Krasanovsky Blanks the Eagles as the Rhinos Roll to Another Sweep
Five-holes, fights and Frodo – Sunday's shutout win for the El Paso Rhinos had it all.
Rhinos goalie Filip "Frodo" Krasanovsky earned his league-best ninth shutout, stopping all 23 shots from the Colorado Eagles, and El Paso swept the three-game series with a 4-0 win.
Krasanovsky has been a key player for head coach Cory Herman's Rhinos all season long. The Czech Republic native has the most starts for any keeper in the Western States Hockey League with 42, has a league-best 1.42 goals against average and is third with a 92.6 save percentage.
If there's any lingering question about Krasanovsky, it's how a lanky 6-foot-8 goalie gets nicknamed after a Hobbit.
As it pertains to El Paso's quest for a ring, the Rhinos improve to 40-1-1 (81 points), becoming the first team in the Western States Hockey League to top 80 points on the season.
But the Eagles proved were game all weekend long, earning the only point the Rhinos have surrendered in a home game this season by taking the hosts past regulation in Saturday's double-overtime thriller, a 4-3 El Paso win. Certainly, both teams knew the series finale could be just as tough.
It took almost all of the first two periods Sunday for either team to break through, but it was the Rhinos who scored the opener at 16:11 of the second on Logan Orem's diving shot.
Jake Kopinski had missed an opportunity to clear the puck at El Paso's blue line but made up for it in fine fashion. Scrambling to keep the puck out of Colorado's hands, the defenseman spotted teammate Phil Pugliese up the right wing, wheeled and fired a two-line pass from the corner of the El Paso zone. Pugliese corraled it and, as he was being checked, pinged his off-balance pass into the slot for Orem.
Orem had to dive for the puck to edge out Eagles' goalie Braden Lajoie and, from his stomach, tipped his shot one-handed through the five-hole for the opening goal.
But Sunday, as it was Friday, the third period was where the Rhinos separated themselves from the competition.
A four-goal effort by the hosts in the final frame broke a tie and secured a 5-1 win Friday. In the series finale, three El Paso power play goals on two key penalties at the beginning of the period killed Colorado.
As the puck dropped to start the third, the Eagles' Collin Gamrat jumped Pugliese after the two had exchanged "pleasantries" before the draw.
Pugliese never had a chance to throw down the gloves, so Gamrat was assessed an instigating minor and a fighting major and was thrown out of the game while El Paso was gifted a seven-minute power play.
The Rhinos took full advantage. Chaseton Sare ripped a near-post shot over Lajoie's right shoulder just 31 seconds into the man advantage to make it 2-0.
Pugliese tipped Colby Haugen's shot from the blue line past Lajoie at 3:36; and Austin Simpson capped the power play bonanza, crossing with Orem on a breakaway before zipping his wrist shot low to the far post and in at 6:21.
As you might expect in the third game of a tough series there were fights aplenty – one in each period. Both teams played hard throughout the weekend and the Eagles weren't about to let their hosts escape without sending the message that they weren't backing down despite the score.
It made for an entertaining spectacle Sunday, but in the end it was the Rhinos who dealt Colorado (28-8-6, 62 points) its first two regulation road losses of the season.
El Paso will travel to Wichita, KS, for a three-game series against the defending Thorne Cup champion Junior Thunder before returning home in two weekends to face the Dallas Snipers.
For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos' front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.