(EL PASO, TX) — Jiri Pestuka scored and assisted on two Rhinos goals just 10 seconds apart and El Paso goaltender Adam Vay stopped all 11 Tulsa shots he faced as the Rhinos shut down the Junior Oilers, 5-0, Saturday night.
Vay, a past Hungarian junior national team goalie, earned his league-leading fourth shutout of the season as El Paso improves to 33-3-0-0.
The Rhinos’ 66 points paces the Midwest Division by six points over up-and-coming Oklahoma City. The Blazers are 30-7-0-0 with 60 points, but have two three-game series against El Paso over the final three weeks of the season, including three to finish the regular season in the Sun City, Feb. 27-Mar. 1.
Saturday night, Gavin Abbott opened the scoring, deflecting Patrick Stancl’s shot past resolute Tulsa goalie, Teke Murphy at 5:47 of the first period.
Murphy has been a rock in net for the visitors despite allowing 12 goals over the first two games of the series — perhaps a little deceptive because the 5-9 dynamo has faced 107 Rhinos shots in 120 minutes of action.
Even so, Murphy would probably like to have 10 seconds of that back.
Though Saturday’s game was a little quiet to start, Pestuka fired up the sold-out crowd of 1,837 in the second period by keying two quick goals that put the game out of reach.
Taking a perfect two-line pass from Vay at the Tulsa blue line with his back to net, Pestuka smoothly spun, aimed and blasted the puck over Murphy’s left shoulder for El Paso’s second marker at 8:05.
On the resulting face-off, the Czech Republic winger then took Sebastian Borg’s win on the draw, froze a defender at the left circle before dishing the puck to a wide open Bryton Tomko in the middle of the slot.
Tomko popped Murphy’s water bottle with his top shelf strike at 8:15 and the Rhinos were rolling.
David Barbour made it 4-0 at 16:55, taking a rebounded shot from behind the net, then beating Murphy with a pin-point shot almost parallel with the end line as he skated out.
Borg wrapped up the scoring in the third period with a short-handed breakaway at 6:53, the result of another great pass from Pestuka.
The teams play once more Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. MST. The Rhinos will feature $1 hotdogs and free public skating with skate rental after the game. The game can also be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso and via 600ESPNElPaso.com, and can be viewed at www.elpasorhinos.com.
For tickets and information, contact El Paso’s front office at 915/479.PUCK, or check out the team’s website.