The Tulsa Rampage has done something no other team in the Western States Hockey League has done in over a year and a half – have a two-game winning streak against the El Paso Rhinos.
Picking up where they left off in the Sierra Providence Events Center last October 26th, the Rampage beat the defending WSHL Thorne Cup Champions, 3-2, in overtime, drawing to within four points of El Paso in the Mid-West Division.
As befitting the playoff-like atmosphere, possession was valued and special teams were key. All five goals were scored on the power play, as the Rampage went 3-for-8 with the man advantage and the Rhinos went 2-for-7.
El Paso was in danger of being strangled by Tulsa’s tight defense, as the Rampage carried a 2-0 lead deep into the third period.
Power play goals from Michael Criscuolo in the first period and Jacob Billiar in the second were not answered until Rhinos’ defenseman Drew Montague’s blue-line blast at 9:32 of the third.
Noted for his heavy shot, Montague peppered Tulsa goalie Brent Troyan from the point repeatedly until a rising scorcher proved too hot to handle, deflecting off Troyan’s glove and into the net.
Kyle Shapiro equalized on a short rebound – something Troyan and the Rampage didn’t allow many of – off of Austin Balko’s parried shot at 14:19.
But a tripping penalty called on El Paso’s Eric LaBounty with just 23 seconds left in regulation set the stage for Tulsa’s power play game-winner.
The Rhinos carried their penalty kill into overtime and were 14 seconds away from being even-up when Alex Riveness found himself with the puck in a crowd near El Paso goaltender Cooper Frederick, slipping it past the netminder 1:22 into the extra frame, then surviving the resulting dogpile on the ice.
The Rampage improve to 21-6-1 and their 43 points is bettered only by the Rhinos’ 23-1-1 record and 47 points in the division standings. The last team to have beaten El Paso in consecutive games was the Phoenix Polar Bears in the Western States Hockey League championship series in the Rhinos inaugural season.
El Paso and Tulsa will play twice more at the SPEC, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST and Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. MST. For ticket information and ice times at the SPEC, contact the Rhinos front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825) or the website at www.elpasorhinos.com