Coming off last week’s sweep of the Wichita Thunder, the Rhinos traveled to Oklahoma City to face off against familiar rivals, the Blazers.
While it wasn’t a sweep in OKC, the Rhinos still slapped the Blazers back, taking the series two games to one.
After the series in Oklahoma City, the Rhinos are now 34-1-1 on the season. They will have a bye week before they return to the Sun City for the United Blood Services series on Jan. 26, 27, and 28.
Game 1, 5-4, OTL
In the first game, the Rhinos outshot the Blazers, 41-28, but still managed to fall to Oklahoma City in overtime, 5-4. Both teams were scoreless until Ivan Bondarenko, with the help of Joshua Chamberlain and Connor Dunn, slipped one past Rhino netminder Filip Krasanovsky at 8:24 in the first period. Shortly thereafter, Phil Pugliese and Jacob Ugenti received matching roughing penalties, earning the second and third penalties of the period.
Just under the two-minute mark, Ivan Bondarenko scored again to give the Blazers a two-point lead. Thirty-four seconds later, however, Donald Alchin cut Oklahoma City’s lead to one. Chaseton Sare then evened the game at two just before Carlo Wittor gave the Rhinos the lead with only 17.8 seconds left in the first. In just a minute and seven seconds, the Rhinos had created a one-point deficit for Oklahoma City.
The second period made up for what the first period lacked in penalties. In twenty minutes, both teams saw a total of 22 penalty minutes, 18 of those minutes issued to the Rhinos. Of El Paso’s four penalties, the Blazers were able to capitalize on a hooking call near the end of the period. With the man-advantage at 1:52, Oklahoma City forward Vitalii Mikhailov evened the game at three.
Both teams entered the third period knotted at three until Chamberlain helped the Blazers regain the lead just before the halfway point of the period. El Paso’s leading scorer, Chaseton Sare, however, tied the game yet again forcing overtime.
Exactly four minutes into the extra period, Griffin Wiencek beat Krasanovsky with a power play goal to give the Blazers their first win over the Rhinos this season.
Game 2, 2-1, OTW
Although the first period of Saturday’s game saw no goals, both teams had several penalty minutes. El Paso’s Austin Boyle and Oklahoma City’s Zachary Colgrove received matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The Rhinos picked up a pair of penalties while Oklahoma City also earned two more penalty minutes on a slashing call.
Just over three minutes into the second period, Rhino forward Adam Stalzer put the Rhinos on the board. El Paso clung to their one goal lead until the Blazers evened the game at 4:28 with a goal by Patrick Tondl.
Unable to earn a single point in the third period, both teams headed into overtime eager to finish the game quickly. Two minutes and six seconds into the first overtime, Adam Stalzer and Jake Kopinski fed the puck to Maguire Blair who gave the Rhinos the 2-1 overtime win.
Game 3, 3-1 W
With the series tied at one, El Paso needed to stave off the Blazers to win the series. Rhino Chaseton Sare and Blazer Connor Dunn started off the first period with matching unsportsmanslike conduct penalties. A few minutes after being released from the penalty box, however, Sare gave the Rhinos their first lead of the game. Ivan Bondarenko followed up Sare’s goal with his own, tying the game at one.
Both teams, entering the second period with one goal apiece, picked up two penalties before Chaseton Sare could net his second of the game at 7:49. Holding onto their one goal lead, the Rhinos earned a 3-1 victory over the Blazers when Nick Hames earned the final tally of the game in the third period.
Next Friday and Saturday, the team will wear special Blood Services jerseys that will be auctioned off after Saturday’s game. All proceeds will benefit the United Blood Services.
The puck will drop at 7 pm on Friday, January 26, and Saturday, January 27, and at 4:30 pm on Sunday, January 28, at the El Paso County Coliseum Events Center (4100 E. Paisano). Tickets start at $5 and can be purchased online or by calling the El Paso County Coliseum Box Office at 915-533-9899.