Rhinos Roll Over Eagles, 5-1, in Series Opener
Goalie Filip Krasanovsky allowed only one goal on 15 shots and the El Paso Rhinos outlasted the Colorado Eagles, opening a three-game series with a 5-1 win.
The Rhinos improve to 38-1-1, good for 77 points and a comfortable 11-point lead over the Oklahoma City Blazers in the Western States Hockey League's Mid-West Division.
El Paso got goals from five different players, but not before the Eagles' Cameron Chabot opened the scoring at 11:38 of the second period.
Though the Rhinos dominated the shot count -- outshooting Colorado 10-1 in a scoreless opening period and 42-15 for the game -- it was the visitors who drew first blood as Chabot found the puck trailing the play after Blake Kauth drew Krasanovsky off his line, wristing his shot home before the 6-8 Czech Republic goalie could scramble back.
But one of the players newest to El Paso equalized less than three minutes later. Forward Jakob Kranabetter roofed Austin Simpson's cross-ice pass over the shoulder of Eagles' goalie Braden Lajoie at 14:21 and the Rhinos were off to the races.
It was Kranabetter's first goal as a Rhino but hardly his first of the season. The Canadian centerman was the fifth-leading scorer in the WSHL for the Valencia Flyers, amassing 28 goals and 66 assists. Friday's goal was his 29th of the season.
Kranabetter is one of three Flyers to make their way to the Sun City in one of El Paso head coach Cory Herman's trade deadline specials. Along with Kranabetter, linemate Nikita Pintusov and defenseman Chris Westover were traded to El Paso before the league deadline last week.
Pintusov has 32 goals and now 23 assists after Friday's game, while Westover hopped right into an already talented group of blue-liners for the team with the best record in the WSHL.
All that said, the hosts weren't able to put the pedal to the metal until the third period.
Don Alchin, Jr., started a four-goal avalanche that buried the Eagles in the final frame, going wide around his marker to beat Lajoie low to the short side for the game-winner at 7:33.
Chaseton Sare lasered a top shelf strike at 12:52, followed by linemate Austin Simpson's tipped shot at 15:21 and Max Kamper, who pounced on a rebound in the left circle to wrap the scoring at 19:34.
Colorado drops to 28-7-5, just four points off the pace in arguably the toughest division in the league this season. The Utah Outliers and Ogden Mustangs are tied atop the Mountain Division with 65 points each after the Outliers lost and Mustangs won Friday.
The Rhinos and Eagles will play twice more, Saturday at 7 p.m. MST and Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. MST.
For tickets and information, contact El Paso's front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.