Centerman Todd Thomas scored 53 seconds into overtime and the El Paso Rhinos escaped with a 4-3 win over the New Mexico Renegades in Rio Rancho, NM, Saturday night.
Holding a 3-1 lead going into the third period, the Rhinos eased off the gas pedal, playing the last place team in the Western States Hockey League’s Mid-West Division. But playing hard in front of their home crowd, the Renegades scored twice in the final frame and held El Paso scoreless to force the tie before Thomas gave the visitors the full two points for the win – important in a tight division race.
The Rhinos started well enough. Gunner Bjorklund put in a power play goal at 15:30 of the first period, while El Pasoan Mike Rivera and Tyler Benson scored 3:30 apart in the second to build that 3-1 lead.
But the hosts answered with a pair of late third period goal, as Cody Miller scored with 4:52 left and Matthew Uvodich notched his second with just 2:17 remaining to tie the game.
El Paso (22-9-2, 46 points) earns the full two points for the win to keep them tied with the Texas Brahmas (21-14-4, 46 points) for second place in the Mid-West Division. The idle Boulder Bison (24-8-2, 50 points) lead the division.
New Mexico (8-25-3, 19 points) gets a point for sending the game to overtime, but still trails Tulsa (17-18-1, 35 points) by 16 points for the fourth and final playoff spot out of the Mid-West Division.
The Rhinos and Renegades meet once more, Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. MST. El Paso plays host to the Brahmas in a three-game series that runs Thursday, Feb. 3, through Saturday, Feb. 5. All game times are at 7:30 p.m. MST. For more information and tickets, contact the Rhinos front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.