(EL PASO, TX) — Kendal Craig, Bryton Tomko and Mitch Cobby each scored twice and the El Paso Rhinos beat the Dallas Snipers at the Events Center Saturday night, 8-2.
Craig, the third-year Rhino from Amarillo, scored the opener on a nifty spin-o-rama shot that beat Snipers’ goalie Sander Berg over the shoulder at 7:41 of the first period.
However, unlike Friday night’s 8-1 El Paso win, the Snipers mounted a challenge, equalizing on an amazing short-handed goal from Dallas’ Trent Williams at 14:47.
With Rhinos’ goalie Alek Lazarski cheating off his line to stop what he thought would be a crossing pass from Williams, the big defenseman took his shot from the low edge of the left circle nearly parallel with the end line, beating Lazarski at the near post.
Though Marek Langhammer scored for the hosts at 3:09 of the second, the Snipers played inspired hockey behind some incredible goaltending from Berg, who stopped three straight Rhinos’ breakaways to keep the game close.
But, unable to find the equalizer despite a number of power play opportunities, the Dallas defense finally cracked under El Paso's consistent pressure.
Tomko notched the game-winner at 14:59 of the second, one-timing Sebastian Borg’s pass top shelf over Berg. Tomko was followed by Jordan Cullum, who tapped in a short rebound off of Craig’s point-blank shot at 17:38.
Tomko notched his second on the power play just 1:12 into the third frame, followed by Cobby at 3:51 and 10:40, sandwiching Nikkita Perviakov's goal for the visitors at 9:31.
Craig finished the scoring at 13:19.
Having sewn up a ninth straight division championship in nine seasons of play, the Rhinos (38-4-0-0, 76 points) are lasering in on keeping home ice advantage for as much of the upcoming Thorne Cup playoffs as possible.
This season, the WSHL has dispensed with the six-team championship tournament in favor of a true play-down-style tournament, with each consecutive round hosted by the higher seed. Right now, only the Idaho Junior Steelheads (40-1-1-1, 82 points) have a better record in the Western States Hockey League than do the Rhinos.
El Paso and Dallas play once more, Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. MST. All Rhinos’ Sunday home games feature $1 hot dogs. The game can also be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso and via 600ESPNElPaso.com. All home games can be seen via a link available at www.elpasorhinos.com.
For tickets and information, contact the El Paso Rhinos’ front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to the team’s website.