5-0 victory in San Francisco. Benson received a game misconduct for being an instigator in the final five minutes.

“I didn’t appreciate that the last time we played,” Mougenel said. “To me, that’s kind of minor hockeyish. We were winning 5-0. If you’re going to do that, do it early. It’s a little late and after the fact.

“That’s not something I would ever ask my players to do.”

Yanni Gourde scored a shorthanded goal at 8:03 of the first period to put the Bulls (21-30-7, 49 points) ahead, weaving his way through traffic before beating Joe Fallon (21 saves) with a one-handed shot.

“I absolutely hated that goal,” Mougenel said. “We’ve got to be way better on the power play.”

Las Vegas (29-23-5, 63) went 2-for-6 to improve its league-worst power play to 12.7 percent (35-for-274).

Sean Wiles scored on a deflection with 6:23 left in the first to tie it.

The defending Western Conference champion Wranglers are the fifth seed with 15 games left. Eight of the nine teams from the West make the playoffs.

“We want to get on a roll here going into the playoffs,” Smith said. “Hopefully, we’ll turn it on at the right time.”

■ NOTE — Defenseman Nolan Julseth-White was loaned to Providence of the AHL after the game.

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

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