For the second straight game, the El Paso Rhinos went to shootout against the Tulsa Rampage.
For the second straight game, Nick Gualano got the game-winning goal for the Rhinos.
Backup goalie Max Dizgun started Saturday night after relieving beleaguered starter Andrew Duff in Friday’s amazing 6-5 comeback. The Montreal native was impressive again, stopping 31 of 33 Tulsa shots and stoning the hosts through the five-minute overtime and in the shootout.
But it was Gualano, the Western States Hockey League’s leading scorer, who helped El Paso nab the full two points in the end.
Acquired last year in a trade with the Dubuque Thunderbirds of the Central Junior Hockey League, the gifted, gritty forward also sent a message that things would be different from the series opener Friday — a game that saw Tulsa outskate and outscore the visitors, 5-0, before the Rhinos responded with six unanswered goals.
Gualano made sure there would be no repeat of Friday’s start, scoring the game’s first goal just 57 seconds into the second period.
As for Friday’s finish, he had no problems repeating that, again beating Tulsa goalie Michael Maczynski — stick-side high, the same move as Friday’s game-winner — to give El Paso a 37-5-0 record and 74 points to lead the Mid-West Division.
Tulsa drops to 19-17-3, but does get a point for 41 on the season, still seven points away from second place Boulder.
Also Saturday, Austin Balko scored a short-handed goal in the second period that made him the all-time points leader in Rhinos’ record book, surpassing former teammate Nick Gorup.
The Rhinos and Rampage will battle once more Sunday afternoon before both teams come to El Paso next weekend for another three-game series.