02/09/2009 4:06 AM -
while forwards Tyler Ridgedell and Zach Goller each scored twice, as El Paso shut down the Outlaws, 10-0, Sunday night at the Sierra Providence Events Center.
The Rhinos sweep the season series against Colorado with Sunday’s win, with an eye to the first round of the Western States Hockey League’s playoffs and a best-of-three series, likely against this same Outlaws team.
Colorado (13-29-1, 27 points) has a three-point lead on the Texas Renegades (12-31-0, 24 points) for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mid-West Division of the WSHL going into the final two weeks of the regular season.
El Paso is the regular-season champion of the division for the third straight season. The defending Thorne Cup champions have wrapped up home ice advantage for as long as they stay in the playoffs.
The Rhinos have the best record in the league at 42-3-1. El Paso’s 85 points bests the Western Division champion Phoenix Polar Bears by 10, though Phoenix has three games in hand on their rivals from the Mid-West.
Sunday’s game was the best effort of the three-game weekend series against a chippy Outlaws team, which strived to slow the game – and the Rhinos – down.
With Hollinger stopping what did get through the solid defense played by the home side, El Paso’s offense teed off on both of Colorado’s goalies; first Darius Mack, then George Mackay.
Rolling four complete lines against the Outlaws smaller roster, the Rhinos wore Colorado down and, eventually, out with a combination of physical play, speed and skill on the puck.
Trevor Erickson started the scoring in a five-goal first period with a goal at 10:27, followed by newcomer Nick Gualano, Casey Lutz, Andrew Ketterer and Ridgedell, who notched his first goal as the period finished.
Two of the three goals scored in the second period came on the power play, as Eric Labounty capped a solid weekend of play with a solid goal at 3:45, followed by Ridgedell at 10:08.
Goller got his first to wrap the scoring in the second frame at 13:15.
Goller also scored a nifty short-handed goal at 8:34 of the third period, as the Corpus Christi native skated right by a defender to walk in on Mackay.
Defenseman Drew Montague finished the onslaught with a pin-point power play strike from above the left circle at 10:03.
El Paso has this next weekend off before finishing the regular season with a three-game homestand against the Dallas Hawks. The Mid-West Division playoffs start the next weekend.
For tickets and information, go to the Rhinos website at www.elpasorhinos.com or call the front office at 915.479.PUCK (7825).