Mougenel knows replacing Gulutzan is big challenge

by Brian Compton /
Ryan Mougenel has big shoes to fill in Las Vegas, and he knows it.

While replacing Glen Gulutzan as coach of the Wranglers will be a challenge, it's one that the 33-year-old embraces -- and one he's spent years preparing for. Gulutzan recently left the Wranglers to become coach of the American Hockey League's Texas Stars.

Mougenel, who hung up the blades in 2003 after winning a Kelly Cup with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, has spent the past four seasons working as an assistant to Stockton Thunder coach Matt Thomas, who is now one of the top coaches in the ECHL.

Together, Thomas and Mougenel guided the Fresno Falcons to three consecutive playoff berths, including the club's first Pacific Division title, a 100-point season and a berth in the National Conference Finals in 2006. Over the course of four seasons, the pair combined for a record of 159-92-36.

Despite the fact that it's Mougenel's first head-coaching position, Gulutzan believes the experience his replacement has gained in recent years will go a long way in Sin City. His first game behind the Wranglers' bench will take place on Oct. 16 against the Utah Grizzlies.

"He's probably ahead of me in the fact that when I first got there I had very little experience and he's worked under a very good coach for four years," Gulutzan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I would like to think I came into Las Vegas and tried to do things the right way, and I think Ryan has those qualities, too.

"He wants to promote his players, he's got integrity, and a lot of the agents like him and have got a good rapport with him. He's got a good reputation, and that's going to help him tremendously."

Mougenel he said he spoke with Gulutzan about having the right players in place to make a run at a championship in 2010. Considering the distractions a city like Las Vegas can provide, having players with tremendous character was vital for Gulutzan. That trend will hopefully continue under Mougenel's direction. Having played in Atlantic City, Mougenel certainly has an idea of what to expect.

"We had a chance to sit down and talk about some guys we think will be the right fit here -- not necessarily the best players, but the right fit," Mougenel said. "We recruit the same type of people. That's real important to me ... getting great character guys who are going to implement my vision.

"It's definitely a concern, but it goes back to recruiting the right people. I want guys who are going to work and commit themselves for one year to the game to get to the next level and to win."

Bednar to AHL -- Shortly after leading the South Carolina Stingrays to a Kelly Cup championship, coach Jared Bednar is leaving the team to become assistant coach of the AHL's Abbotsford Heat. Bednar, who had been in Charleston for 14 years dating to his playing days, will be replaced by assistant Cail MacLean.

"It's tough to leave a place like this," Bednar told The Post and Courier. "But my goal from the start has always been to coach in the NHL, so eventually I knew this day would come."

As for MacLean, the former Stingrays captain is eager to get to work as the Stingrays prepare to defend their title.

"He wants to promote his players, he's got integrity, and a lot of the agents like him and have got a good rapport with him. He's got a good reputation, and that's going to help him tremendously."
-- Glen Gulutzan, on new Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel

"Obviously, I've still got a lot to learn, but I feel like I'm ready for this," the 32-year-old said. "I had a great mentor for a year in Jared, and I'm certainly not going to lose his phone number. He'll be a valuable resource."

Around the ECHL -- The Ontario Reign signed centers Jon Francisco and Tim Kraus and rookie defenseman Brian Kilburg. ... The Idaho Steelheads agreed to terms with rookie forwards Michael Olson and Brandan Kushniruk. ... Tara Sipma of the Gwinnett Gladiators was named the ECHL's Ticket Executive of the Year. ... Chris Stevens, who had 42 points in 54 games with the Reading Royals, has re-signed with the club. ... The Florida Everblades agreed to terms with rookie forward Jadran Beljo, who had 217 points in 230 regular-season games for three Ontario Hockey League teams from 2004-08. ... Former Atlantic City and Victoria executive Dan Belisle has been named Vice President of Hockey Operations for Kalamazoo. ... South Carolina's Josh Heller was named Broadcaster of the Year, while Stockton's Mike Benton received the Media Relations Award of Excellence.

Contact Brian Compton at