Rhinos 4, Snipers 1

(EL PASO, TX) — Before the 2013-14 season started, word was junior coaches across North America didn’t want to have all three Pleśa brothers on their respective teams.

After watching what Matthew, Nick and Peter have done this season as El Paso Rhinos, the pertinent question would be: Why?

Saturday, Matt Pleśa scored all four El Paso Rhinos goals in a come-from-behind 4-1 win over the Dallas Snipers.

El Paso (43-2-0-0, 86 points) has already wrapped up the best record in the Western States Hockey League, along with home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Coming off a 16-1 win over the Snipers Friday night, the Rhinos perhaps suspected a similar result Saturday.

That was not the case.

Dallas scored the opening goal just 3:24 into the game as Shane Bonds was at the last of some crisp tape-to-tape passing, lifting the puck past an already-prone Bryce Fink in El Paso’s net on the power play.

The Snipers kept the Rhinos off the scoreboard almost half the game and were looking to improve their lead on another power play when Pleśa took the wind out of their sails, out-skating the Dallas defense to backhand El Paso’s league-record 38th shorthanded goal past Emil Eriksson to tie the game at 7:59 of the second period.

Pleśa followed his first with an even-strength goal at 14:45 of the second that proved to be the game-winner, then scored two more on the power play, just 26 seconds into the third frame and again on a 5-on-3 at 6:21.

Pleśa (37 goals, 62 assists) is on the cusp of becoming the first Rhinos player to score 100 points in the regular season since Marcus Wilhite (46g, 63a) in 2007-08 — interestingly, the only season El Paso has won the WSHL’s ultimate prize, the Thorne Cup.

Natives of Calgary, Alberta, the Pleśas (pronounced: PLESH-uh) were offered the opportunity to skate together in El Paso for the final time in their junior hockey careers, spurning offers to skate for separate teams in their native Canada for the opportunity. Nick Pleśa turned 21 in 2013 and will age out at the end of the season.

So much the better for the El Paso Rhinos organization and its fans. Between them, the three Pleśa brothers have 256 points. The youngest Pleśa, Peter, has 84 points (30g, 54a), while Nick Pleśa has 73 points (29g, 44a).

The Rhinos and Dallas will face off at least three more times, including Sunday’s regular season finale at 4:30 p.m. MDT.

The Snipers (21-22-1-1) will return to El Paso next week for the opening weekend of the Thorne Cup Playoffs in the best-of-three Midwest Division semifinals. For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos’ front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.