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Rhinos Take Game One in Playoff Series with 7-3 Win Over Phoenix [PHOTO]

Os Yanez/El Paso Rhinos

The El Paso Rhinos got goals from seven different players, riding hot starts in the first and second periods to a 7-3 win in Game One of the best-of-three Mountain Conference semifinals.

The Rhinos scored two goals in the first five minutes of both the first and second frames. El Paso’s 6-7 Czech Republic defenseman Matej Steigauf bounced one in from the right point to open the scoring at 2:35, followed 1:45 later by a hard-work rebound goal from Taylor Bargar.

The Knights got one back before first intermission as Jordan Cullum scored a power play goal at 17:56, but Chad Cesarz tallied just 1:36 into the second frame and Tyler Brady notched the game-winner on the power play just over a minute later, popping his shot into an empty net at 2:39 after Knights’ goalie Alex Taylor overplayed to one side.

Team captain and El Pasoan Mike Rivera added some insurance at 16:17, followed by Michael Cummings with another Phoenix power play goal at 16:57, as Cummings one-timing his top shelf strike past Rhinos goaltender Alex Palumbo.

Cullum scored his second goal, also on the power play, at 4:50 of the third period to make things interesting; but El Paso would seal the scoring with third period goals from John Morales at 14:45 and another power play goal from Jack Strusz at 18:10.

Though the Rhinos scored twice with the man advantage, all three Knights’ goals came on the power play as Phoenix went 3-for-4 on the power play.

The Rhinos have won seven straight regular season conference championships and six conference playoff titles, and will play with home-ice advantage as long as they can stay alive through the conference finals. The Thorne Cup Finals will be held in McCall, ID, this year, pitting the playoff champions from each of the four conferences in the Western States Hockey League.

El Paso and the Knights will play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MDT. Game Three will be Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. MDT (if necessary).

For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.

For the official stats from Friday’s game courtesy of pointstreak.com, click the link provided: http://pointstreak.com/prostats/boxscore.html?gameid=2166437

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