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02/24/2008 10:13 PM -
The Rhinos finish the season with only one loss in regulation – a 48-1-2 mark that gives them 98 points, one point better than defending WSHL champion
The Polar Bears finish 48-2-1 with 97 points to top the league’s Western Division heading into the divisional semifinals next weekend.
El Paso will host the Colorado Outlaws in a best-of-three series with games next Friday, Feb. 29, and Saturday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. MST. If necessary, Game Three would be Sunday, March 2, at 5:30 p.m. MST at the
Phoenix had already won going into Sunday’s regular season finale, but the Rhinos started with little urgency despite knowing they would have to win to earn the league’s top marks.
The Diablos converted their first two power plays into goals in the opening frame as Adam Fisher and Malcolm Richards gave the visitors their first lead in the three-game series.
Bill Krueger scored one of his patented hard-work goals at 13:25 of the first to bring the Rhinos within one before the first intermission, and Marcus Wilhite tied the game just 46 seconds into the second period. But Jeremy Wolski deflected Jacob Brown’s shot past
Tough Diablos’ defense made it stick for the rest of the period, as
But simple advice in the locker room from a reserved head coach Cory Herman was all it took to unleash the offense in the final 20 minutes.
“I need 20 guys to give me everything they’ve got for the next 20 minutes,” said Herman, according to those in the home team locker.
It was a simple realization of what was at stake that drew the best from the 20 players on
It started with Nick Gorup, who tied the game a second time on the power play, poaching a rebound that came right to him as
Seconds later, Rhinos’ centerman Jeffery Schmudlach tipped a Diablos’ pass just inside the
Eric LaBounty added what proved to be the game winner, bouncing in a shot from Barden’s right at 7:49 – a much-needed goal, as
Otto made the most of the opportunity, beating Natali stick-side and low. Despite the goal and an empty net, the Diablos could not get the equalizer before the horn, and the Rhinos finish the season taking at least one point in every game they’ve played at home.
Tickets for the playoffs are available at the El Paso County Coliseum box office. For more information, call 915.479.PUCK (7825). Rhinos playoffs games can also be viewed online at www.elpasorhinos.com with a paid subscription.