Petr Ceslik scored twice, including the game-winner, and the El Paso Rhinos broke out of their offensive doldrums to beat the Dallas Snipers, 4-1, in front of another packed house at the El Paso Events Center.
The win evens the three-game series at a win apiece after the Snipers beat El Paso, 5-2, in Friday’s series opener. The puck drops at 4:30 p.m. MSTSunday afternoon for the rubber match.
Ceslik’s return from injury was a bit shaky in Friday’s loss, but the lanky forward from the Czech Republic kept shooting and his work eventually paid off.
Things weren’t promising at the start, though, as defenseman Austin Grawbarger was thrown out of the game for targeting the head. The resulting major penalty put Dallas on a five-minute power play, but it only took the Snipers seven seconds on the man advantage to score the opening goal, as defenseman Daniel Nordlander’s drive from the blue line beat El Paso goalie Ryan Buttazoni just 5:16 into the game.
But the Rhinos equalized with a short-handed goal on the same Dallas power play, as Santeri Ketola’s pass found Connor Beaudet on the breakaway. Beaudet snapped his shot top shelf, over Sniper’s goalie Alexander Moustakis’ right shoulder, to even the game, 1-1, at 8:50.
Ceslik notched the game-winner from his knees after being dropped low in the left circle at 13:22 of the second period, beating Moustakis with a knuckling shot.
Ceslik added to his tally with a nifty backhanded shot as he skated right to left between the circles. Not able to turn for a forehanded effort, Ceslik timed his shot well and it fooled Moustakis at 4:19 of the third.
Later, with Dallas’ net empty as the Snipers pressed for a goal, defenseman Kyle Keeder split the defense to find Robert Fogarty who wristed it home to wrap the scoring at 19:23.
El Paso moves to 5-11-0-1 on the season, while the Snipers — immediately above the Rhinos in the WSHL’s Midwest Division — fall to 10-12-0-1.
For tickets or information on Sunday’s series finale, contact the El Paso Rhinos’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to the team website at www.elpasorhinos.com.