Rhinos Start Rollin’
Jan. 26, 2012
El Paso, TX – The El Paso Rhinos are on the brink of something huge right now. I know it is a little early for predictions so I won’t even go there, other than to say that if this team plays the way they did Thursday against the Park City Moose, they could easily end the season with a record of 22-0-1 since the beginning of the year. Do I think they will be able to do this? 98% of me says no, but because they certainly have the capability, that 2% might start growing on me.
To begin the series this weekend, the Rhinos stomped the Moose 8-2 in a game that Park City had no business scoring in. It was a slow start to a contest that ultimately would finish with fireworks as it took nearly half a period to light up the scoreboard for the initial goal by David Nelson, the first of three by him. Cole Dodson answered back with just over a minute and a half left to send it to intermission tied at 1 apiece.
The second period was when things began getting out of hand as goals by Matthew Pietrzykowski on the powerplay and Dallas Szustack bookmarked the last two of Nelson’s hat trick. On top of the Rhinos outscoring the Moose 4-0 in the period, the game began getting rather nasty as well. Each team was slapped with checking from behind and roughing penalties, a theme that would only progress in the final period.
With Park City being down 5-1, they needed a spark quickly and received one. Right out of the gates Denis Zverev scored less than two minutes in. However, this was the last positive thing the Moose would encounter as El Paso went on to score three more off of goals by Tyler Basham, Alexander Stephens, and Alex Koopmeiners.
However the story of the box score wasn’t necessarily the goals, but rather the problems with the penalty box. When poor teams don’t play well for a long time, that sparks frustrations and Park City has been a perfect example of that all season. Match that with an already reckless-but-good El Paso and you have a recipe for fire. In the third period alone there were two penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, three for slashing, two for fighting, another for checking from behind, and finally an abuse of the officials call. This was one team getting irritated with losing and another giving in and dropping to their level. On Wednesday I laid out what El Paso needs to do for the next month to win, playing above your competition by not letting them get to you was one of those things. If this becomes a trend, it could be very concerning as they will be playing three peeved teams.
Game two of this series begins on Friday and look for it to stay just as heated the first. Park City is almost at that point where they only play to inflict pain on their opponents since they are just on the cusp of no longer being in contention for a playoff spot. This expansion team hasn’t had the first run they would have hoped for but a win against the reigning USA Hockey National Tournament Silver Medalists is all the Moose need to get the winning itch. Pink in the Rink continues all weekend in support of Breast Cancer Awareness. For more information go to www.elpasorhinos.com
Matt Prosser, El Paso Rhinos Beat Writer for JuniorHockey.com. Matt is a freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. For the past two seasons he has been the voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and is the host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU 1580AM in Sacramento and KSSU.com. His other broadcasts also include Hornets football, baseball, and softball. To get in touch with Matt for comments and writing ventures please e-mail him at MProsser58@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @kssuMattProsser or visit his website: www.kssusportscycle.com.