Nonetheless, it was the Catahoulas who drew first blood, as Tyler Ridgedell scored the power play goal at 4:34 of the first period.
Zach Goller got one back for the Rhinos, stick-checking the puck loose from a Catahoulas’ defender just over the Lafayette blue line. Skating in untouched, he potted the wrist shot stick-side, low, past goaltender Josh Perkins at 7:58.
The Catahoulas kept things at a snail’s pace for nearly half the contest, striving not to allow their hosts to build any momentum.
But El Paso was irrepressible in just its fourth home game of the season, and Hayden Kowalski started the avalanche of goals at 9:48 of the second period.
The key series came shortly after Kowalski’s ice-breaker, as the Rhinos scored two short-handed goals on a single Lafayette power play – Zach Kohn’s forecheck and pass found Austin Balko at the crease for the first at 11:15, then a Costi Hinn forecheck and pass was one-timed by Eric LaBounty just 48 seconds later for what turned out to be the game-winning strike.
Ridgedell scored his second of the night for the Catahoulas at 13:44, but Balko notched his second 31 seconds later to make it 5-2 El Paso at the end of the second period.
The third period featured scoring exclusively from Rhinos defensemen, as Zach Hale scored at 2:59 of the third, followed by another at 6:15, and Sean Molina scored exactly 1:01 after that to chase Perkins from the net
After Bryce Cotton got Lafayette’s third,El Paso’s Bo Hernandez rounded out the scoring just 13 seconds from time with a nifty top-shelf blast that beat backup goalie Alex Anderson.
The Rhinos drop the Catahoulas to 1-19-2, the second-worst record in the Western States Hockey League, while El Paso remains tied with Phoenix for the best point total in the league with 36 points. While the Polar Bears have 18 wins and one loss,El Paso has managed to earn a point in every one of its 19 games so far this season.
Rhinos goalie Anthony Natali picks up his seventh win and currently sits sixth among the league’s leading netminders with a 2.40 goals-against average.
El Paso andLafayette will play twice more this weekend, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST, and Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. MST. Fans can follow the action via the web as Duke Keith andMichael Hissam provide the play-by-play at www.elpasorhinos.com (via www.audiosportsonline.com), while www.pointstreak.com has live game tracking, stats, standings, league leaders and more. Just key “WSHL” into the hockey searchbar and follow the links.