Nick Gorup had the game-winning goal and two assists as the El Paso Rhinos came from behind to beat the Colorado Outlaws, 5-2, sweeping the Outlaws out of the playoffs in the best-of-three Mid-West Division semifinals.
El Paso will face the San Antonio Diablos next weekend in their third straight Mid-West Division Finals, Friday and Saturday, March 5th and 6th, at 7:30 p.m. MST. Game Three, if necessary, will be played Sunday, March 7th, at 5:30 p.m. MDT.
Again, the Outlaws skated with abandon, and their early efforts resulted in their first lead of the series, as Daren Glover zipped a backhanded shot in the slot by Rhinos goaltender Andrew Duff at 1:22 of the first period.
But El Paso equalized on the power play, as Eric LaBounty popped one past Colorado goalie Darius Mack at 2:49 of the first.
In the second period, the Outlaws earned another lead, though, as leading scorer Derek Scanlon powered a hard-work goal through a crowd and past Duff at 4:21.
The Rhinos found an answer at 6:52 as Bill Krueger beat Mack five-hole, setting the stage for El Paso’s team captain, Gorup.
Gorup, the team’s all-time leading scorer, had a hand in each of the first three Rhinos goals, assisting on the first two. With El Paso on the power play, Gorup got the puck from a teammate in the defensive zone, moved through the neutral zone, faked out an Outlaws defenseman at the opposing blue line and walked in on Mack, beating the former Rhinos goalie unassisted at 8:14 of the second for what turned out to be the game winner.
El Paso scored twice more in the final 2:40 to put the game away, as Nick Gualano wristed one home from the right circle at 17:20 and Swedish forward Andreas Bengtsson tapped home a Shane Callahan pass at 18:43.