Nick Gualano notched a Texas hat trick and the El Paso Rhinos dominated the Boulder Bison, 9-3, in Boulder, CO, Saturday night.
Though Boulder continues to be a consistent thorn in the Rhinos’ hide, El Paso once again responded to a loss by winning its next game against the rough-and-ready Bison.
The Rhinos (17-3-0) lead Boulder (11-6-0) by 12 points, 34-22, in the Mid-West Division of the Western States Hockey League.
El Paso’s top line of Gualano, Austin Balko and Navarone Copley rose to the challenge yet again, scoring five of the Rhinos’ nine goals.
Gualano got things rolling early, scoring two goals in the game’s first eight minutes, beating Bison goaltender Taylor Fant at 3:27 and at 7:28 before A.J. Tesoriero drew one back for the hosts at 10:15.
Ben Henne gave El Paso a 3-1 lead at 11:59 of the first.
In the second period, Gualano again scored the first two goals, taking only 52 seconds to make it 4-1, then making it 5-1 just two minutes later.
Boulder’s Jordan Roberts made it 5-2 on the power play at 15:28, but the visitors would grab the game by its throat, scoring the next three goals before the Bison would respond again.
Swedish forward Timothy Avegard scored on an unassisted short-handed breakaway at 6:05 of the third, Balko scored at 7:56 and Tyler Ridgedell got one on the man advantage at 9:18 to make it 8-2.
Boulder’s Bobby Dominski scored a short-handed goal at 11:46, but Avegard would strike once more, scoring the game’s final goal at 16:20.
Gualano, a 5-10 forward from Prospect Heights, IL, now leads the WSHL with 22 goals on the season.
The team’s will play once more this weekend at 4:30 p.m. MST Sunday before the Rhinos return home in time for classes Monday morning.
El Paso plays the New Mexico Renegades in Albuquerque Friday before returning to the Sierra Providence Events Center for games Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 14 and 15.
Both home games will be replayed on MetroSports, Time Warner Cable Ch. 24, at 3 p.m. the day after each game is played and will also be available free via Time Warner Cable On-Demand at digital cable channel 832, MetroSports On-Demand.