Andrew Duff stopped all 26 Valencia Flyers shots while Justin Hancock and Shane Callahan each scored two goals, and the El Paso Rhinos beat their surprise opponents, 9-0.
Valencia replaces this weekend’s scheduled opponents, the last place Dallas Hawks. The Flyers came in 31-15-3 and their 65 points puts them second to the Phoenix Polar Bears in the Western Division of the Western States Hockey League.
Beginning next week, Valencia will host the San Diego Gulls in the best-of-three first round of the Western Division playoffs while Phoenix hosts the So Cal Bombers.
El Paso will begin defense of the Thorne Cup next weekend as well, playing host to the Colorado Outlaws while Tulsa and San Antonio are still jockeying to see who will be the home team in their first-round series.
Seven different Rhinos scored as El Paso improved to 43-3-1 with 87 points. Drew Montague, David Fegler, Eric LaBounty, Josh Deloach and Austin Balko joined Hancock Callahan.
Duff notched his sixth shutout of the season facing a solid Valencia team that was still showing its bus legs after the trip from north of Los Angeles.
The two teams face each other twice more as the Rhinos wind down the regular season, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. MST. For tickets and more information, contact the Rhinos’ website, www.elpasorhinos.com, or call the front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825).