Emotions were running high on Saturday night in El Paso as the Rhinos and Dallas Snipers hooked up for a total of 81 penalty minutes, two game misconducts and 10 goals. The first place Rhinos took the middle game of this three game set by a final score of 8-2. A night after clinching their ninth straight division championship, the Rhinos clearly were not resting on their laurels in any way.
Forward Kendal Craig opened up the scoring in the first period with a beautiful top shelf goal off of the backhand following a 360 degree spin in front of the crease. The only other goal of the first period came at 14:47 when the El Paso power play unit, one of the best in the league, allowed a short-handed goal to Dallas defenseman Trent Williams.
After giving up six goals in his first start with the Rhinos, newly acquired goaltender Alek Lazarski looked much improved in giving up only two goals on 11 shots. With a plethora of penalties dished out on Saturday, Lazarski did a great job in holding the Snipers without a power play goal on six attempts.
In the second period things got heated between the two teams in every way. Forward Marek Langhammer put the Rhinos ahead for good when he redirected a shot from defenseman Brennan Johnsson past the Snipers goaltender just three minutes in. On the night, Johnsson would tally a total of three assists. Shortly after the goal, a melee broke out between the two teams resulting in several fighting penalties for both teams and a game misconduct for both Rhinos forward Gavin Abbott and defenseman John Bowen. Both players will sit out tomorrow’s last game of the series.
Forward Bryton Tomko scored on a wicked one timer at 14:59 of the second period. Shortly after his goal, new Rhino forward Jordan Cullum would score his fifth goal as a Rhino. Cullum has scored in all five games since coming to El Paso. On the night, Cullum would also earn a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with an assist on the Rhinos eighth goal of the night and a fight with Dallas forward Jean Cobo.
One minute into the third period, Tomko would notch his second goal of the night after tipping in a pass from Johnsson to give the Rhinos their only power play goal of the night. Another new Rhino, forward Mitch Cobby would get in on the scoring in a big way with a blast from almost near the blue line to notch an unassisted goal. The goal was his first as a Rhino. Seven minutes later, Cobby would tally again off of a nice feed from defenseman Robert Horak. Craig would bookend the night with a goal at 13:19 with an assist from Cullum
The two teams meet up, in what is sure to be an exciting finale to the series, tomorrow afternoon at the Sierra Providence Events Center. The puck will drop at 4:30PM.
– Jason Green