Wranglers goalie Travis Fullerton in the hand shake line on Friday night
(Photo Las Vegas Wranglers)
This is Part Two of our look at the very last game the Las Vegas
Wranglers played at The Orleans Arena on Friday night. After 11
seasons, the game is over for the Wranglers in this building – Lee
Just before the Friday night game got underway there was a flash of white lights on the scoreboard and then it read in big red letters….
Del Taco Says….5 Goals = Free Tacos
That’s when the little ones starting chanting Tacos, Tacos. An older Wranglers fan sitting to my right said “God I want those tacos, like real bad.”
At last, the game got underway.
That’s when hockey coach Rob Pallin walked into our section. The Las Vegas coach just got back from Hungary where he coached a professional team. He asked to look at my program. He looked at the lineup card and studied it like a student looking at his mathematics test saying he was “looking at a couple of players tonight.”
At that very moment, my son Eddie Samuels and his girlfriend sat in our area. Then came Adam Naglich. He and Eddie were teammates on the 2001-02 Las Vegas Mustangs. Pallin was the head coach. And Naglich played for Pallin in Hungary over the winter. Andrew Sarauer, a former Wranglers player, stopped by to say hello. There was a big fuss when they spoke about who was the greatest midget player of all-time in Las Vegas. Naglich said it was his long-time teammate, Josh Jasek who scored 61 times in 2001-02.
My quiet section all of sudden got chirpy. All were talking hockey.
The Alaska Aces broke to a 2-0 lead. The first Alaska goal was a long one from the right point. A speeding bullet puck went over goalie Travis Fullerton’s right shoulder.
“Oh, brother,” a Wranglers fan said, sighing.
On the other side of the rink, the Aces fans stood and rang their cowbells.
After the first period, the two teams skated off and onto the ice came ‘Las Vegas showroom performer” Jay White, a singer who will be performing Neil Diamond songs in June at the SunCoast. He went to center ice, thanked all of the hometown fans for their awesome support, then sang Sweet Caroline.
“He does this a lot between periods. He’s pretty good too,” a lady said in the row in front of me.
At last, the second period got underway.
That’s when the Las Vegas Wranglers got their game together. Eddie Del Grosso dealt a tricky assist to help score the first Las Vegas goal, then Chris Francis of Las Vegas got behind the Aces net, took a pass, came out behind the right side and jammed in a goal.
Game tied 2-2.
We all stood, tapping fists.
Someone said ‘God, it’s great to score goals.”
The building was shaking.
Little kids dancing.
Older fans standing up, cheering madly.
The best fans in the world of hockey.
Near the end of the period, Alaska got onto a powerplay and somehow, someway Number 91 Peter Sivak was all alone in front of Wranglers goalie Travis Fullerton.
Time stood still as the two glared at each other on the ice.
Then the skater deked to his right, Fullerton made a move, and the shooter crossed him up with a hard shot top left shelf.
Goal, Alaska, 3-2 lead, and the 31st this season for Sivak who is from the Czech Republic.
Little did we know it would be the last goal ever scored.
“That’s a smart, skilled team,” Pallin said about Alaska.
There was heated action in the third period, some scraps, near misses with shots, a last second powerplay chance for the Wranglers, then the clocked quickly ticked down to 0.00
The two teams lined up at center ice, tapping gloves, the Wranglers players wishing good luck to the Aces who are off to play the winner of the Colorado Eagles vs Idaho Steelheads series.
After the Alaska players left the ice, the Wranglers players stayed.
Like, they didn’t want to leave.
“The Wranglers want to thank all of you fans for your awesome support for the last 11 seasons,” the announcer said loud and clear.
That’s when the Las Vegas fans made a beeline for the overhead tunnel which led to the Wranglers locker room.
While the players skated off, the Wranglers fans reached down with their hands trying to touch them
On the concourse, Las Vegas hockey mom Cindy Francis was hugging all of her friends. Yes, her son Chris really played well. Scored a great goal. She saw our small group. We all got hugs and talked hockey.
Then, it was time to go.
One last time down the steps, walk outside the arena, turn and take one last look.
It was dark and it was windy. The temperature was dropping.
“Looks like rain is coming,” a fan was saying.