(EL PASO) — It was just tricks, no treats, for the El Paso Rhinos on a Halloween night against the Wichita Junior Thunder. “Tricks” as in a “Gordie Howe hat trick” for Wichita’s Jack McClelland in a 3-1 Junior Thunder win.
McClelland, son of legendary Edmonton Oilers tough man, Kevin McClelland, did the family legacy proud at the El Paso County Events Center, dispatching Rhinos’ winger Michael Polito in a fight, then assisting on the tying goal at of the first period.
McClelland then scored the game-winner at of the third to complete the trifecta — goal, assist, fight — nicknamed for one of hockey’s biggest stars, still among the NHL’s all-time leaders in both points and PIMs.
The Rhinos started the scoring on a great individual effort in the first period, as centerman Ruslans Ignatovics won a draw in the right circle, darted behind the net, then tucked his wraparound shot just past the skates of Wichita goalie Erik Spath at of the opening frame.
But, just as El Paso thought it could skate into the first intermission with a clean sheet, McClelland blew up a Rhinos’ clearance at the blue line, skated wide and delivered a pinpoint pass to the Junior Thunder’s Jet Bell, who only had to tap it past El Paso goalie Tage Rustgi at the crease to tie the game at .
McClelland then drove home the game-winning dagger in the third. Left alone in the slot, the big winger picked his spot to give Wichita its first lead of the weekend series.
Peter Cicmanec notched an empty-net power play goal to complete the scoring at to improve Wichita’s record to 8-9-0, dropping the hosts to 3-2-0 on the young season.
Despite letting in Ignatovics wraparound, Spath was stellar in the net for the visitors, stopping 32 of 33 El Paso shots to send the Events Center crowd home with an empty candy bucket.
The two teams will face off in the rubber match www.elpasorhinos.com. afternoon at . For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos’ front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825), or go to