OGDEN — The Ogden Mustangs will play the El Paso Rhinos for the Western States Hockey League championship for the second consecutive season.
This time, though, the teams will square off on Ogden’s home ice in a Thorne Cup Finals title game scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at The Ice Sheet. The Rhinos won a 3-2 nail-biter on their home ice for the league title last season.
The Mustangs picked up a dominant 7-0 win over the Edson Aeros on Friday night to punch their ticket to the championship game.
Lukas Vacin, on his 19th birthday, opened the scoring with back-to-back goals in the first period a mere six seconds apart. John Shively, Kerry Kruzel, Rhett Rampinelli, Bryson Bartell and Ammon Anderson added the other Ogden goals.
Artur Ogandzhanyan picked up the 23-save shutout in goal.
El Paso defeated the Oklahoma City Blazers 7-2 in the other semifinal matchup Friday afternoon at The Ice Sheet. It was an evenly-played first period but the Rhinos jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second, dominating play and outshooting the Blazers 23-4. The Blazers got a few things going offensively in the third period but it was too little, too late as Rhinos goaltender Richie Parent made a number of key saves.
The Mustangs and Rhinos did face each other in pool play Thursday night, with El Paso winning 3-2 in overtime. It’s hard to glean too much from that result since both teams were resting their top players as both had already secured spots in the semifinals.
The Mustangs are 1-5-1 all-time against El Paso. Ogden’s lone win came this season when, with both teams at full strength, the Mustangs won 5-3 in the Western States Shootout in Las Vegas. The goal differential has been two goals or less in all seven previous matchups between these teams.
Tickets are available for Saturday’s championship game at tickets.ogdenmustangs.com.