(EL PASO, TX) — Jonah Pearson won the draw, won the puck behind the net, then won the game, tipping in the game-winning goal 1:59 into overtime to give the El Paso Rhinos their first series sweep of the season, edging Tulsa, 3-2, Sunday.
The Rhinos (9-11-0-1) improve their season-best win streak to five games. El Paso’s 19 points puts the team within three points of the fifth-place Dallas Snipers in the Midwest Division headed into the Western States Hockey League’s Holiday Showcase in Las Vegas next week.
After winning 4-0 on Friday and 6-3 Saturday, It took all the Rhinos could muster to beat the Junior Oilers Sunday afternoon in front of another sold-out crowd at the El Paso County Events Center.
Tulsa jumped out to a 2-0 lead as Scott Coash, Jr., solved a nearly impossible angle, beating goalie Ryan Buttazoni along the end line and off the far post just 44 seconds into the game.
Bogdan Shleev scored on the power play at 14:47, and El Paso was searching for the same jump in its step that defined its Friday andSaturday wins.
The Rhinos finally got on the board at 8:42 of the second period, as leading goal-scorer Connor Beaudet notched his 13th of the season in just 12 games, beating Junior Oilers’ goaltender Richard Albrecht through the five-hole to give the home team a life-line.
But it took most of the third period before El Paso got the equalizing goal. Robert Fogarty shot the puck from the top of the left circle and defenseman Austin Grawbarger got a high tip to beat Albrecht at 14:47.
Both teams had opportunities to end the game before overtime, but Buttazoni and Albrecht would not let a potential late game-winner slip by them in regulation.
Pearson earned the game-winner with a great bit of individual skill and effort in the four-on-four first overtime period. Winning a draw at center ice, the lanky forward dumped the puck in deep. Though Tulsa initially gained control of the puck behind Albrecht’s net, Pearson won it back, passing to Petr Ceslik, who passed it up to defenseman Jackson Donnell.
From the blue line, Donnell then fired a drive to Albrecht’s crease. Stepping up from behind the end line, Pearson tipped it past Albrecht’s left skate for the sudden-death goal, much to the delight of the 2,000-plus fans at the Events Center.
The Junior Oilers (10-14-0-3, 23 points) earn a point for getting past regulation and stay a point ahead of the Snipers for fourth place in the Midwest Division.
El Paso leaves Tuesday for Las Vegas for the annual league showcase and will play Cheyenne, Seattle, Las Vegas and Phoenix before Christmas break. The Rhinos then go on a nine-game road trip before returning to the Events Center to play the Ontario Avalanche, Friday, Jan. 29through Sunday, Jan. 23rd.
The Avalanche is led by Rhinos’ coach Cory Herman’s old El Paso Buzzards teammate and 1997-98 WPHL MVP, Jamie Thompson.