Sunday, February 25th – EL PASO 5, Colorado 2

Feb 25, 2024

Rookie Landon West grabbed his first career multi-goal game to end the road trip, but the Grit were unable to outlast El Paso, defeated 5-2 by the Rhinos on Sunday afternoon.

In a change of fortune from the previous two games, it was the opponent who got the scoring started. El Paso forward Camden Bajzer was able to sneak a low backhander past Grit goaltender Pete Sterling to spot El Paso to a 1-0 lead only 2:08 into the game.

As the first period drew to a close, forward Landon West intercepted a neutral turnover and rifled a wrist shot from the edge of the left wing circle to score his fourth goal of the year, going high glove side over LoVullo. The shot tied the game at 1-1 with just 42 seconds left in the first period.

Colorado grabbed their first lead of the afternoon, thanks to a carbon copy West goal with 10:36 to play in the second period. West put the finishing touch on his first career multi-goal game, intercepting a rinkwide pass in the El Paso zone and lifting a backhanded shot to beat LoVullo high glove side again. His fifth goal of the year propelled Colorado in front, 2-1.

However, the advantage lasted just 30 seconds as Colorado again fell victim to an unfortunate carom. A loose puck knocked off the endboards behind Grit goaltender Pete Sterling, who made 21 saves on 25 shots, bounced right to the high slot and onto the tape of Rhino forward Mason LeBel, who slotted the puck past Sterling to tie the game at 2. 

LeBel’s equalizer marked the beginning of three unanswered Rhino goals; punctuated by Tory Lund’s power move to the front of the net late in the second period. Lund jammed the puck past Sterling’s glove to give El Paso a 4-2 lead with just 47 seconds remaining in the second period, providing the home side with insurance before the second intermission.

Barely 90 seconds into the third period, veteran leader Peyton Miller tried to jumpstart the Grit bench; Miller duked it out with Bradley Walker in the Grit offensive zone in a minute-long fight that saw both players sustain some heavy hits. The pair of combatants left for their respective boxes to a chorus of stick banging and appreciation from their teammates. 

The fight jump started the Grit offense, which managed two scoring opportunities and a power play within the opening five minutes of the third period. Winger Noah Grolnic just missed the net on a back-door feed, inches away from bringing the Grit back within a goal with 15:30 to go in regulation.

Chasing a two-goal deficit with under five minutes to go, head coach Steve Haddon pulled goaltender Pete Sterling for the extra attacker to jump start the Grit offense. The ensuing faceoff was won by the Rhinos and forward Medrick Bolduc flipped the puck into the empty net from his own blue line, despite a valiant diving effort from Grit defenseman Will Hadrick III to keep it out. 

With 4:13 to play in regulation, the goal opened a 5-2 El Paso advantage. Rookie Nolan Shaw and winger Quinn Bowden each had a shot in the final minute, trying to best El Paso goaltender Joe LoVullo, but both goal scoring opportunities were parried away with the right pad.

Colorado is back in action on the road this weekend as they travel to Corpus Christi for a two-game series beginning on Friday, March 1st.