01/31/2010 4:39 PM
The Tulsa Rampage have to be wondering what they can do to beat the El Paso Rhinos.
The fact that the Rampage are still trying is a credit to new coach Marty Quarters, the new players he has brought in and a new attitude in Tulsa's locker room. Earlier this season and in season's past, five straight one-goal losses might have made the Rampage despair.
Credit Rhinos head coach Cory Herman, who has built a talented, hard-working, hard-hitting, never-say-die team that perpetuates its reputation season after season. El Paso is the four-time Mid-West Division champion, having wrapped up the title last Saturday with its second of those five consecutive wins over Tulsa.
This is what the Rhinos have done, both in Tulsa and in El Paso. But Quarters and the Rampage will be back again for one more game at the Sierra Providence Events Center this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. MDT.
Consider the first of the five games: Tulsa chases El Paso goalie Andrew Duff from net, outscoring the Rhinos, 5-0, before the game is halfway done. Enter netminder Max Dizgun and the El Paso offense, as Dizgun stops everything the Rampage throw at him while the Rhinos score five unanswered goals -- the last coming with just :04 left in regulation -- before beating Tulsa in shootout, 6-5.
Game Two: Another shootout, another El Paso win, as Nick Gualano repeats the same shot that won the first game, beating Rampage goaltender Michael Maczynski high over his right shoulder for a 3-2 victory.
Game Three: Gualano nets his third-straight game-winner with just 2:01 left in the third period.
Game Four: Tulsa has the Rhinos on the ropes in El Paso, leading 3-2 late in regulation. Then, Timothy Avegard ties the game with 1:04 left...followed just 24 seconds later by Austin Balko's hat trick goal scored from the blue line for a 4-3 win.
Game Five: The Rampage battle back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game, 3-3. But having forced another shootout and with a full two points hanging in the balance, Duff stonewalls all five Tulsa shooters while Balko scores the only goal in shootout for either team. El Paso wins, 4-3.
It has been great hockey. There's no reason to believe there won't be tonight.