El Paso Sweeps Again
On Saturday night in Fort Worth, the El Paso Rhinos set a new record for closing the largest deficit in franchise history. The intensity of the series reached a peak as in the first period alone, the teams had a combined total of 67 penalty minutes. Unfortunately for the Rhinos, the Brahmas were able to capitalize on several one man advantages. They took the lead just before the midway mark of the first period when Jack Norling scored a powerplay goal. Eighteen seconds later, Cole Rose scored another powerplay goal putting the Brahmas up by two goals. The period ended in a frenzy when Rose’s and Nick Wright’s scuffle earned both of them fighting majors and game misconducts.
The start of the second period saw a continued streak of bad luck for the Rhinos as they were penalized a second time for having too many men on the ice. The Brahmas quickly capitalized, making the score 3 to 0. For El Paso, matters worsened when Texas’ Connor Hutchins slid in another after the Rhinos swapped starting goaltender Isaak Tjaden with Adam Vay. Michael Brown then followed up with a powerplay goal just over a minute later.
Down by five points, Michael Riley’s and Landyn Howze’s penalties gave the Rhinos a four on three opportunity. Chad Cesarz, set up by Jack Strusz and Trey Hughes, scored El Paso’s first goal of the night. Several minutes later, Dakota Beaulieu, also helped by Hughes, managed to get the puck by Brahmas netminder, Oliver Eklund. Just before the close of the period, Cesarz cut El Paso’s deficit to two.
In the third period, both teams were limited to five shots but El Paso only needed two to tie the game. Beulieu’s and Peter Plesa’s consecutive goals led the Rhinos into their first overtime of the season. Even with Texas’ 7 shots on goal in the first overtime, the game wasn’t decided until the second overtime when Trey Hughes buried the game winning goal only 42 seconds away from a shootout.
With such a frustrating start to the game, head coach Cory Herman acknowledges that there are several areas that need improvement. “We need to learn that the only thing we can control is ourselves. We can’t control the refs or the other team. I think that if we can understand that and execute it, we will be a better team,” he explains. However, he does note that there were positive aspects of the competition. “I thought we played well in the last half of the game. A big comeback like this early in the season builds a lot of character and confidence.”
In the third and final game of the series, the Rhinos exuded that confidence from the night before. Although there were no goals scored in the first period, it was anything but uneventful. As Adam Vay turned away nine shots, two penalties were killed and El Paso’s offense battered Texas’ defense with 28 shots on goal.
The persistence of El Paso’s offense was revealed in the second period. Six minutes in, Dakota Beulieu, assisted by Trey Hughes and Tom Bartel, scored the game’s first goal with a one man advantage. Peter Plesa scrambled to score the Rhinos second goal after being set up by both of his brothers. Only eight seconds later, Beaulieu, again flanked by Bartel and Hughes, increased the Rhinos’ lead to three points. Primed for a third goal, Chris Wilhite set up Beaulieu and hats went flying for the Rhinos co-captain. But Dakota wasn’t done. After the Brahmas scored a goal to finish out the second period, Dakota hit the ice in the third period and scored his fourth goal. Chris Wilhite finished out the game when he snagged a shorthanded goal just five minutes before the close of the game.
Much more poised and calm than the night before, the Rhinos exhibited great control in offense and defense. They were able to cut the number of penalty minutes from the previous game by more than half. Offensive lines were able to establish an efficient cohesiveness and capitalize on scoring chances.
El Paso’s sweep of the Brahmas ties them with the Dallas Snipers for first place in the Midwest Division. They look to gain sole control of the top spot when they host San Diego for the home opener on October 25.