In a decidedly chippier game than Friday’s 3-2 El Paso loss, the Rhinos forced the issue against the team that has provided its stiffest challenge in the Mid-West Division of the Western States Hockey League.
Goaltender Andrew Duff shutout the Rampage for over 59 minutes before Tulsa tallied short-handed with 52 seconds remaining, but the game was decided by goals from team captain Nick Gorup and winger Kevin Davis.
After a tough but scoreless first period, Gorup beat Rampage netminder Zac Enstrom at 14:35 of the second period.
El Paso’s checking line provided the game winner some 10 minutes later, as Trevor Erickson sent a pass into Davis who buried the puck at 5:19 of the third period.
Jacob Billiar averted the shutout for the home team, breaking through a Rhinos power play to score at 19:08; but on the same man advantage, El Paso defenseman Drew Montague laced the puck past Enstrom from the point with 13 seconds left to give the Rhinos another two-goal margin.
After being outshot for only the second time all season Friday, El Paso pounded 41 shots to Tulsa’s 32; all but one stopped by Duff, who continues to maintain the WSHL’s best goals-against average with a 1.46 going into Saturday’s tilt.
The two teams play just once more in the regular season Sunday afternoon before the Rhinos return home for good.
Tulsa’s three wins against the Rhinos this season are the most any team in the Mid-West Division has had against the defending Thorne Cup champions since the San Antonio Diablos beat El Paso three times in the Rhinos’ inaugural campaign.
El Paso notched its 35th win to improve to 35-3-1 with 71 points while the Rampage dropped to 24-11-1 and, with 49 points, stays in third place in the division behind San Antonio.