Rhinos Begin Season by Sweeping Dallas
This past weekend, the El Paso Rhinos traveled to Plano, Texas to take on Dallas Snipers for their first series of the season. With Dallas looking to avenge their 9-3 loss against the Texas Brahmas, the series was sure to be an entertaining one.
Adam Vay, a new goaltender for the Rhinos, was still shaking off the first game jitters when he allowed a goal three minutes and thirty seconds into the series. Although the Snipers took an early lead with Justin Becton’s power play goal, it would be only point they would earn in the game. Defenseman Brandon Edson made up for his interference penalty that led to Dallas’ lead when he set up El Paso newcomer Dakota Beualieu’s tying goal. Less than five minutes later, the defenseman had another assist when he passed the puck to Tom Bartel who then increased the Rhinos’ lead. El Paso continued to punish Dallas’ defense as Trey Hughes closed out the first period when he scored two seconds from its end. Halfway into the second, Chad Cesarz, assisted by Eliot Herz, then followed up with a short- handed goal as fellow Rhino Nick Wright sat for roughing. At the fifteenth minute in the third period, Kendal Craig closed out the game when he buried the puck in the back of the net.
Just as El Paso’s offense shone is this game, the defense was no less impressive. In 35 minutes of infractions, the Rhinos were able to kill 12 of 13 penalties and on two of them, they were able score. Netminder Adam Vay saved all but one of the 25 shots he faced and even exhibited a bit of tenacity when he took a two minute roughing penalty in the second.
The Rhinos returned to the Dr. Pepper StarCenter on Saturday with the intention of maintaining the series lead. Dallas started the game with Emil Eriksson, who saw no ice time in the previous game, in an attempt to shut down the Rhinos’ offense. Over three periods of play, Eriksson faced 37 shots, 17 of which were in the first period. Out of those seventeen, Herz had the only successful shot just under the halfway mark of the period.
Needing to secure the lead, the Rhinos were primed as they started the second period on a power play. With 1:05 left on the penalty, Chris Wilhite scored the game winning goal only 46 seconds into the period. Later in the period, Dallas’ Trent Williams put the Snipers on the board as he slipped one past Vay. With a fairly calm third period, Chad Cesarz, a helper on Wilhite’s goal, solidified the win when he earned a goal of his own in the last two minutes of the game.
During the second game, both teams seemed to be more levelheaded and focused, avoiding unnecessary penalties and making up for those that were committed. Killing all seven penalties, El Paso’s Vay stopped 28 shots, four more than he had seen the previous night. Both teams also increased their offensive pressure in the first two periods, but as tiredness set in, that pressure waned within the third. However, El Paso’s David Nelson epitomized consistency throughout the game as he assisted a goal during each period, earning three points as well as the title of the first star of the game.
On Sunday morning, El Paso hit the ice hunting for a sweep. The game got off to an astounding start when Trent Williams and Dakota Beaulieu dropped the gloves less than a minute and thirty seconds in. Williams received a five minute fighting major before he was ejected from the game. Three minutes later, the Rhinos were forced to grapple for the lead early on when Snipers defenseman Jesse Buckholz earned his second goal of the series.
Chad Cesarz, with the help of Andrew Bradford, tied the game just after the second minute of the period. The excitement was short-lived when Justin Becton answered with a power play goal less than 30 seconds later. The back and forth game continued when Rhinos defenseman David Nelson tied the game again with a short-handed goal before Dallas regained the lead with Jean Cobo’s point.
Early in the third period, Trey Hughes again tied the game and five minutes later, Cesarz’s second goal of the game became the game winner. The will to win then drove endurance as the Rhinos’ defense held off Dallas for over eleven minutes, two of which, the Rhinos were short handed.
In the final game of the series, El Paso more than doubled the number of Dallas’ shots on goal. The third period constituted half of the Rhinos’ shots as the players barraged the Snipers’ defense. The Rhinos’ clear dominance of possession only allowed the home team’s offense to get off two shots in the entire period. Passion was also evident as both teams combined for a total of 75 penalty minutes on 25 offenses.
With a bye week next, El Paso looks to continue their undefeated record when they hit the ice in Fort Worth to take on the Texas Brahmas in two weeks.