The Tulsa Rampage scored first but the El Paso Rhinos did not let them score again, rattling off four goals of their own for a 4-1 win Saturday night.
Finding their Friday night form after a slow first ten minutes, the Rhinos again used a blend of physical play and a tough forecheck to keep the puck in Tulsa’s defensive zone. Special teams played a large role as well, with three of the four El Paso goals coming with the Rhinos either a man up or a man down.
After the Rampage’s Joseph Panariello opened the scoring just 5:36 into the game, El Paso tightened the clamps defensively. Goalie Trent Casper allowed no more goals, stopping 24 of 25 Tulsa shots on the night, with help from a stingy defense that began to dish out some withering checks after the Tulsa goal.
And the Rhinos offense began to wake up, too, beginning with an amazing Tyler Beasley power play strike with just 50 seconds left in the first period.
Finding the going tough against Tulsa’s dynamo goalie, Hayden Capuozzo, Beasley retreated to the right circle, unleashing a slapshot that beat Capuozzo to the far post, above his left shoulder.
Just 83 seconds later – 33 seconds into the second period – one of the newest Rhinos, Matt Tritsch, scored the game-winning goal, beating Capuozzo with a simple off-speed pop that the goalie never really saw.
Defenseman Tyler Benson added to the lead with a gorgeous top-shelf slap shot goal of his own at 9:49 of the second to make it 3-1.
Just over six minutes later, a stunned Capuozzo was chased from net after an El Paso penalty kill mugged the Rampage in the neutral zone, leading to an ice-hugging short-handed goal from defenseman Vinnie Bohn.
The Rhinos (19-9-2, 40 points) gained more ground on Tulsa (17-16-1, 35 points) and continue to hold onto third place in a tight Mid-Western Division race in the Western States Hockey League. El Paso now sits four points in back of the Texas Brahmas for second place.
The Rhinos also have eight games in hand on the idle Brahmas and four on division-leading Boulder, also idle this weekend, with Sunday afternoon’s series-ending game with Tulsa up next.
Face-off for the finale is at 5:30 p.m. MST. For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.