(GRAPEVINE, TX) — Johnny Morales notched the game-winner in shootout and the El Paso Rhinos earned a 4-3 win over the team with the second-best record in the Western States Hockey League, the Dallas Ice Jets.
The Rhinos dominated play for 40 minutes on the road, leading 2-0 after the first intermission after a pair of hard-work goals from Mike Rivera at 12:01 and new forward Taylor Bargar at 16:08.
While Ice Jets goalie Michael Baldwin was able to stop the initial shots on both goals, Rivera and Bargar feasted on the short rebounds close to the net.
After El Paso made the lead stick through the second frame with opportunistic, physical defense, Dallas got serious in the final 20 minutes.
Connor Enciso got one by Rhinos goaltender Austin Brihn, popping a wrist shot from right circle off of Brihn\’s helmet before it bounced in behind him 3:49 into the third.
Despite Jack Strusz walking in on Baldwin to make it 3-1, El Paso, just 20 seconds later, the Ice Jets kept their cool and were rewarded.
Yannick Aube scored twice — at 8:44 and 11:29 — to equalize, but after neither side could get by the other in the five-minute overtime, the Rhinos got their mojo back in the shootout. El Paso scored on three of their four shots against Baldwin while Brihn stopped three of five Dallas shots, including the game-clinching save against Kellen Wasell.
Dallas (29-2-1, 59 points, 1st place Mid-West Conference) gets a point after suffering its first loss in a shootout this season, while El Paso (25-5-2, 52 points, 1st place Mountain Conference) got a big confidence boost against the team that put it out of the Thorne Cup Playoffs last season.
The teams play twice more this weekend, at 5 p.m. MST Saturday and at noon Sunday. Both games will be broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso and can be heard for free at 600ESPNElPaso.com.
For tickets to Rhinos home games and for more information, contact the El Paso Rhinos\’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.