Team captain Nick Gorup had a goal and three assists and goaltender Andrew Duff stopped 32 of 33 shots as the El Paso Rhinos beat the Colorado Outlaws, 7-1, Saturday night at the Sierra Providence Events Center.
Three of the first four Rhinos goals were scored by El Paso newcomers.
One of the newest Rhinos, forward Tyler Ridgedell, started the scoring at 4:32 of the first period. Another new forward, Nick Gualano, contributed El Paso’s second goal on the power play at 10:05.
Ridgedell comes to the Rhinos from the Texas Renegades and Gualano came from the Dubuque Thunderbirds of the Central Junior Hockey League.
Former Dallas Hawk Justin Hancock popped in a point-blank top-shelf strike at 11:19.
Austin Balko scored the first of two straight short-handed goals at 12:18 to round out the first period’s scoring.
As they did in Friday’s 41-penalty slugfest, Colorado almost succeeded in distracting El Paso with physical play in the second frame. The Outlaws succeeded in slowing things down and scoring a goal, as Derek Scanlon broke away at the finish of an El Paso power play.
Scanlon took a Rhinos’ missed pass coming straight out of the penalty box and walked in on Duff for an unassisted goal at 15:54.
But El Paso regained the momentum shortly after as Trevor Erickson stole the puck from the Outlaws on a Colorado power play. Colorado netminder Darius Mack came way off his line to poke the puck away from Erickson, but the winger still managed to regain possession and fired a blind backhander, successfully catching Mack out of his crease for a short-handed goal at 17:16.
Nick Gorup and Billy Krueger rounded out the scoring with goals in the third period as the Rhinos improve to 41-3-1 and 83 points to pace the Mid-West Division.
Colorado drops to 13-28-1, but maintains their position in the fourth and final playoff spot from the Mid-West with 27 points.
The two teams wrap up the three-game series Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. MST. For tickets or information call the El Paso Rhinos front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825), or go to the team website, www.elpasorhinos.com.