El Paso Rhinos Win Mountain Conference, Return to Thorne Cup Finals
No local sports team has dominated their competition like the El Paso Rhinos Junior A amateur hockey club. Under head coach Cory Herman, the Rhinos wrapped up their sixth trip to the Thorne Cup Finals in the last seven seasons. They swept the Phoenix Knights and Boulder Bison to return to the Thorne Cup and compete for the coveted Western States Hockey League title.Rhinos head coach Cory Herman was excited about the opportunity.
"It’s a good feeling; the guys have worked very hard to get to this point of the season. Now it’s more important than ever to play our game and system. They are all tough teams (in the Thorne Cup); we have played Dallas, Idaho, Fresno before however we haven’t played Southern Oregon or Bay Area."
The road to the Mountain Division championship was not an easy one for the Rhinos, especially since the league is loaded with better teams and competition. It took two overtimes for the Rhinos to win their first playoff game in thrilling fashion against Boulder.
"That is playoff hockey," Herman explained. "We have never played in a 2 overtime in the history of the Rhinos. The guys made sure to drink plenty of fluids during that game, the game the next day I thought we had plenty of jump. That was a direct result of the length of our practices and our training center. Boulder has a great team. I thought we had opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, but it was a successful series."
Coach Herman’s team improved each week and received some great goaltending in the playoffs. This season’s Thorne Cup Finals feature a new format; instead of two teams playing in the WSHL championship, six teams will compete in a round-robin format. The Rhinos will join the Southern Oregon Spartans, Dallas Ice Jets, Bay Area Seals, Fresno Monsters, and Idaho Junior Steelheads. The games will take place Thursday through Sunday in McCall, Idaho, which is the home of the Junior Steelheads. Although Coach Herman believes the Steelheads will have a home ice advantage, he is confident his team will play well against the best teams in the WSHL. The Rhinos have followed the rich tradition of playoff hockey and are growing beards during the postseason. You can follow all of the action beginning Thursday night at the El Paso Rhinos' team website.