El Paso wins in the best-of-three playoff series in two games and once again will host the Tulsa Rampage, also two-game winners over San Antonio, for the Mid-West title in the championship series at theSierra-ProvidenceEventsCenter next weekend.
The Rhinos had their problems with a rough-and-tumble Outlaws team in Friday’s Game One before outlasting Colorado , 3-1.
But El Paso learned its lesson, and Saturday it loosed a barrage against Outlaws goaltenders David Herman and Alex Migdalski to the tune of 50 shots, playing the bounces off many of those shots and keeping a steady stream of traffic in front of Colorado ’s net – playoff hockey.
Zach Kohn, Alec Sherman, Eric LaBounty and Nick Gorup each scored twice while goaltender Arthur Hollinger stopped all 18 Colorado shots for the shutout and Number One Star of the Game honors.
The Rhinos special teams also picked up where it had left off in the regular season, as El Paso went 3-for-5 on the power play and scored a short-handed goal. The Rhinos led the Western States Hockey League this season with 24 “shorties” and had the top-ranked power play, as well.
The Tulsa Rampage should prove to be a tougher challenge. Tulsa was the only team to beat El Paso outright – a 7-4 victory inTulsa, OK , back on Feb. 1. They are also the only team to take two points away from the Sierra-Providence Events Center, outlasting the Rhinos in a 2-1 shootout loss for the hosts last Oct. 21.
El Paso is the defending division champion, besting the Rampage in two straight wins – 7-1 and 5-3 – a year ago. On the line is not only a berth in the WSHL championship series, to be played at the Western Division champion’s home ice, but also an automatic berth in the Tier III, Junior A, national championship tournament in suburban Boston, MA, the last weekend of March.
Regardless of the outcome of the league championship, both division winners will represent the WSHL in the national championship tourney.
Games One and Two will be Friday, March 7th, and Saturday, March 8th, at 7:30 p.m. MST. If necessary, Game Three will start Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. MST.