Goalie Alex Paulumbo stopped all 23 Boulder Bison shots to post his third consecutive shutout as the El Paso Rhinos blanked their Mountain Conference rivals, 3-0, Friday night.
Paulumbo has now gone more than 209 minutes without allowing a goal in four straight starts for El Paso, which improves to 30-6-0-2. The Rhinos 62 points tops the conference by 16 over second place Cheyenne, which leads the Bison (20-14-1-1) by four points for second place.
In addition to defense and goalkeeping, special teams proved to be decisive for the hosts as all of El Paso's goals came in three different special teams scenarios.
Team captain and El Paso native Mike Rivera scored twice, opening the Rhinos' scoring ledger on the power play. Rivera took Matej Steigauf's hard shot from the point and tucked in the rebound past Boulder's Colin Champine at 4:09 of the first period.
In his first game back after rehabbing a shoulder injury, centerman Brenden Gust scored El Paso's league-leading 32nd short-handed goal at 14:29, one-timing Tyler Basham's face-off win past Champine.
The Rhinos lead the Western States Hockey League by 22 short-handed goals, more than three times the next team (Idaho has 10).
Rivera then closed the scoring with an empty-net goal, out-skating the Bison up the ice to tuck the puck away at 19:41 of the third.
The teams will play twice more, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. MST. Saturday's game can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso.
For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos' front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com.
Check this link for the official stats from Friday's game via PointStreak.com: http://pointstreak.com/prostats/boxscore.html?gameid=2031458