SATURDAY – EL PASO 5, Colorado 3

Mar 30, 2024

The Grit grabbed the lead twice in the second period, but were unable to overcome a late El Paso surge and fell 5-3 on the road Saturday night.

5:35 into the first period, the Rhinos grabbed the lead, 1-0, after El Paso forward Mason LeBel snapped a shot past the Glove of Grit goaltender Jack Erickson and set off an avalanche of Teddy Bears tossed onto the ice. 

After the delay, the Grit found their footing. Marek Thompson walked into space in the high slot and powered a wrist shot on goal; Rhino netminder Michael Manzi swallowed up the effort for one of his 23 saves.

Like the third period Friday night, Colorado used a timely forecheck and hustle to tie the game. Peyton Miller chased down a loose puck behind the El Paso net and drove to the front of the net. After a first stop from Manzi, Chris Graves punched the rebound past the El Paso netminder. His fifth goal of the year tied the game, 1-1, with 3:15 left in the first period.

Colorado grabbed an early advantage in the second period. The Grit’s second line created a carbon copy goal of the first tally. With 15:12 to go, a Tomas Vlcek dump-in allowed Wilder Jacober to chase the puck down behind the Rhino net. Jacober pushed the puck in front off Manzi’s right pad and Brayden Fryfogle shoved the rebound in to give the Grit the lead, 2-1. 

El Paso equalized through Bradley Walker; the forward won a left wing face off forward, powered the puck towards the Colorado goal crease, and slipped it underneath Erickson’s right pad to knot the score, 2-2, just two minutes after the Grit took the lead.

Fryfogle then grabbed his second goal of the period and fifth of the year with 9:47 to play in the period. Trailing the play in the right wing circle, the winger received a pass from Vlcek and blistered a slap shot past Manzi to give the Grit the lead a second time, 3-2.

The Rhinos struck again, thanks to an unfortunate bounce falling right to Kyle Arias. After Bowen Burke interrupted a pass at the blue line, the puck slipped past him to Arias. The rookie barreled to the net and lofted a wrist shot past Erickson into the top corner and tied the contest, 3-3, with 8:03 to play in the second period.

Midway through the third period, the Grit were hit with a double minor penalty for high sticking after George Poirier clipped AJ Reed while playing a loose puck; it was just the second penalty of the night and gave El Paso a power play with 13:08 to go.

The Rhinos wasted no time on the chance; it took twenty seconds into the power play to take the lead. Tory Lund shook loose in front and batted a cross-crease pass into the back of the net to give El Paso a 4-3 advantage with 12:48 to play in regulation. The push continued when Walker redirected a shot from the point past Erickson to double the El Paso lead, 5-3, with 10:20 remaining in the game.

For the second night running, the Grit continued to push late, outshooting the Rhinos 9-7 in the third period. With 2:11 remaining, Colorado got a late power play and pulled Erickson for the extra attacker. Both Noah Grolnic and Fryfogle each fired a shot that Manzi blocked aside as the Rhinos ran out the clock to secure the win.

GAME SUMMARY

Scoring

1st Period – ELP – LeBel – 5:15

1st Period – COL – Graves (Miller) – 16:44

2nd Period – COL – Fryfogle (Vlcek, Jacober) – 4:48

2nd Period – ELP – Walker (LeBel) – 6:51

2nd Period – COL – Fryfogle (Vlcek, Burke) – 10:13

2nd Period – ELP – Arias (Coughlin, Mathys) – 11:57

3rd Period – ELP – Lund (Bolduc, Hiltunen) – 7:12

3rd Period – ELP – Walker (Zarsky) – 9:40

 

Shots:

COL: 26 ELP: 30

 

Special Teams

PP – COL: 0/2 ELP: 1/2

PK – COL: 1/2 ELP: 2/2

 

Notable Performances

B. Fryfogle (COL) – 2 G, 0 A

T. Vlcek (COL) – 0 G, 2 A

B. Walker (ELP) 2 G, 0 A