Jakob Kranabetter didn’t start his junior hockey career in El Paso, but the Rhinos forward is finishing it here in grand style.
Scoring a hat trick and adding two assists in Friday night’s 11-0 win over Dallas, Kranabetter blew open the door to a lofty mark – most points scored in the Western States Hockey League, all-time.
Already the owner of the all-time assists record, Kranabetter entered the game one point shy of Tomas Nemeth’s four-year career mark of 325.
The Mission, BC, native owned the record 3:24 into the second period, notching his second assist on Phil Pugliese’s second goal.
Kranabetter came to the Rhinos as part of a five-player trade with Valencia along with forward Nikita Pintusov and defenseman Christopher Westover. All three players will age out of junior hockey after this season. All three have jumped at the opportunity to be part of an El Paso organization that has a chance to put together its best-ever regular season.
At 44-1-1 and 89 points the Rhinos have the best record in the WSHL, already hold a berth as host of the six-team Thorne Cup Championship Tournament this April and have an opportunity to earn a third cup in front of some of the largest, most rabid crowds in all of junior hockey – enough to entice most any player.
The trio has hit the ice running in the Sun City. Pintusov scored twice Friday bringing his El Paso tally to eight goals in just six games and giving him 40 on the season. Only Chaseton Sare, who was a healthy scratch Friday, has more goals for the Rhinos this season with 45.
Westover hasn’t missed a beat, either, bolstering an already-solid corps of blue-liners.
Not to be outdone, Rhinos’ stalwarts Pugliese and Filip Krasanovsky added numbers to their impressive resumes.
Pugliese also notched a hat trick and bested Kranabetter with a three-assist performance, giving him six points on the night, while Krasanovsky – though facing only four shots in the game – earned his league-leading 10th shutout of the season.
El Paso will play the Dallas Snipers twice more, Saturday night at 7 p.m. MST and Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. MST.
In association with St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which helps fund children’s cancer research, fans can put bounty on the heads of their favorite Rhinos after Saturday night’s game – their heads of hair, that is.
El Paso coaches, players and front office personnel shave their heads for the highest bidders in the fundraiser which raises thousands of dollars annually.
This is the eighth season the Rhinos have worked with St. Baldrick’s. Fans can also donate in the El Paso Rhinos’ name online. For more information and for tickets, go to elpasorhinos.com.
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