Wranglers land third in division, look ahead to ECHL playoffs

After leading their division for most of this season, the Wranglers will have to settle for third place after Friday’s 3-2 loss to Stockton at Orleans Arena.

Las Vegas (38-28-5, 81 points), the fourth seed from the ECHL’s Western Conference, will host the Idaho Steelheads (31-27-13, 75) at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in Games 1 and 2 of their best-of-5 first-round playoff series.

The Wranglers, who will wrap up their regular season today at home against the Thunder (36-23-12, 84 points), are 5-1-1 against Idaho this season.

“That’s good, but that means nothing,” Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel said. “It’s really 71 exhibition games, and now the real season starts. It’s a good matchup for us.”

Left wing Blair Riley said the Wranglers weren’t concerned with who they’d face in the first round, as long as they were at home.

“Getting home-ice advantage is very important, especially in a short five-game series,” said Riley, who scored to give the Wranglers a 1-0 lead in the first period and won a fight with Stockton’s Johan Motin in the third. “We feel like we can beat any team we match up against when we’re playing our best, so we just worry about ourselves.”

The Wranglers haven’t played their best down the stretch this season, losing nine of their past 12 games.

Las Vegas, which outshot Stockton 33-25, squandered three two-man advantages and went 1-for-7 on the power play.

“It was sloppy,” Mougenel said. “Our power play let us down.”

Las Vegas was missing a key member of its power-play unit in defenseman Aaron Power, who sat out as a precaution after getting checked into the boards from behind by Thunder forward Garet Hunt on Wednesday in the Wranglers’ 2-1 win at Stockton.

Riley scored Las Vegas’ lone power-play goal with 3:26 left in the first period. Stockton tied it 1-1 on a goal by Pierre-Andre Bureau with 13 seconds left in the second period. Las Vegas goalie Michael Ouzas (22 saves) tried unsuccessfully to swat the fluttering puck out of the air.

Jarrett Konkley and Bretton Cameron scored less than four minutes apart in the third period to put the Thunder up 3-1.

Tyler Mosienko scored a short-handed goal with seven seconds left for the Wranglers.

Stockton goalie Tyson Sexsmith made 31 saves.

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

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