Rhinos goaltender Andrew Duff stopped all 20 Tulsa shots for his league-leading sixth shutout of the season and the team-record 12^th of his career as El Paso steamrolled the Rampage, 9-0.
A contentious game between longtime rivals – the Rhinos are the three-time defending Mid-West Division champions, unseating the more tenured Rampage from a spot they had enjoyed from time-to-time in the Western States Hockey League – Saturday’s contest was no different.
Marred by a line brawl with just over five minutes left in the third period as Tulsa tried to send a parting message to their hosts, the game’s finish didn’t manage to obscure El Paso’s accomplishments – Duff’s shutout chief among those.
Also pertinent was that Navarone Copley was the only multiple goal-scorer in the Rhinos lineup as El Paso was able to spread the scoring wealth eight different ways.
Defenseman Andrew Ketterer started the scoring on his mother’s birthday, followed by Copley and Donald Geary in the first; John Redmond and Trevor Erickson in the second; Kyle Shapiro, David Fegler, Copley shorthanded and Anthony Knuth in the third period.
Copley and Knuth’s goals came with less a minute and a half left to play in the game, as the Rhinos sent their own message after the fights and the resulting penalties left only a handful of players on each team’s bench.
For Duff, it was his fifth shutout in eight games since returning from a knee injury suffered early in the season. The Brighton, MI, native beat former teammate Arthur Hollinger’s record for career shutouts last weekend against San Antonio.
El Paso improves to a league-best 29-3-0, and the Rhinos’ 58 points is the best mark in the Mid-West by 20 points.
Tulsa drops to 11-14-1, in third place with 23 points.
The two teams play once more Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. MST, the final home game of 2009 as El Paso heads for the league showcase before splitting up for Christmas.