El Pasoan Mike Rivera made a successful return to the Rhinos lineup, notching the third goal in a 3-1 Rhinos win over the Tulsa Rampage.
The lanky centerman won some key draws and played solid defense in addition to the marker for his hometown team as El Paso ran its record to 18-9-2. The Rhinos 38 points is still only good for third place in a decidedly tougher Mid-West Division in the Western States Hockey League this season. But El Paso has five games in hand on division-leading Boulder and a full nine games on the second place Texas Brahmas.
After dropping two of three in Boulder last weekend, Friday night’s win answered the bell for a team that was not being as physical as head coach Cory Herman wanted it to be against its opposition.
Rivera, a former student at Chapin High School, was one of those who got the message loud and clear, capping a two-goal second period that answered the Rampage’s equalizer — scored late in the first period after the hosts had earned a 1-0 lead.
Todd Thomas scored one of the easier goals of his career in El Paso to open the scoring after Tulsa netminder, Hayden Cappuozzo layed out to stop a shot from his left. In the scrum, Thomas found himself with the puck and steered clear of a pile-up near the crease to pop the opening goal into the emptied net at 9:42 of the first.
Rampage leading scorer, Shane Khalaf, scored to tie the game, 1-1, at 17:38 of the first. But Beasley answered after solid foreching yielded the puck for El Paso and defenseman Vinny Bohn. Bohn’s pass sprung Beasley for the breakaway goal at 3:15 of the second.
Rivera scored at 14:26 and a heavy-hitting El Paso defense preserved the win over the final 25-minutes-plus of regulation.
The Rhinos earned some breathing room between themselves and Tulsa, which drops to 17-15-1 – still just three points behind El Paso with two more games in the Sun City, Saturday 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.