CHANDLER, AZ — Tomas Stastny scored twice and the El Paso Rhinos endured some on-ice ugliness en route to a 7-2 drubbing of the Phoenix Knights to finish the season series between the teams Sunday afternoon.
El Paso outshot the Knights, 74-17, in the game to move to 29-7-1. The Rhinos’ 59 points puts them seven points clear of their closest competition, the idle Dallas Ice Jets, atop the Western States Hockey League’s Mid-Western Conference.
Once again, a slow start plagued El Paso. Phoenix scored first as Gerin Hohl tallied just 3:17 into the first period. But the pace of the game left little doubt the goals would eventually come for the visitors.
Matt Tritsch finally broke through for the Rhinos, scoring his sixth goal of the weekend at 14:17 of the first.
Stastny followed at 18:10, assisted by team captain Mike Rivera. Taking exception to Rivera’s work on the goal, El Paso native Chris Alires whacked Rivera across the face with his stick, fracturing a number of Rivera’s front teeth. Play was halted for five minutes while referees and players looked for pieces of Rivera’s teeth on the ice.
Alires became the third Knight to earn a Game Misconduct penalty in as many games for the slashing major. An automatic one-game suspension is likely to be increased by the league as the penalty was deliberate and came a number of seconds after play had stopped following Stastny’s goal.
Ironically, Rivera and Alires grew up together playing hockey in the Rhinos’ youth organization. Alires tried out for the WSHL Rhinos but was never selected.
El Paso scored twice on the ensuing power play. John Morales scored 54 seconds into the second frame, followed by Chris Wilhite at 2:57.
Stastny, Craig Hanisch and David Nelson scored a flurry of goals in the first five minutes of the third period and Jarrod Levos rounded out the scoring, getting one back for the hosts at 7:21.
El Paso next plays in suburban Fort Worth against the Texas Brahmas. Friday’s and Saturday’s games will be broadcast live on AM 600 ESPN El Paso and are available online for free at 600ESPNElPaso.com. Fans can also listen to live streaming of 600 ESPN El Paso through the free RadioPup app, available for all iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Android Market, respectively.