Rhinos 6, Bison 1

The El Paso Rhinos’ two Tylers – Ridgedell and Beasley – scored five goals between them and the El Paso Rhinos started off 2011 with a bang, upending the defending Mid-West Division champion Bison in Boulder, CO, 6-1.

In his third season in El Paso, Ridgedell has been called upon to lead a younger Rhinos’ team. The Louisiana native did so Friday night, scoring the first two goals in a three-goal first period in Boulder, at 9:16 and 15:42, respectively.

Beasley followed that with a brace of his own, scoring at 17:24 and at 6:19 of the second period.

Ridgedell earned a hat trick after notching his third with just 29 seconds left in the second frame.

Ryan Harrison capped El Paso’s scoring with a goal at 15:28 of the third period.

Rhinos’ goalie Trent Casper stopped 38 of 39 Bison shots for the win.

Starting successfully in this three-game series against the one team in the Mid-West Division that has given them their greatest competition, the Rhinos hope to prove a point – perhaps to themselves most of all.

“We’ve been working hard to build our strength and conditioning and to have the right attitude,” says Rhinos head coach Cory Herman. El Paso had some uncharacteristic stumbles in the early part of the season. “It took longer this season to get chemistry because we lost so many players from last year, so sometimes you don’t have the right focus at first. Our focus should always be ‘are we playing the way we want to play?’

“If we are, that means we’re not paying attention to the scoreboard or the other team. We’re just focusing on ourselves and running our plays and hitting as much and as hard as we can.”

In what may prove to be the tightest of races in the Mid-West Division since El Paso came into the league five years ago, as four teams vie for home ice in the playoffs, keeping heads down and eyes front might be best.