Ben Henne and Tyler Benson each scored twice and the El Paso Rhinos earned their fifth consecutive trip to the Western States Hockey League’s Mid-West Division finals with a 7-2 win over the Tulsa Rampage Saturday night.
Posting a 4-0 shutout in Friday night’s Game One in the best-of-three playoff series, the win gives the Rhinos the series sweep and will pit them against the winner of the other semifinal series between the Boulder Bison and the Texas Brahmas.
El Paso outscored Tulsa, 11-2, in the series.
The scoring started early as the Rhinos posted a three-goal first period. Henne drew first blood 2:04 into the first period, getting Rampage starting goaltender, Hayden Capuozzo, to hit the ice before popping his backhanded shot in for the goal.
Defenseman Vinny Bohn beat Capuozzo from the blue line at 13:25, then Henne capped the period with his second at 14:17, chasing Capuozzo from net.
Tulsa’s Joseph Panariello scored the Rampage’s first goal of the weekend at 9:06 of the second period to make it 3-1, but four straight power play goals for the hosts went unanswered until Sean Heidrick scored the game’s last goal at 15:15 of the third period.
After Panariello’s goal, WSHL leading scorer Tyler Beasley scored at 12:51 of the second. Benson notched his first at 18:42 and Frankie Posillico scored El Paso third of the period, dealing a strike from the center of the slot past goalie Eric Messer with a mere tenth of a second remaining.
Benson scored the Rhinos seventh goal at 2:23 of the third period.
El Paso has won every regular season Mid-West Division title since the franchise’s inception, but lost its first in the divisional playoffs last season to the Bison on home ice.
The Rhinos won the WSHL’s Thorne Cup in 2008.
The Mid-West Divison Finals will be held in El Paso next weekend. Games One and Two will be Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. MST. If necessary, Game Three will be held Sunday at 5:30 p.m. MST. For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos front office at 915/479.PUCK or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.