It was a decidedly “chippy” contest at the end with numerous penalties handed out as the game wore down. But the Rhinos had already put in five goals before the second intermission; and though San Antonio came close to giving El Paso goaltender Arthur Hollinger more work, it was still a relatively quiet finish for the Homer Glen, IL, native, who improved his record to 26-1-2.
Hollinger is tied for fourth among Western States Hockey League goalies with a 2.20 goals-against average.
The Rhinos opened the scoring at 9:34 of the first period, as Austin Balko blasted a short wrister past Diablos netminder Jason Barden. Schmudlach put in his first of the night at 14:36 to make it 2-0 for the home team before the end of the frame.
Bill Krueger scored a hard-work goal to open the second period scoring just 52 seconds in. Barden had trouble controlling a short rebound, and in the middle of a traffic jam at the goalie’s crease Krueger nudged the puck into the goal with the backhand.
Schmudlach ripped an unassisted goal past Barden at 6:29, followed by Hayden Kowalski with a beautiful top-shelf strike at 9:32.
San Antonio got one back on Edgar Soto’s goal at 17:25 of the second, followed by Patrick Bernier’s perfect placement of Malcolm Richards’ right-to-left pass through the slot. With the Diablos on a two-man advantage, Bernier picked his spot on a helpless Hollinger at 16:56 of the third.
El Paso skated much of the final five minutes of the game killing penalties.San Antonio was officially 1-for-10 on the power play, the Rhinos 0-for-1 on home ice.
Schmudlach continues an amazing run in the New Year, returning to form after injury had sidelined him late in 2007. Schmudlach is averaging 1.79 points per game, having scored 50 points in just 28 games – by far the best scoring average on the team.
The Diablos will be back in theSierra-ProvidenceEventsCenter Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. MST, followed by the regular season finale Sunday at 5:30 p.m. MST.
El Paso , the number one seed in the WSHL’s Mid-West Division, will host the fourth-seeded Colorado Outlaws in the best-of-three divisional semifinals beginning Friday, Feb. 29, at 7:30 p.m. MST.