What Happens When Expansion Meets Champion
Dec. 18, 2011
LAS VEGAS , NV – It was the most anticipated game of Day 3 at the Western States Shootout Tournament. The up-and-coming expansion Cheyenne Stampede faced off against the reigning Mid-West Division Champion El Paso Rhinos in a dual that was so good, it wouldn’t have been right if it didn’t go into overtime.
The Stampede got off to an early lead when Andrew Baggen’s shot was deflected by Dorren Masters at just under four minutes in. It would take nearly 16 minutes but the Rhinos did answer with a goal of their own by Alex Koopmeiners to tie it at 1 going into the intermission. When the puck dropped for the second period, it was a sluggish start for both squads. There would be three penalties over a span of ten minutes before a goal would be scored at the 14:07 mark by Dallas Szustak to give the Rhinos the lead. Not to be outdone, Cheyenne responded six minutes later to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Once a player for each team was removed from the playing surface and the extra period began, it was only a matter of time before this thriller would find a winner. That winner would come in the shape of Trey Hughes on a breakaway. After receiving a puck bounced off the boards by Szustak, Hughes caught a burst of speed, split the defense, and buried the rubber to end the game with just over a minute remaining. When asked if he could give a player of the game award, Coach Cory Herman explained “the Hughes, Morales, and Szustak line played very well all game so I’ll go with all of them.” Magic is a great word for it. The three of them together recorded six points from the three goals in a great win for the Rhinos.
Despite the loss, there were still some bright spots for Cheyenne. Goalie Michael Porter gave a fascinating performance, stopping 38 of El Paso’s 41 shots. When asked what he thought in his team’s losing effort, Cheyenne GM Mark Lantz stated “this was the best game I’ve seen our team play. I don’t look at this as a defeat, our guys played more like a team than back when we were in first place. We played a great team [from] El Paso and got a point out of it.”
Up next in the Shootout for the Rhinos are the dominant Idaho Junior Steelheads; and Cheyenne will play the Arizona Red Hawks. Both teams will have their hands full playing very capable teams. However if they show up with the same intensity as they did today and get a couple of breaks then they have a better than good shot at winning.
Matt Prosser, El Paso Rhinos Beat Writer. Matt is a freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. For the past two seasons he has been the voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and is the host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU 1580AM in Sacramento and KSSU.com. His other broadcasts also include Hornets football, baseball, and softball. To get in touch with Matt for comments and writing ventures please e-mail him at MProsser58@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @kssuMattProsser or visit his website: www.kssusportscycle.com