Rhinos Hammer Tulsa, 16-0

(EL PASO, TX) — Lukas Znosko notched a hat trick and goalie Ryan Buttazzoni earned his second shutout of the season as the the El Paso Rhinos rolled over the Tulsa Junior Oilers, 16-0, to sweep the three-game series Sunday in front of another sell-out crowd of 1,837 at the Events Center.
Tulsa scored the opening goal of the series Friday night, but was shutout over the final seven periods it played this weekend.
Sunday, the Rhinos (34-3-0-0, 68 points) racked up six special teams markers, going 5-for-8 on the power play and earning their 12th short-handed goal of the season, third best in the Western States Hockey League.
El Paso got four goals in the first period. Marek Langhammer started the scoring at 2:57, followed by Znosko at 4:29, Vojtech Zemlicka on the power play at 9:10 and Gavin Abbott exactly 32 seconds later.
Another four goal period was kicked off by Jiri Pestuka, who scored his team-high 33rd goal of the season at 4:12. Pestuka’s 65 points puts him sixth among the WSHL’s scoring leaders.
Karson Frisk scored unassisted at 9:17, followed by Znosko (11:53) and David Brancik (15:58), both on the power play.
But, even as El Paso cut back the ice time of its top lines, the Rhinos rolled the visitors with eight goals in the final 20 minutes, all coming from different players. Gavin Abbott notched his second at 2:13 on the power play, Jonah Pearson with the shorthanded goal at 5:39, Frisk’s second 20 seconds later, Langhammer’s second at 7:32, Zemlicka’s second on the power play at 9:13, Brancik’s second at 9:42, Kendal Craig at 13:25 and Znosko with his hat trick goal at 14:58.
El Paso opens up an eight-point lead on the Oklahoma City Blazers (30-7-0-0, 60 points) in the race for top spot in the Midwest Division. The Rhinos head to OKC next weekend for what promises to be a telling three-game series against the Blazers, the only team to have beaten El Paso at the Events Center this season.
The Rhinos will return home for the final two weeks of the regular season with a pair of three-game series against the Dallas Snipers (Feb. 20-22) and Oklahoma City (Feb. 28-Mar 2). For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go towww.elpasorhinos.com.
-Duke Keith