10/04/2009 8:21 PM -
El Paso came into the series in second place in the Mid-West Division behind Tulsa, but the three-time defending division champs won all three games in convincing fashion to take over first place. The Rhinos are now 8-1-0 with 16 points to Tulsa's 12.
El Paso is known to play a fast-paced, physical game that wearies opponents. As a three-game series winds on, opponents unable to match that pace wear down. Such was the case against Tulsa, as the Rhinos increased their goals scored in each game of the series, scoring five in Friday's first game, seven on Saturday and 11 Sunday.
Returning winger David Fegler started the onslaught at 3:12 of the first period. Gualano notched his first at 10:44 of the period.
El Paso chased Rampage goaltender Zac Enstrom with three goals in the final three minutes of the first, as Fegler scored his second at 16:36, Gualano his second on the power play at 18:27 and Timothy Avegard scored at 19:12.
Enstrom's replacement, Eric Messer, fared no better, as Gualano went on a rampage of his own, scoring a natural Texas hat trick (four consecutive goals) on a run that lasted from the second frame into the third.
The 5-10 right winger from Prospect Heights, IL, earned his stripes last season, keying the Rhinos run to the Thorne Cup Finals and the team's third straight trip to the Junior A Tier III National Championships after being traded to El Paso from the Dubuque Thunderbirds of the Central Junior Hockey League.
Sunday, Gualano scored goals at 1:46 and 10:25 of the second period -- the first short-handed -- and just 19 seconds into the third, with his sixth and final goal at 7:51 of the third.
The six-goal outburst is an El Paso franchise record. Ex-Rhinos forward Jeffrey Schmudlach, another former Thunderbird, held the prior mark with five in one game.
Trevor Erickson and Casey Lutz finished the night with goals at 8:55 and 19:20 of the third period, with Lutz's goal coming on a 5-on-3.
Dizgun, from Montreal, PQ, stopped all 19 of Tulsa's shots, while his teammates poured in 68 shots on goal.
The Rhinos will return in time for classes Monday and will take next weekend off before returning to the road against a new Mid-West Division foe, the New Mexico Renegades of Albuquerque, coached by former New Mexico Scorpions forward Peter Ambroziak. El Paso head coach Cory Herman, a former El Paso Buzzard, looks forward to what will be a natural rivalry.
"This will be great for our players," says Herman. "We haven't really had a rival because the closest team in our division is San Antonio, which is an eight-hour drive away.
"It'll be a lot of fun for our fans and their fans and we look forward to playing them."
The Rhinos will play their first home series beginning Friday, Oct.23rd, at the Sierra Providence Events Center. For season tickets and other information, call the El Paso Rhinos front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825) or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.