Rhinos 12, Thunder 1

Peter Plesa scored a hat trick and the El Paso Rhinos scored four short handed goals, three on the same Wichita powerplay, sweeping the Jr. Thunder in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,832 with a 12-1 win Saturday night.

El Paso outscored the visitors, 40-6, in the three games of the series.

Six different Rhinos scored in the game. Of those, only Chad Cesarz tallied just one goal. In addition to Peter Plesa’s hat trick, brother Nick Plesa also scored twice; as did El Pasoan Dylan Gotaas, Amarillo native Kendall Craig and team co-captain Chris Wilhite.

El Paso improves to 29-2-0-0 in the Western States Hockey League while Wichita drops to 4-32-0-1. The Rhinos’ 58 points paces the Midwest Division by 14 points over the Dallas Ice Jets.

Though El Paso netminder Ryan Buttazzoni only faced 12 shots, he was challenged by a Wichita team that kept its composure despite the onslaught. The only goal the Alberta native let in came on a two-man advantage for the visitors late in the first period.

But overall, the Rhinos outscored the opposition on special teams, though they had no power play opportunities themselves. El Paso’s 27 short-handed goals is 16 better than the next best in the WSHL.

After forward David Nelson was assessed a major penalty for slew-footing in the first period, it was the Rhinos that asserted themselves, as Wilhite at 6:49, Cesarz at 7:59 and Peter Plesa at 8:56 combined for three goals in less than two minutes.

El Paso’s next home series is in two weekends as they take on the Valencia Flyers from the Pacific Division beginning Friday, Feb. 14-16 at the Events Center. For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.