David Nelson scored a pair of goals and the El Paso Rhinos lit the lamp six times against seemingly unbeatable goalie Zach Woodman capping the three-game series against the New Mexico Renegades with an 8-2 rout.
Woodman had stopped 110 of the 114 El Paso shots through Friday\’s Renegades shootout win and Saturday\’s 1-0 loss to the Rhinos.
Sunday was also looking good for New Mexico after Nick Stirmel scored a power play goal at 15:17 of the first period.
But Aaron Rasmussen started a string of six unanswered goals for the hosts less than a minute later at 16:04, followed just 44 seconds later by Nelson who scored on the power play, and suddenly El Paso was in the driver\’s seat with a 2-1 lead at first intermission.
The avalanche continued in the second period as Chad Cesarz, Nelson, Tyler Brady and Jack Strusz all tallied, chasing Woodman from net after the second period.
Nelson\’s goal was El Paso\’s league-leading 27th shorthanded goal of the season. The next closest teams in the Western States Hockey League have nine.
Stirmel scored his second goal short-handed to start the third period, but John Ludwig and John Morales each tallied to wrap the scoring.
New Mexico — which has retooled its lineup to make a charge for the playoffs — falls to 12-18-1, but the Renegades\’ 25 points is only three out of the fourth and final playoff berth in the WSHL\’s Mountain Conference.
Suffering through numerous injuries, New Mexico had no choice but to play hurt to give the Renegades a fighting chance Sunday. Heart should not be in question for new coach Mike Stanaway.
Rhinos\’ head coach Cory Herman\’s task is a bit different — maintain the high level of play as El Paso prepares for the Thorne Cup playoffs. El Paso improves to 24-5-2 and earns its 50th points of the season, 11 better than the Cheyenne Stampede atop the Mountain Conference.
The Rhinos hit the road to play a key series against the Midwest Conference-leading Dallas Ice Jets before returning home against the second place Stampede, Feb. 1-3. For tickets and information, contact El Paso\’s front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.