Runners defense soars as offense stalls vs Rhinos on Faith and Family night

by Peter Griego/Charley Bickel

Rio Rancho, NM - The New Mexico Runners (1-5) returned to the Rio Rancho Events Center Saturday afternoon for a rematch with the El Paso Rhinos (3-3), marking the second meeting this season between the two teams. El Paso remained undefeated in the Land of Enchantment, besting the Runners 8-3 on a rare snowy day in a state that enjoys 325+ days of sunshine.

The Runners would start flat, surrendering three goals throughout the first quarter. Christian Marquez opened the scoring for El Paso at around 10 minutes left in quarter one, and the Rhinos never looked back. Pedro Cajtaneda added another goal less than three minutes later. The teams would eventually settle in, and nobody could find the open net up until the final minute, when Javier Cardoza would score off a pass from Cajtaneda to extend the Rhinos lead to three at the end of the first quarter.

The Runners held the Rhinos offense in check for the majority of the second quarter, but could not build any momentum on offense. Starting keeper Nate Yeager earned three of his 11 saves in the second frame. Yeager has now saved more than 50 percent of shots on goal four times this year. El Paso ended their dry spell with another strike from the Cardoza Cajtaneda connection just before the four minute mark in the half. Just when it looked like the Runners would go into intermission down four, Pedro Cajtaneda added a fifth goal to the scoreboard to take a five score lead at the half.

New Mexico found their footing in the third quarter, with a pair of goals from Vince Aragon to start the quarter cutting the deficit to three. The Runners defense also made an impact, holding El Paso scoreless until the final two minutes of play, with more key saves by Nate Yeager. The Rhinos eventually bent the Runners defense enough for it to break, as Mario Arrieta scored to extend the lead back to four.

The Rhinos would eventually pull away in the final quarter. Despite keeping it close for the first few minutes of the quarter, the game would get away from the Runners in the final minutes. Javier Cardoza and Pedro Cajtaneda scored once each. Terry Zamora found Colton Oord for the Runners third score of the day, but it proved to be too little too late as El Paso would take the 8-3 victory. The win drops New Mexico to 1-6 while the Rhinos improve to 4-3 remaining unbeaten against the Runners.

The Rhinos are now 2-0 vs New Mexico this season but the Runners will have an opportunity to even the season record with a double header slated for February 24 and 25th in El Paso.

Next up the Runners travel to Amarillo Sunday, February 11 to face the Bombers (4-3). New Mexico returns home on March 3 playing host to the undefeated Wichita Wings (8-0).