(EL PASO, TX) — Kendal Craig scored twice and the El Paso Rhinos survived a furious second period rally from the Dallas Snipers to take Game One of the best-of-three Midwest Division semifinals, 6-1.
Craig’s tallies came as El Paso broke the game open in the third frame, but it took nearly 40 minutes to get the better of a game Snipers’ team.
The Rhinos’ leading scorer in the regular season, Jiri Pestuka, notched the opening goal at 7:39 of the first, one-timing Sebastian Borg’s pass-out past goaltender Sander Berg.
Pestuka returned the favor to make it 2-0, as his pass deflected off of Borg and into the net with just 19 seconds left in the opening period.
The Rhinos outshot Dallas, 16-5, in the first period; but for all the fireworks in the first frame, the Snipers got the better of the hosts in the second, limiting El Paso’s offensive opportunities — the shot tally was just four apiece — while clawing their way back into the contest.
The Snipers thought they had stolen momentum when Alexander Kotzman steered the puck by hiar marker and fired a low wrist shot that beat El Paso netminder Adam Vay with just 2:46 left in the period.
But in the final seconds, Rhinos’ winger Martin Han’l took the puck from the El Paso blue line, stick-handled his way into the the Dallas zone, squeezed between the final two defenders and walked in on Snipers’ goalie Sander Berg, deking Berg down to the ice before pulling the puck to his backhand and sliding it inside the far post for the unassisted goal with just seven seconds left in the period.
Han’l’s amazing individual effort swung the game’s momentum back to the hosts, and El Paso showed it in the third, scoring three more goals — including the brace from the hard-working Craig.
The Rhinos have an opportunity to close out the best-of-three division semifinal series tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. MDT. If necessary, Game Three will be Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. MDT.
For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go the team website at www.elpasorhinos.com.