Down 3-0 after a disastrous first period, Nick Gualano keyed a furious second period rally that saw El Paso come from 3-0 and 4-2 deficits to win 7-4.
After winning, 7-1, in the first game of a three-game series Friday night, the Rhinos were sluggish to start.
Boulder was more than happy to take advantage. The only team in the Mid-West Division that El Paso hasn’t swept, the Bison got great production from some of their newest players.
Smooth-skating new forward Steven Shaffroth opened the scoring at 6:57 of the first period, followed by Ryan Gauthier at 10:11.
Shaffroth assisted Ryan Gauthier for Boulder’s third goal at 18:32 of the first, and the Rhinos left the ice after the opening frame with their heads down, nothing but questions on their minds.
A great move on left wing from Gualano after the opening draw of the second period gave El Paso its first answer.
Gualano skated wide by his defender, coming in point-blank before sliding the puck through the crease to John Redmond on the right wing. Redmond’s shot beat Bison netminder Taylor Fant just 11 seconds into the period and El Paso was off to the races.
Gualano scored his own goal at 4:22 of the second to cut the deficit to one. It was the 39th goal of the season for the Western States Hockey League’s leading goal-scorer.
Shaffroth and Gauthier hooked up again to make it 4-2, Boulder, at 6:02 of the second. But it only took the Rhinos 23 seconds to climb back within one, as Ben Henne skated away from his markers and fed the puck to the Bison’s crease where Tyler Ridgedell only had to tap the puck for his 15th goal.
Ridgedell’s tally was the first of five unanswered goals for the home team, as Trevor Erickson tied the game on the power play at 16:27, Ridgedell got his second tally just over a minute later at 17:36, and Navarone Copley scored the only goal of the third period at 18:02 to wrap the scoring.
El Paso improves to a league-best 34-5-0, and the Rhinos 68 points gives them a 28-point lead over the second place Bison.
The two teams wrap the series Sunday afternoon 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.