El Pasoan and team captain Mike Rivera was worried about his Friday morning accounting final at UTEP. He must have been happy to get to the rink and relieve some stress.
Rivera scored a hat trick and assisted on three more goals to earn First Star of the Game, and the Rhinos downed the Tulsa Junior Oilers, 8-1.
El Paso (15-3-1, 31 points) improved its lead in the Western States Hockey League’s Mountain Conference, leading Boulder by three points with a game in hand.
Defenseman Chris Wilhite started the scoring with a power play blast just 1:16 into the game, followed by forward Austin Hoff, who scored in his first game for the Rhinos at 7:22.
Rivera scored his first goal to make it 3-0 with an ankle-twisting series of dekes before beating Junior Oilers’ starting goaltender Tyrus Vanmatre high over the shoulder at 8:05.
Tyler Basham scored on the power play at 16:22, then Rivera and Brenden Gust combined to score two short-handed goals just 41 seconds apart to round out the scoring in the second frame.
Rivera notched the hat trick in the third period after Johnny Morales got a stick on a bad clearing pass from Tulsa (4-15-0, 8 points), sliding the puck past replacement goalie Jordan Cartney at 3:34.
After Matt Winkle got Tulsa into the scoring column with a goal scored on a two-man advantage at 12:21. Morales rounded out the scoring at 17:41.
The teams will play twice more, Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. MST and Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.