Leading 2-0 over a scrappy New Mexico Renegades team in the third period, the El Paso Rhinos went to sleep at the switch for just 31 seconds. That\’s all it took for the Renegades to tie the game, then beat their hosts in a shootout, 3-2.
New Mexico’s Adam Moon deflected a fluke goal in off a draw at 3:41. Out of a fracas right after the goal, El Paso team captain Mike Rivera was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct.
After going 0-for-8 with the man advantage through the prior two periods, Renegades’ forward Matt Uvodich broke into the Rhinos’ zone between two defenders and lifted a low wrister just over the right pad of El Paso goalie Trent Casper for the power play goal at 4:12.
Emboldened by the tie, New Mexico circled the wagons behind goaltender Eric Messer, not letting in another Rhinos goal through the rest of regulation, all of the five minute overtime, and even in the shootout.
That shutout included the final 80 seconds of overtime after the Renegades’ J.J. Baudanza was whistled for a trip, giving El Paso one more chance to pepper the spectacular Messer with a barrage of shots on the power play.
Though it won\’t show in the stats, Messer also stopped all four Rhinos\’ shooters in the shootout, when Michael Pisarevsky rendered the fifth shooter unnecessary by scoring New Mexico\’s second shootout goal.
Messer stopped 42 of 44 shots for his 10th win in net and New Mexico improves to 13-11-2. The Renegades\’ 28 points puts them just three points behind the Texas Brahmas for third place in the Mid-West Conference of the Western States Hockey League.
The loss is El Paso’s (21-7-1, 43 points) first in overtime or shootout this season, thus the Rhinos miss an opportunity to tie the Dallas Ice Jets (20-6-4, 44 points) atop the Mid-West Conference for the first time this season.
They\’ll have another opportunity Friday and Saturday night, as El Paso and New Mexico play twice more, at 7:30 p.m. MST both nights.
For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.