By Brian Compton
Las Vegas Wranglers head coach/general manager Glen Gulutzan looked at the teams his division opponents were assembling prior to the start of the season and immediately knew his team was in for a fight.
“Once I saw the rosters and the overhauls that teams like Stockton did, then I knew it was going to be a tough year,” Gulutzan said. “I knew there was going to be lots of parity.”
It sure didn’t seem that way out of the gate, as the Wranglers lost only once in regulation in their first 21 games of the 2006-07 campaign and won nine-straight contests from Nov. 16-Dec. 8. Gulutzan attributed the phenomenal start to a chemistry and work ethic that perhaps caught opponents by surprise.
While the Wranglers have come back to Earth over the past two months — they are 11-8-4 since their torrid streak — Gulutzan is making sure that his team remains in the Pacific Division race.
Las Vegas, which is currently tied with Bakersfield atop the division, recently acquired Arpad Mihaly from the Reading Royals. Many would argue that Mihaly is talented enough to be playing full-time in the American Hockey League.
“The guys came in prepared,” Gulutzan said of the hot start. “It helps to have some spillover with guys who were with you last year with the season we had. I think we played pretty solid hockey in the beginning and maybe caught a few teams off guard. Things have evened up and teams have kind of gotten their personnel all squared and they have their systems all in place. I’m sure it’s going to tighten up even more here in the next month.”
That certainly explains the acquisition of Mihaly, a 27-year-old Romanian who had 28 points in 25 games for the Royals. Gulutzan is hoping Mihaly is exactly what his team needs to hold off Bakersfield, Fresno and Stockton.
“Hopefully he can help us in those tough games,” Gulutzan said. “He has a little bit of size. We just have to make sure we can improve here because it is such a tight division.”
Mihaly will add to what is a very balanced offense in Las Vegas. He becomes the seventh player on the Wranglers’ roster who has scored at least 10 goals this season.
“I felt we were the same way last year, and we seem pretty balanced this year,” Gulutzan said. “I think we need to be balanced because I don’t know if we have any superstars on our team. We kind of play a three-line game here, so we need to be balanced in our scoring.”