Rhinos Roll: El Paso Douses Blazers, 7-2, to Stay Perfect
As The Highlander says, "There can be only one."
That 'one' is the El Paso Rhinos, at least for one more day.
Chaseton Sare netted the opening goal 22 seconds into the game, and Phil Pugliese and Ty Erramouspe each scored twice as the El Paso Rhinos handed the Oklahoma City Blazers their first defeat of the season, 7-2, Friday night.
El Paso improves to 25-0-0 and is the only undefeated team remaining in the Western States Hockey League, a first in the team's 12 seasons, while the Blazers fall to 21-1-0.
Oklahoma City certainly showed it has the skill to end El Paso's perfect run in one of the two remaining games the teams will play in their three-game series, as OKC's Michael Jensen equalized the game less than 90 seconds after Sare's opener.
But Friday night it was the Rhinos who asserted themselves as the game progressed, wearing the visitors down with their physical play and opportunistic forecheck.
El Paso outshot the Blazers, 44-20, leaning on Oklahoma City in its own defensive zone more and more, making the most of the chances it created, though it took until the second period to break the 1-1 deadlock.
Pugliese netted the next two goals in the second frame, snapping a wrist-shot over OKC goalie Bobby Clouthier's right shoulder at 4:05 of the period, followed by a similar goal at 15:06 that would prove to be the game-winner.
El Paso native Erramouspe would add his first at 17:40 of the period to give the hosts a 4-1 lead going into the final 20 minutes.
The Blazers' Travis Hudek ripped a hard wrist shot past El Paso's Filip Krasanovsky at 3:47 of the third, but Logan Orem would restore the Rhinos' three-goal lead less than five minutes later on a great feed from Pugliese.
Sare provided the fireworks on the next El Paso goal with the Rhinos' short-handed, putting on the skids in the attacking zone and sending two Blazers sprawling on the ice – think of a hockey version of Tim Hardaway's famous "UTEP Two-Step" cross-over dribble – before zipping to puck to Don Alchin, Jr., who one-timed for El Paso's league-leading 16th short-handed goal of the season at 9:22.
With :22 left in the game, Erramouspe took a feed from Egor Sevriugen and one-timed it home to wrap up the scoring with his second.
The two teams continue the series Saturday night at 7 p.m. MST and at 4:30 p.m. MST Sunday afternoon. As part of Military Appreciation Weekend, the Rhinos' military-style jerseys will be auctioned off the highest bidders after Saturday night's game.
As always, active-duty personnel, veterans and their families can get free tickets to watch any Rhinos game with a valid ID.
For tickets and information, contact the El Paso Rhinos front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.