Dallas Szustak and John Morales each scored twice and Trent Caspar stopped 32 of 35 shots as the El Paso Rhinos took the rubber match of the three-game series, beating the Fresno Monsters, 7-3.
El Paso won in a shootout, 5-4, Thursday night; while Fresno lapped their hosts, 8-4, Friday.
The Rhinos improve to 17-4-0 and remain in second in the Mid-West Conference of the Western States Hockey League, while the Monsters (24-2-1, 49 points) lost just their third game of the season.
Coupled with the shootout win, the Rhinos become the first team to top Fresno twice this season.
Morales opened the scoring on the power play at 4:26 of the first period, converting a neutral zone turnover into a two-on-one break. Taking the shot himself, Morales beat the Monsters\’ Tom McGuckin through the five-hole.
Trey Hughes made it 2-0 to the home team just over eight minutes later before Fresno was able to answer.
Kyle Godfrey scored on the power play to halve El Paso\’s lead at 16:03, but exactly 90 seconds later, Szustak made it 3-1 Rhinos.
Despite some hard skating from the visitors, Morales was the only player to score in the second frame, and Szustak\’s second goal, scored on a wrap-around at 7:27 of the third, gave El Paso a four-goal lead.
Fresno scored twice in the third, but the Rhinos had an answer each time. Marc Haaf\’s tally was countered by El Paso\’s new centerman, Alex Koopmeiners. Nick McKee\’s power play goal was matched by Matt Tritsch\’s shorthanded strike.
Both teams will meet again in the WSHL Showcase in Las Vegas, NV, next weekend before players head home for Christmas.
For tickets and information on upcoming Rhinos games, call 915/479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.=