Odessa entered last night’s game on the verge of being swept for the first time this season. They were on a two-game losing streak and El Paso was on a two-game win streak. Lassi Lehti once again got the nod for the Rhinos as it marked his 22nd start this season. Noah Rupprecht was between the pipes for the first time since November 12th. His last win came on October 23rd against the New Mexico Ice Wolves.
The first period saw no scoring from either side. However, El Paso averaged a shot-per-minute. Rupprecht made countless highlight-reel saves to keep it a scoreless game after the first. Odessa was able to get the frozen rubber onto Lehti 13 times, but he too stopped them all.
The Jacks gained their first lead of the 3-in-3 series after Conner Couet (2) scored 2:10 into the middle period. About three minutes later Maksis Brimanis (3) was able to find the back of the net from an awkward angle. Those would be the only two goals scored during the second period. El Paso was heavily leading in shots after 40 minutes, 41-24. The 21 shots that El Paso had in the second period were their most in a period this season.
The third period is when the Jacks came to life. They tallied their most shots in the final period this season with 18. They held El Paso to only six shots in the final 20 minutes. The tie game was broken 5:11 into the period. Justin Hughes (5) scored a power-play goal to give Odessa the lead once again. The Rhinos tried everything they could to tie the game once again even pulling Lehti. The final score read, 2-1 Jacks. Rupprecht had a career-high 46 save night. Lehti made 40 saves in his ninth loss this season. Odessa went 1/5 on the power play and El Paso went 0/2. Odessa is now 4-3 this season against El Paso. The final meeting will be on New Year’s Eve at the Ector County Coliseum.
The 2-1 win gives Odessa their 15th this season (15-9-0-1, 31PTS). As for El Paso, their record is now 11-11-2, 24PTS). Noah Rupprecht had this to say about his amazing performance after not playing in nearly a month, “The nerves get you going a little bit not seeing action in that long. But I always prepare to be my best, so I just kept that in mind, and everything worked out.” Head Coach Scott Deur stated this about Rupprecht’s performance, “I thought he was great. He kept us in the game and 47 shots in a game is a lot for any goalie. Usually, you expect a lot more goals to go in with that many shots, but he was outstanding and really has been all year.” The Jacks are home again next weekend when they host first-place New Mexico on Friday and Saturday. Both games will be a 7:15 pm CDT.
Photo credit: Danne Braden