UTEP fans were treated to something that doesn’t happen very often at the El Paso County Events Center when the Miners play, a comeback. This UTEP hockey team that seems to so often score first and then proceed to score often, fell behind early against the Longhorns. After a power-play goal and an unassisted goal off a takeaway in the Miners zone gifted the were Longhorns an early 2-0 lead in the first.
Then, the three stars of the game for the Miners got to work to dig UTEP out of the hole they’d fallen into. After Carlo Wittor picked up his first tally of the game with help from Austin Simpson and Jayden Ritchie. The Miners went into the locker room down 2-1.
Whatever Coach Herman said in the first intermission must have worked miracles because they went up two goals in the first ten minutes of the second period with three unanswered goals from Wittor, Simpson and Ritchie respectively. Wittor completed his hat trick before the period ended and Simpson got his second of the game. Jake Kopinski also joined the scoring party in a period that felt like it was all Miners, all the time.
Jon Sanca, Matt Sanca and Jorge Duenas all found the back of the net in the third before Wittor got his 4th of the game, both him and Austin Simpson had 8-point games before it was all said and done. The Longhorns did get one back between the third and 4th miner goals of the period but it did little to spoil a dominant display from the Miners.
Back for game two, the feeling of the slow start must have been fresh in the minds of the Miners because it took all of 23 seconds for Carlo Wittor to open the scoring for UTEP, and less than a minute later Wittor added a second. Austin Simpson got his own goal later in the period.
A combination of Wittor, Simpson, Jake Kopinski and Jayden Ritchie helped on the three UTEP goals. Despite the faster start from UTEP, the game felt close going into the first break. The Longhorns had several good looks and John-Luke Prystayko had to be sharp to keep his goose egg into the second period.
The second period was all miners with four goals to the opposition’s zero. Wittor completed his hat trick for the game in the second while Fabian Calderon, Matt Sanca and Dominik Taras all joined the scoring party. Wittor’s goal was short-handed after a puck jumped on a Longhorn defender and Simpson took full advantage before sending it to Wittor for the one-timer.
The Longhorns lone goal of the day came early in the third period, but their hopes of an already longshot comeback were dashed by Noah Vanderzwan on the power play and Austin Simpson on a five a side bid. Miners complete the sweep with an 11-3 win in game one and a 9-1 win in game two.
UTEP will travel to play TCU on Thursday and Friday and then follow that with a bid against North Texas on Saturday and Sunday. A grueling four day back-to-back road trip is a true test of any team’s mental strength and UTEP will hope to have a perfect transition into their last homestand of the season.