The Las Vegas Wranglers rallied back from a 2-1 deficit Thursday to defeat Utah 4-2 and advance to the Western Conference semifinals with a three-game sweep of the Grizzlies.
“It means a lot to the guys,” Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. “They’ve battled hard for each other all year. I think they’ve done an amazing job of coming together and collectively buying in. They know that we have a good team.”
Las Vegas left winger Adam Miller scored the opening goal of the night at the 11:24 mark of the first period.
Miller received a centering pass from Eric Lampe near the crease and fired a backhanded shot past Utah goaltender Andrew Engelage to get the Wranglers on the board.
The Grizzlies responded with two unanswered goals to take their only lead of the series.
Utah defenseman Derick Martin beat Wranglers goaltender Mitch O’Keefe with a top-shelf goal late in the first period to tie the game.
After Utah’s Kory Falite handed the Grizzlies the lead with a goal at the 6:04 mark of the first period, Wranglers center Scott Campbell responded with a wraparound power-play goal less than two minutes later to even things up.
“It was big to get the momentum back on our side,” Campbell said. “To get over the hump of the first round was huge both emotionally and mentally. Hopefully we can keep riding this wave.”
The Wranglers took the lead for good on an Ash Goldie goal midway through the second period. Goldie fired a slap shot from the left wing that deflected off Engelage’s pad and into the net for the game-winning goal.
“When I originally got hurt, they said I wouldn’t be back this year,” said Goldie, who missed 55 games this season with an injured shoulder. “I worked really hard to get back. I wanted to be a part of the postseason this year. It’s great to be back on the ice and chipping in.”
Las Vegas clinched the series on a Geoff Paukovich breakaway goal with less than eight minutes to go in regulation. Paukovich weaved through a set of Grizzlies defenders and used quality puck control to get Engelage out of position for the insurance goal.
Wrangler goalie Mitch O’Keefe continued his strong play in the playoffs with 24 saves on 26 shots faced.
Las Vegas advanced to the second round of the playoffs after falling in the first round of the postseason the last two seasons.
Las Vegas will play the winner of the Ontario-Idaho series in the Western Conference semifinals, which will start the middle of next week. The date for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals has not yet been announced.
Stars of the game: 1. Ash Goldie (game-winning goal); 2. Geoff Paukovich (game-clinching goal); 3. Mitch O’Keefe (two assists).
Final word: “The guys are excited,” Mougenel said. “They like being with each other. Nobody wants it to end, so that’s a big part of it. We want to keep this thing going.”