Team captain Nick Gorup scored two goals and the El Paso Rhinos won their 40th game, beating the Colorado Outlaws, 6-1, at the Sierra Providence Events Center Friday night.
In a penalty-plagued game, El Paso finished with only one power play goal though they had 11 opportunities. However, many of those power plays didn’t last their full terms as referee Nathan Farkas blew his whistle some 41 times; 21 for the Outlaws, 20 for the Rhinos.
Colorado was 0-for-9 on the man advantage, though there were two major penalties issued to the Rhinos. Forward David Fegler and defenseman Mike Bottcher were both given game misconducts for over-the-top reactions to a very chippy Outlaws team, which was trying to slow the game down.
Both players are automatically suspended for Saturday’s game.
The Rhinos, 40-3-1 and 81 points, are the defending Thorne Cup champions of the Western States Hockey League, and have already wrapped up the top seed from the Mid-West Division of the league for what will be the team’s third straight playoffs.
Swedish forward Andreas Bengtsson scored the game-winning goal in the first period after Gorup put the home team up 20 seconds into the game.
Bengtsson’s goal was followed by fellow Swede Adam Rosenberg’s strike just 19 seconds later, and Austin Balko’s diving top-shelf goal rounded out the period’s scoring at 18:04.
Jase Richardson scored to open the second period for Colorado, but his goal at 4:41 was answered 57 seconds later by Billy Krueger.
Gorup finished what he started, scoring the game’s last goal at 3:21 of the third.
The teams play again Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. For tickets or for information, contact the Rhinos website (www.elpasorhinos.com) or call the main office at 915.479.PUCK (7825).