Down 2-0 in the second period, Phoenix’s Craig Martin and Rocky DeAngelo keyed a furious second period rally to tie the game, then scored three more in the third to wrest the Thorne Cup away from the El Paso Rhinos Saturday night.
The Polar Bears win the series, sweeping the Rhinos in the best-of-three championship with a large, but hard-skating team.
Pinned on their heels in a 4-1 Game One defeat, El Paso game out guns blazing in the second game, earning a 1-0 lead in the first period as Corpus Christi native Zach Goller found Nick Gorup on a pass from behind the Phoenix net.
Gorup’s one-timer beat Park Plucinak under his right arm and gave El Paso its first lead of the series at 5:38.
As a Rhinos power play expired, Plucinak deflected a shot straight to a waiting Tyler Ridgedell at 7:29 of the second period to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
But at 10:26 of the second, Martin put one past El Paso goalie Andrew Duff, followed at 16:50 by DeAngelo to tie the game.
Whatever steam the Rhinos had built up in the second intermission to ready for a big third period evaporated a mere 33 seconds into the third as Keith Clawson took a slow El Paso clearance attempt, drew Duff to the ice, then skated wide and deposited a backhander for the game-winner.
D.J. Benjamin scored some four minutes later and Clawson added an empty-net goal with 49 second left to salt the win away.
Both the Polar Bears and the Rhinos will represent the Western States Hockey League at the Tier III Junior A Hockey Nationals in Marlboro, MA, at the end of the month.