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Hot Game at Sundown

03/17/2012 6:49 PM -

Hot Game at Sundown
Mar. 16, 2012

El Paso, TX – There may be no better way to describe Game 1 of the WSHL’s Mid-West Conference Finals than how Rhino’s head coach Cory Herman put it, “Those are the games you play to be a part of. It was a good playoff game.” In fact, that was the case across the board in the WSHL playoffs tonight; El Paso and Dallas were just one of three games decided by one goal.

After a terrible end to the regular season for the Rhinos when the Ice Jets took two of the three game series, El Paso seemed hell-bent on starting this weekend off on the right foot. However, despite coming out flying in the first, that step wouldn’t come until they began with a 1-0 deficit thanks to a Christian Elsborg goal (Chace Jackson, Richard Bohan). The lead would only last less than a minute and a half before it went away for good.
Brenden Gust started the scoring for the Rhinos off of a nice feed from Travis Oddy (David Nelson) and just 43 seconds later, Dallas Szustak gave El Paso the lead (Trey Hughes assist). At the end of 1, it was El Paso 2 and Dallas 1.

When the second frame began, the Rhinos started right where they left off. Captain Michael Rivera put El Paso up by two when he scored in the first minute; this increased his post-season points to 7, tied first in the league with Elsborg and Boulder’s Taylor Porrier. Once the Rhinos gained a buffer, they began to coast. Unfortunately for them, Dallas turned up the heat.

What was their match that lit the fire? It started with a Brenden Gust boarding penalty that put the Ice Jets on the powerplay for the fourth time in the game. This one, they would capitalize on. Elsborg buried a goal behind the erratic Trent Casper to come within one (Bohan, Brandon Unser). It would be another goal on the man-advantage that tied the game for Dallas; this one was scored by Sam Akins.

With the score 3-3 entering the third, El Paso began to control the pace of the game. Playing with an aggressive forecheck, Dallas couldn’t move the puck as crisply as they did in the second. The first El Paso powerplay came from a Bryan Siersma holding penalty. The Rhinos would get one more opportunity to go a man up but couldn’t score on either. The lone goal of the third period came off of a John Morales chip in on the doorstep. Towards the end of the period, Dallas pulled Michael Baldwin, but El Paso’s forecheckers proved to be too testy and the Ice Jets could never set up the offense.

Overall it was a phenomenal game on both ends of the ice. While the Rhinos had the better looks, Dallas seemed to score on some of their more awkward chances. Herman described Casper’s style of play as “He doesn’t have a style. That works to his benefit and his detriment but it always gives us a chance to win.” Tonight, he cashed in on that win; it was his third in the last four games and the only win he allowed a goal in.

Tomorrow the pot is just going to get hotter as Dallas is on the verge of losing their chance at the Mid-West title and El Paso is one game winning goal from having another banner to hang in the rafters. This has all the ingredients for an exciting St. Patrick’s Day.

Matt Prosser, El Paso Rhinos Beat Writer for JuniorHockey.com. Founder of Fifty8 Productions and freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU1580 Sacramento. For comments and writing ventures e-mail Matt@Fifty8productions.com. Follow on Twitter @MattProsser58 or visit www.kssusportsycle.com.