Wranglers wrap up sweep

Let the countdown to the Kelly Cup begin.

It’s four wins down, 12 to go for the Wranglers, who finished off a sweep of Phoenix in the National Conference quarterfinals with a 3-2 victory on Saturday night at the Orleans Arena.

The way the Wranglers are playing, they might need only 12 more games to capture the ECHL crown.

Las Vegas closed out the regular season with 13 straight victories and extended its league-record winning streak to 17 games, including 11 straight at home, with Saturday’s win. The Wranglers also are riding an eight-game road winning streak.

“This one’s pretty special,” Las Vegas defenseman Aaron Power said of the streak. “But it won’t mean anything unless we win it all.”

Power capped off a huge series against the RoadRunners — with three goals and four assists — by scoring on a blast from the left point with 7:26 left in the second period. The power-play goal gave Las Vegas a 3-1 lead and turned out to be the game winner.

“He’s got an absolute bomb from the point and he’s been finding a way to get it through, and that’s huge,” Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan said.

All five goals scored on Saturday came on the power play, with the Wranglers finishing 3-for-5 with the man advantage.

Tyler Mosienko scored at the 2:08 mark of the first period to give Las Vegas a 1-0 lead and Ryan Bonni netted a slap shot from the right point to make it 2-0 in the second period.

“We did some good things on the power play with puck movement,” Gulutzan said. “Shots got through and guys got to the net, and that’s what it takes in the playoffs.”

Phoenix rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to keep Game 4 close until the end but still suffered its eighth consecutive loss.

Wranglers goalie Kevin Nastiuk made several big saves in the final seconds as Phoenix fought furiously to keep its season alive. Nastiuk made 30 saves and won his sixth straight start.

“We got some good goaltending tonight,” Gulutzan said. “Kevin Nastiuk made some big saves right at the end for us.

“It was a tough series and Phoenix played very hard.”

The Wranglers improved to 12-10 in the playoffs overall and 2-2 in playoff series.

Las Vegas lost to eventual Kelly Cup champion Idaho in its inaugural campaign of 2003-04, blowing a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 first round, and the Wranglers erased a 3-1 deficit to beat Idaho in last year’s first round of the playoffs, then lost to eventual ECHL champion Alaska 4-2 in the second round.

“It’s the first time we haven’t played a final game (in the first round),” Gulutzan said. “It’s nice to be done early. It’s less stressful for the coaches, that’s for sure.

“We’re going to stay game ready over the next week, but we’re going to take the next couple days off to rest and see where we’re at.”

The Wranglers, who entered the night leading the ECHL playoffs with 45 shots a game, outshot the RoadRunners 44-33.

Las Vegas will play the lowest remaining seed in the National Conference semifinals, which will start no earlier than Saturday.

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