(EL PASO, TX) — Trey Hughes scored a hat trick and the El Paso Rhinos moved to within one point of the lead in the Midwest Division of the Western States Hockey League, demolishing the Texas Brahmas, 10-2, here Friday night.
El Paso remains the only undefeated team in the league, improving to 10-0-0-0. The Rhinos\’ 20 points are second only to Texas\’ 21, but El Paso has nine games in hand on the leaders. The Brahmas drop to 10-8-1-0.
David Nelson opened up the scoring for the hosts 14 seconds into the game. Behind the play going into the El Paso zone, Nelson was spotted by defenseman Chris Wilhite, who zipped a perfect two-line pass to the forward waiting at the opposing blue line.
Nelson walked in on Brahmas\’ starting netminder, Ryan Mulka, roofing his shot over Mulka\’s shoulder to the delight of another capacity crowd in the Events Center.
Hughes scores his first shorthanded at 10:55 of the first, beating Mulka over the glove to score the Rhinos\’ league-leading seventh shorthanded goal of the season.
Wilhite got into the scoring column on the power play at 15:48 to give El Paso a 3-0 lead at the first intermission.
After getting stonewalled by Mulka twice in the first period, Nick Plesa finally beat Mulka with a hard, low wrist shot just 1:34 into the second frame.
Jeremy Rezaeepour scored on a breakaway just 47 seconds later and, after Oliver Eklund replaced Mulka, Andrew Bradford tallied at 5:38 making it 6-0 before Texas could get on the scoreboard. Landyn Howze pinged a perfect cross to Russian forward Nikita Salnikov who beat Rhinos\’ goalie Adam Vay with a low, driving one-timer at 9:38.
But, though the Brahmas pressed for momentum, it took only 39 seconds for El Paso to break it as Fabien Dube scored after a scramble at the crease.
Chris Wilhite notched his second at 16:44, and Trey Hughes wrapped up the Rhinos\’ scoring at 2:11 and 12:47 of the third period.
Anatoly Uspenyev rounded out the scoring for the visitors at 16:36 of the third.
The teams will play twice more, Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. MST and Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos\’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.