Ryan Mougenel won a Kelly Cup as a player, and now his sights are on winning one as coach of the Wranglers.
Las Vegas’ ECHL franchise on Thursday hired the 33-year-old from Scarborough, Ontario, as the second head coach and general manager in team history.
Mougenel, an assistant to Stockton Thunder coach Matt Thomas the past four seasons, replaces Glen Gulutzan, who guided the Wranglers to the playoffs in five of six seasons before leaving this month to become head coach of the expansion Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
“Gully and his staff did an amazing job establishing themselves as one of the premier programs in the league and it’s great for me to come into that winning culture,” Mougenel said from Montreal, site of the NHL Draft today and Saturday. “I’m ecstatic. It’s going to be fun and it’s going to be a great year.”
Mougenel, a member of Team Canada in 1999 and 2000, played six seasons in pro hockey, including 115 games in the International and American Hockey leagues. He played parts of five ECHL seasons for four teams and helped the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies win the Kelly Cup title in 2002-03 before retiring on top.
Wranglers owner Charles Davenport said Mougenel was his top choice to succeed Gulutzan, who also had Mougenel on his short list of successor candidates.
“(Mougenel) is a young guy who has been with a successful program, he’s a real hard worker, a good recruiter and he’ll be a good guy in the community. He really understands all the aspects of the job,” Davenport said.
“Not to put too much pressure on him, but he reminded me a lot of Gully when I first hired him — an up-and-coming assistant who was really respected around the league.”
Mougenel’s first 31/2 years as an assistant to Thomas were with the now-defunct Fresno Falcons, a team Davenport owned through 2005-06, Mougenel’s first season on staff.
Mougenel helped guide the Falcons to the three straight playoff berths, including a spot in the 2006 National Conference Finals, which they lost to Alaska in seven games.
“I definitely have a taste for winning and want to get back there and win a championship in Las Vegas,” Mougenel said. “There’s nothing better than that.”
When Fresno folded midway through last season, Thomas and Mougenel moved over to Stockton, which lost to Las Vegas in seven games in the second round of the playoffs.
“(Mougenel) is a very passionate, hard-working guy,” Thomas said. “There’s been a standard set in Las Vegas by Gully and I think Ryan is the perfect candidate to go in and continue that success.”
Davenport expects Mougenel’s teams to employ a style similar to Gulutzan’s.
“It’s not exactly the same, but I think he and I are on the same page,” he said. “We both believe you need to score goals in this league, but ultimately you win with defense first.
“I feel like we’re not skipping a beat at all in getting ready for next season.”
Mougenel said the teams he and Thomas put together have been similar to the ones constructed by Gulutzan.
“One thing I’m really going to emphasize is team speed and mobility on (defense),” Mougenel said. “The most important thing to me is that I get committed guys who genuinely care for each other and play hard for each other.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.