The El Paso Rhinos rallied, then survived a rally, defeating the Texas Renegades, 7-6, at the Sierra Providence Events Center Sunday.
The Rhinos trailed three times, rallied each time, took the lead in the second period only to have it tied up again before finally earning their 23rd win of the season. El Paso is 23-1-0 and its 46 points leads the Mid-West Division of the Western States Hockey League by five over next weekend’s opponents, the Tulsa Rampage.
The Renegades proved to be enough to handle this weekend, as coach Mark Vakos’ squad shook off an 8-2 loss to the Rhinos Saturday night, largely on the efforts of netminder Kyle Sykes.
The Renegades started the scoring at 4:34 as Alec Hanock scored his second goal in as many nights. Three different Texas players touched the puck within five feet of El Paso goaltender Arthur Hollinger’s net and it proved to be too much for the Chicagoan to deal with.
The Rhinos answered at 8:45 as Billy Krueger got the perfect feed from Nick Gorup at the Renegades’ blue line and walked in on Sykes, beating him glove side low to tie the game, 1-1.
But Texas was not done as team captain Mark Vakos blasted a screened shot past Hollinger from the blue line giving the visitors a 2-1 lead at 12:08.
Again El Paso answered the bell, as Trevor Erickson controlled a rebound off of Zach Kohn’s shot right at Sykes’ crease and beat the goaltender at 16:37, tying the game a second time, 2-2.
Tyler Ridgedell gave Texas its last lead of the game at 12:41 of the second period, but Zach Goller answered just 22 seconds later.
That set the stage for two straight goals from Zach Kohn. Scoring a hat trick Saturday night, Kohn picked up where he left off.
Cycling in from the blue line, Kohn deked his way by the last Renegades defender then lifted the puck over Sykes left shoulder top shelf at 15:19 of the second for the Rhinos first lead.
In the third, Kohn used a two-man advantage to skate wide from left to right, squared up and fired another top-shelf strike off the crossbar and into the net 53 seconds into the period.
Still, Texas would not go away. Bo Sutton got the Renegades within one on the power play at 4:57, then Richard Cetnarowski tied the game, 5-5, at 7:04.
Billy Krueger got another go-ahead goal for El Paso at 8:20 of the third and Nick Gorup earned another two-goal lead for the Rhinos at 11:28.
But Texas’ Brandon Christensen was awarded a penalty shot at 12:53 and made the most of it, five-holing Hollinger.
This time, though, El Paso’s defense was able to make its lead stick, giving Hollinger his 13th win and the Rhinos their 12th straight victory.
El Paso continues its homestand next weekend against the only team to defeat them this season, the Rampage. Friday and Saturday game time is 7:30 p.m. and Sunday is 5:30 p.m. MST.
For more information and for tickets, contact the El Paso Rhinos front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825) or head to the Rhinos website, www.elpasorhinos.com.