The Rhinos needed a little bit of luck on St. Baldrick’s weekend to get past the second place Oklahoma City Blazers. It took a Blazers goal that was waved off by the referees and a deflection off of a defender into the Blazers goal to get the Rhinos out of the Sierra Providence Events Center with the win. When the dust settled on a very physical match-up, the El Paso Rhinos were 3-2 victors.
As he has been known to do of late, forward Kendal Craig opened the scoring early in the first period with a slick wrister that may have caught the OKC goaltender off guard after only five minutes. Ten minutes later, the teams’ points leaders connected on a nice goal that saw forward Jiri Pestuka stick in the rebound from forward Sebastian Borg’s wraparound shot. Just as it looked like the Rhinos were going to head to the first intermission with a comfortable two goal lead, the Blazers netted a power play goal with only 1.5 seconds on the clock. The power play luck would prove to not be on the Blazers’ side however as the team would go 0-7 for the remainder of the game.
About half way through the second period, lady luck would intercede on behalf of the Rhinos for the first time on the night. What appeared to be a breakaway goal by OKC center Ivan Bukshevannyy lit the light but was waved off by the officials. After a lengthy meeting near the benches, it was decided that the goal would not stand. Clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Rhinos netted what would prove to be the winning goal when a centering pass by defenseman David Brancik deflected off of a Blazer defenseman’s skate and past the net minder. Lady luck had visited for the second time – at the perfect time.
The second period would end with defenseman Brennan Johnsson receiving a total of 29 minutes worth of penalties in an altercation with Blazers center Kole Hudson. The skirmish – and waved off goal – may have served to fire up the Blazers, however. Midway through the third period, OKC defenseman Lubos Vacek would poke home a rebound to bring the Blazers within one goal. Despite outshooting the Rhinos 20-16 in the final two periods, the Blazers were never able to draw level.
Join the Rhinos tomorrow night when they will be participating in their fifth annual St. Baldrick’s event, where fans can bid on a chance to help shave the head of their favorite Rhino’s player. Bidding will conclude at the 10 minute mark of the 3rd period.
– Jason Green