The El Paso Rhinos got goals from seven different players, riding hot starts in the first and second periods to a 7-3 win in Game One of the best-of-three Mountain Conference semifinals.
The Rhinos scored two goals in the first five minutes of both the first and second frames. El Paso's 6-7 Czech Republic defenseman Matej Steigauf bounced one in from the right point to open the scoring at 2:35, followed 1:45 later by a hard-work rebound goal from Taylor Bargar.
The Knights got one back before first intermission as Jordan Cullum scored a power play goal at 17:56, but Chad Cesarz tallied just 1:36 into the second frame and Tyler Brady notched the game-winner on the power play just over a minute later, popping his shot into an empty net at 2:39 after Knights' goalie Alex Taylor overplayed to one side.
Team captain and El Pasoan Mike Rivera added some insurance at 16:17, followed by another Phoenix power play goal at 16:57, one-timing his top shelf strike past Rhinos goaltender Alex Palumbo.
Cullum scored his second goal, also on the power play, at 4:50 of the third period to make things interesting; but El Paso would seal the scoring with third period goals from John Morales at 14:45 and another power play goal from Jack Strusz at 18:10.
The Rhinos have won seven straight regular season conference championships and six conference playoff titles, and they're playing with home-ice advantage throughout the Mountain Conference.
El Paso and the Knights will play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MDT. Game Three will be Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. MDT (if necessary).
For tickets and information, contact the Rhinos' front office at 915/479.PUCK (7825), or go to www.elpasorhinos.com .
For the official stats from Friday's game courtesy of pointstreak.com, click the link provided: http://pointstreak.com/prostats/boxscore.html?gameid=2166437