With only one loss in regulation, El Paso is now 47-1-2 with 96 points and has the first seed in the Mid-West Division wrapped up. The defending league champion Phoenix Polar Bears lost in overtime to the Valencia Flyers, 6-5, giving the Rhinos a one-point lead for top mark going into both teams’ final games tomorrow.
San Antonio was rough and ready once again playing physical hockey against their hosts, and it took two power play goals from two El Paso defenders to jumpstart the Rhinos’ offense.
Zach Hale lifted one past the Diablos’ Ryan Larrabee at 7:01 of the first, and Sean Molina ripped one past Larrabee from the blue line at 7:00 of the second.
Kevin Davis continued the string at 10:37, followed by Hayden Kowalski at 15:15.
Bill Krueger scored the first of his two goals at 19:08, but the final bow of the second frame was taken by Marshall Weber.
The Boise, ID , native has only played in 15 games and had yet to score, but that didn’t stop him from proving the adage that you can’t stop until the final horn sounds. Weber came up with a deflected puck in the San Antonio zone and skated right at Larrabee, beating the surprised goalie five-hole with less than one second left in the period for a 6-0 El Paso lead.
Marcus Wilhite scored on a beautiful top-shelf strike at 4:33 of the third, and Krueger scored the Rhinos third power play goal at 8:59.
Arthur Hollinger was 1:23 from his fifth shutout in net forEl Paso until Stormy Knight knocked in the power play rebound for the Diablos to finish the scoring.
Nonetheless, Hollinger dropped his goals-against average to 2.16, fourth-best in the league.
San Antonio dropped to 30-17-3 and its 63 points puts the team firmly in third place in the Mid-West Division. The Diablos will start the playoffs at Tulsa in the best-of-three divisional semifinals.
The Rhinos will host theirAlamoCity visitors once more Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. MST in the last game of the regular season. The game can be viewed online with a subscription at www.elpasorhinos.com. Live game tracking is also provided at www.pointstreak.com. Just key “WSHL” into the hockey searchbar and follow the links.
Tickets are on sale for the Mid-West Division semifinals asEl Paso hosts the Colorado Outlaws next Friday, Feb. 29, and Saturday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. MST. If necessary, Game Three would be Sunday at 5:30 p.m. MST. Call the Rhinos offices at 915.479.PUCK (7825) for information and ticket prices.