Rhinos Survive Ice Jets, 7-5
Chad Cesarz and Tyler Brady each scored twice and the El Paso Rhinos survived a furious Dallas Ice Jets rally late in the game to win, 7-5, Saturday night.
Coupled with El Paso's 4-3 shootout win Friday, the Rhinos have won twice in the three-game series and will try for the sweep Sunday afternoon. Pre-game coverage begins at 11 a.m. MST on AM 600 ESPN El Paso with face-off at noon.
As it did Friday, El Paso earned a 2-0 lead after the first intermission with a short-handed goal from Chris Wilhite at 8:00 and a power play goal from Brady at 13:58.
As it played out in the third period Friday, four more goals were scored in the second period Saturday; but instead of the Ice Jets outscoring the Rhinos, 3-1, it was El Paso outscoring Dallas by the same margin, making it 5-1 to the visitors after 40 minutes of play.
Christian Elsborg got the Ice Jets on the board just 2:15 into the second frame, but the Rhinos would respond with goals from John Ludwig at 5:41, Tyler Basham at 13:26 and Cesarz' first on a two-man advantage at 18:33.
Again, though, Dallas responded in the final 20 minutes of regulation. Goalie Michael Baldwin, who lost in the shootout Friday night, came in to replace A.J. Smith after 40 minutes, and the Ice Jets responded to the switch.
Richard Bohan scored on an Ice Jets' 5-on-3 just 1:16 into the third, followed 85 seconds later by Connor Enciso, trimming El Paso's lead to two, 5-3.
Cesarz tallied his second goal of the night at 15:16, giving the Rhinos some breathing room, 6-3; but Cesarz's goal was only the first of four in the final 4:44 of the game.
With a power play, Dallas head coach Paul Taylor pulled Baldwin to give the hosts a 6-on-4. The gamble paid off as Richard Bohan scored at 17:43. Brandon Unser surprised Rhinos' netminder Austin Brihn with a short-handed goal 50 seconds later, and the Ice Jets were only down by one, 6-5, with 1:27 left to play.
But Brady would counter on the same El Paso power play with the final goal of the night exactly 16 seconds after Unser's tally, finally salting the game away for the Rhinos.
Dallas (29-3-1, 59 points) suffers only its third loss of the season, while El Paso improves to 26-5-2. The Rhinos' 54 points tops the Mountain Conference by 15 points over the second-place Cheyenne Stampede.
El Paso will return home next weekend to face the Cheyenne Stampede in a three-game series beginning Friday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. MST.