(EL PASO, TX) — Bison forward Keith Tussin scored twice in the third period and goaltender Mathieu Laberge stopped 44 of El Paso\’s 49 shots as Boulder beat the Rhinos for the second time this season, 5-4, at the Sierra Providence Events Center Saturday night.
The win gives the Bison (8-2-0, 16 points) second place outright, breaking a tie with the Tulsa Rampage in the Mid-West Division.
For the three-time Mid-West Division champion Rhinos (12-2-0, 24 points), the loss is their second to Boulder, which opened the season with a 5-2 win over El Paso in Colorado.
If the Rhinos were in doubt that there would be competition in the Mid-West Division this season, that doubt was erased by the Bison early in the game.
A.J. Tesoriero and Mark Owen scored power play goals less than two minutes apart in the first period to give Boulder a lead it would carry into the third period.
El Paso got one back before the end of the opening frame as Tyler Ridgedell stopped Tyler Benson\’s pass with the back hand and beat goaltender Mathieu Laberge low on the glove-hand side at 18:17.
But it would be Laberge who stood tall in this game. After Rhinos forward Navarone Copley evened the score on the power play exactly three minutes into the second frame, Laberge stopped everything else El Paso threw at him the rest of the period.
Laberge\’s heroics included stoning the home team on a seven-minute power play, the result of a butt-ending major that ended the weekend for Boulder\’s Derek Scanlon, who received a game misconduct penalty and will be suspended for Sunday\’s game.
The Rhinos finally solved Laberge at 4:57 of the third, as Kyle Shapiro\’s power play slap shot from right circle ricocheted off the goalie\’s equipment, then rattled in to give El Paso it\’s only lead of the night.
The lead would last less than a minute, as Bobby Dominsky whistled the Bison\’s only even-strength goal of the night past Rhinos\’ goalie David Eland at 5:43.
Tussin scored Boulder\’s third power play goal at 9:13 to give the visitors the lead, only to relinquish it again on John Redmond\’s unassisted strike exactly 16 seconds later.
But the Bison would be awarded one more power play as Tyler Ridgedell was called for checking from behind. Tussin made the most of it, breaking up the ice and nudging the puck past Eland as the goalie came off his line for the game-winner at 17:03.
El Paso outshot Boulder, 49-15, but though the Bison committed two more penalties than their hosts, the Rhinos did not make hay with their opportunities, going 2-of-8 on the man advantage. Boulder scored four of its five goals on the power play, going 4-of-7.
The two teams will battle once more Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. MDT.
Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch Saturday\’s game at 3 p.m. on MetroSports Southwest, Cable Ch. 24. Both Friday\’s Rhinos win and Saturday\’s game can be seen on MetroSports On-Demand later next week.
For tickets and information, call the Rhinos front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.