Cut twice last season, Sean Wiles finally hit his stride during the Wranglers’ run to the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals.
The big right wing won’t be getting waived anytime soon this season after setting up the winning goal Friday night in Las Vegas’ 3-2 overtime victory over Stockton before a crowd of 5,656 in its 10th home opener at Orleans Arena.
“I thought Sean was our best player tonight,” Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel said. “He’s really embraced how he has to play. He’s a big, physical presence out there, and he made that play happen.”
The 6-foot-3-inch Wiles stole the puck at the blue line from Stockton’s Shawn Boutin and was denied on a breakaway by Thunder goalie Tyler Bunz. But Scott Campbell buried the rebound 30 seconds into the extra session to keep Las Vegas (2-0-0) unbeaten to start the season.
“I wanted to go apply some pressure on him and make him make a play,” Wiles said of his steal.
Campbell was surprised to see the puck sitting in the crease after a Stockton player failed to clear it.
“It kind of caught me off guard,” he said. “The puck somehow went off the post, and it just kind of sat there. I was going to the net hard and was able to poke it in before I hit the net off.”
The Wranglers twice rallied to tie the game and didn’t lead until the end.
Local product Chris Francis deflected a point shot by captain Mike Madill with one second left on a power play to tie it at 2-2 with 8:45 remaining in regulation.
“You need your power play and your best players to step up, and I thought the power-play goal was a real good goal,” Mougenel said. “It was as simple as it gets, and we need to be a simple hockey team at times.”
Philippe Cornet beat Joe Fallon (17 saves) 5:40 into the third to give the Thunder (1-1-1) a 2-1 edge.
Judd Blackwater scored to tie it 1-1 at 2:13 of the third period.
Blackwater appeared to tie the game in the second, but his bid on a hard rush to the net was disallowed by the officials, who weren’t in position to see the play.
Stockton took a 1-0 lead 9:11 into the game when Teigan Zahn scored on a shot from the boards that glanced off Fallon’s glove into the back of the net.
Bunz stopped 22 shots for the Thunder and defenseman Nolan Julseth-White had two assists for the Wranglers, who unveiled new red uniforms, a new logo featuring a goalie mask and a fedora, and a new 2011-12 Western Conference champions banner.
“It’s good to get that first win at home and get some confidence,” Wiles said. “We had fun last year, and we want to get back to where we were. We want to be a contender.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.LAS VEGAS — 3
STOCKTON — 2
KEY: Scott Campbell buried a rebound of Sean Wiles’ breakaway bid 30 seconds into overtime to give the Wranglers a win in their home opener.
NEXT: Thunder at Wranglers, 7:05 p.m. today, Orleans Arena, KVMY (12)