The El Paso Rhinos closed out their 2009 home schedule in style, running roughshod over the Tulsa Rampage, 11-2.
Nine different Rhinos scored as El Paso earned its 30th win against three losses for 60 points, the best record in the Western States Hockey League.
The Rhinos left little doubt about the outcome, rifling the Rampage for six goals in the opening frame.
North Pole, AK, native Navarone Copley started the onslaught at 3:57 of the first period.
Ben Henne followed that by scoring twice just eight seconds apart, the fastest two goals scored by any Rhino in team history, at 8:40 and 8:48, respectively.
Austin Balko scored a shorthanded goal to tie Nick Gorup as the top goal-scorer in El Paso’s four-year history.
El Pasoan Mike Rivera notched his first goal in junior hockey, beating Tulsa goalie Eric Messer gloveside and low with a well-placed slapshot just inside the near post.
Nick Gualano continued to set the pace for the WSHL with his league-leading 36th goal.
Donald Geary’s goals sandwiched Trevor Erickson’s power play tally in a three-goal second period.
Frankie Posillico scored his first goal as a Rhino in the third period, followed by John Redmond.
Tom Whetsel tallied twice for the visitors, as Tulsa dropped to 11-15-1, still in third place in the Mid-West Division with 23 points.
El Paso now faces a tough challenge, as the Rhinos hit the road for the WSHL Showcase in Las Vegas, NV. College scouts from around the country will be on hand to watch the league’s 12 teams go head-to-head in a three-day hockey binge, staged with the objective of getting the league’s players seen by recruiters.
El Paso will face the top four teams in the Western Division, beginning with West-leading Fresno next Friday morning at 11:10 a.m. MST, followed by the third place San Diego Gulls at 6:05 p.m. MST Friday night.
Saturday at 1:25 p.m. MST it’s the second place Idaho Steelheads, and Sunday morning at 11:35 a.m. MST, the Rhinos and the defending league champion Phoenix Polar Bears renew what has been the WSHL’s biggest rivalry. The Polar Bears are currently fourth in the West, but have only played 24 games to Fresno’s 30.
Fans can keep track of the Rhinos in Las Vegas at the league website, www.wshl.org. Click on the icon on the home page of the league website that runs down the day’s action with live, in-game stats updates of each contest.
The Rhinos return to the Sierra Providence Events Center Jan. 8-10, 2010, facing the only team to have beaten them thus far this season, the Boulder Bison. For tickets and information, contact El Paso’s front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com