Wranglers put refs on lookout

The Wranglers surely will get a chance to dive into the Gulf of Mexico during their eight-day trip to southwest Florida for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals.

The Everblades, meanwhile, are doing most of their diving on the ice. That’s the opinion of Las Vegas coach Ryan Mougenel, who took issue with the officiating in his team’s 7-2 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday at Orleans Arena.

Florida, which hosts Game 3 at 4:30 p.m. today in Estero, Fla., went 3-for-9 on the power play Tuesday to even the best-of-7 series and steal home-ice advantage from the Wranglers.

“Teams in the (Western Conference) play a pretty honorable game. They compete hard and play hard,” Mougenel said. “It’s tough to watch them get rewarded for dives, like (Ryan Donald) whining he got speared.

“I can see why they’ve been awarded so many power plays, because they are a fast team and they’ve definitely had some calls go their way.”

Las Vegas, which went 0-for-5 with a man advantage Tuesday, racked up 54 penalty minutes on 15 infractions, including three 10-minute misconducts. Florida was penalized 36 minutes for 10 infractions, including two 10-minute misconducts.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a playoff game with 15 penalties called either way,” Mougenel said. “Our players were extremely frustrated, and looking at the tape the day after, I don’t understand the standard (of officiating).”

That said, Mougenel conceded he and his players responded poorly to calls Tuesday and said it’s imperative to stay out of the penalty box against the Everblades, who possessed the league’s top power play this season.

“We’ve got to stay out of the talking match and just play hockey,” said left wing Adam Miller, who has three assists in the series. “We were more worried about the refs than the game at hand. It’s our fault.”

Despite waking up Wednesday with a vicious hockey hangover, the Wranglers reported to the rink in good spirits, comforted by the knowledge they faced the same situation in the Western Conference finals against Alaska before winning three straight in Anchorage to clinch the series.

Las Vegas, 7-1 on the road during the postseason, faces another stiff challenge at Florida, which is 8-0 at home in the playoffs and 19-1-2 dating back to the regular season.

“It’s going to be a battle, and we know that. But we’re comfortable going on the road,” Mougenel said. “Sometimes it’s good to get away from distractions at home, the girlfriends and the wives, and just concentrate on hockey and being with each other.

“We’ve got to steal one. That’s our mindset.”

Florida, the ECHL’s highest-scoring playoff team, trailed 2-0 after the first period Tuesday before exploding for seven straight goals. Joe Fallon allowed all seven – including five in less than 13 minutes – but Mougenel is confident his all-ECHL second-team goaltender will bounce back strong.

“We didn’t play well in front of (Fallon). We gave them too many looks,” he said. “I wouldn’t say he was at his best, but I know him and he’ll respond the right way. He always does.”

Las Vegas, a 2-1 winner in Game 1, has yet to post consecutive losses in the postseason, limiting foes to two goals or less in 13 of 15 games (12-3).

“If we worry about ourselves and stick to our game plan, we shouldn’t lose,” Miller said. “There shouldn’t be a team out there that can beat us.”

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

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