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01/09/2012 8:12 AM -

A Lone Star Emerges from Texas 
Jan. 08, 2012

Grapevine, TX – If you could take the first three games of the year and make a statement, El Paso has made a definitive one: 2012 is the year of the Rhinos in Texas. This weekend couldn’t have gone any better for the orange and black as they walked away with three close victories against their closest rivals, the Dallas Ice Jets. The wins weren’t cheap given that all games were decided by one goal if you take away Saturday’s empty netter, and Sunday’s was decided by a shootout.

This one had everything you would look for in a game: lots of scoring, hard hits, and plenty of special teams to open up the ice. The scoring got underway not even a minute into the contest as David Nelson got his first of two goals on the evening to give El Paso an early 1-0 lead. Dallas Szustak followed it up nearly sixteen minutes later before Dallas got on the board from a Jefferson Wright goal to go into the first intermission 2-1 in favor of the Rhinos.

Once again, it didn’t take long for the scoreboard to light up after the puck was dropped in the second as Nicholas Sadow gave El Paso a two goal lead just over three minutes in. The Ice Jets would later tie it up in the same period off of goals by Grant Williams and Dan Hudson who scored shorthanded before the buzzer would sound at the end of the second.

After the two teams traded Nelson’s second goal for Johnny Henson’s first, they went into a scoreless overtime tied at 4. In the shootout, the Rhinos went first but neither John Morales nor Richard Bohan would take advantage of their opportunities. The second round went slightly different though with Szustak scoring for El Paso and Williams failing to light the siren. Nelson and Hudson both failed in the third round which gave Eric Miller the chance to end it for the Rhinos in the fourth round which is exactly what he did. With the game on his stick, he buried the rubber behind Scoggin to secure the victory.

These two teams battled it out hard all weekend but the most productive player had to be El Paso’s Szustak who finished the weekend with 5 points and scored the first goal of the shootout on Sunday. The Rhinos’ goalies also had a bounce back weekend as Trent Casper and Brandon Smolarek combined for only 11 goals against on 100 shots. Those two were easily the difference makers as they stopped a hot Ice Jets team.

On the other bench though, Dan Hudson had a weekend to write home to Missouri about as he skated off with three goals and five points for Dallas. It was just one of those weekends for the Ice Jets that didn’t go their way. They weren’t forcing bounces their way when they had the opportunities and because of that El Paso was able to capitalize on their chances. Both teams fly up and down the ice so it was going to be about which team would be able to open up the ice and bury the puck; that team was El Paso this time. This rivalry is easily one of the more intense to witness in the WSHL due to proximity and parity which made the first weekend of the new year, that much more entertaining.

The Rhinos have all week to practice before going home for their next six games, starting with three against a New Mexico Renegades team that hasn’t yet come back from Christmas vacation. If the Rhinos play with the same intensity and sense of urgency as they did against Dallas, then their next series should be a breeze against what has the potential to be an overly rested team.

Matt Prosser, El Paso Rhinos Beat Writer for JuniorHockey.com. Matt is a freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. For the past two seasons he has been the voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and is the host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU 1580AM in Sacramento and KSSU.com. His other broadcasts also include Hornets football, baseball, and softball. To get in touch with Matt for comments and writing ventures please e-mail him at MProsser58@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @kssuMattProsser or visit his website: www.kssusportscycle.com.