Renegades' sharpshooter Dakota Beaulieu scored all four goals for the visitors and goaltender Zach Woodman stopped 49 of 52 Rhinos shots as New Mexico upended their hosts, 4-3, shootout at the El Paso Event Center Friday night.
The Rhinos drew first blood with David Nelson's redirect of Mike Rivera's pass just 4:08 into the game. Aaron Rasmussen gave El Paso a 2-0 lead at first intermission, potting a rebound from Austin Hoff's shot into a wide open net at 18:31.
But the Renegades, who have changed much of their lineup -- and much of their coaching staff -- stayed patient and waited for their opportunities.
New Mexico played solid defense most of the night but, playing in his first game with the Renegades, Woodman was simply spectacular. The Rhinos found plenty of open shots, but the big goalie was usually one step ahead. In the second period, New Mexico's offense was, too.
Nick Stirmel's well-timed passes began to catch El Paso out of position, freeing Beaulieu for wide-open breakaways three times in the game. Beaulieu scored on each of those breakaways against the Rhinos' new netminder, Alex Palumbo, who turned in a solid performance otherwise.
Beaulieu got New Mexico on the board at 3:13 of the second frame; and, although Chad Cesarz scored the one goal Woodman would want to have back on a laser beam wrister from above the right circle at 15:34, Beaulieu answered with a beautiful top-shelf strike with 39 seconds left in the period.
Another Stirmel-to-Beaulieu breakaway goal at 5:21 completed the comeback, and El Paso ran out of offensive answers to Woodman for the rest of regulation, the five minutes of sudden death overtime and all five of its shots in the shootout.
Meanwhile, Palumbo was perfect against three of the Renegade's shooters in the shootout. He only let in one goal -- Beaulieu's game winner, giving the 6-1 forward the natural Texas hat trick.
New Mexico improves to 12-16-1 on the season, and the Renegades' 25 points puts them three points out of fourth place and the last playoff spot in the WSHL's Mountain Conference. El Paso earns a point for getting the game to shootout, but falls to 22-5-2, though the Rhinos still maintain a comfortable lead atop the Mountain Conference with 46 points.
The next two games of the series -- Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. -- could prove to be some of the most interesting El Paso has played this season. For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos' front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com .
Check the stats from tonight's game here: http://pointstreak.com/prostats/boxscore.html?gameid=2031452