Under the Hood: El Paso Rhinos

by WSHL Staff

From now until the season starts, we will be taking a quick look under the hood of each team. From players leaving, to new signings, we will preview each team based on what coaches and players have to say.  

El Paso Rhinos

2018-2019 Finish: Thorne Cup Champions

Standings/Record: 37W-8L-3OTW-3OTL

(Photo by Manny Brizuela, WSHL Digital Media)

Coming off their second consecutive Thorne Cup Championship, the El Paso Rhinos will be looking to become the first team since the 2012-2013 Idaho Jr. Steelheads to complete a three-peat.

Last season, the narrative was that the Rhinos have never been able to successfully defend a title. With that chip off their shoulders, a new goal emerges. Only three teams have clinched a three-peat and the short list includes the 2000-2001 Ventura Mariners, 2003-2004 Phoenix Polar Bears, and the 2012-2013 Idaho Jr. Steelheads.  

Of note, the Polar Bears were on their fifth consecutive title run when they lost to the Fort Worth Texans in 2005-2006.

But the possibility of a third consecutive championship isn’t something Head Coach Cory Herman stresses as a goal for the team. More so, the Rhinos are all about improving every day because winning a championship is almost like hitting the reset button; you never come back as strong as you were when you won the championship—but you can work for it again.

Although Coach Herman doesn’t look at a three-peat for motivation, the narrative is certainly there for the Rhinos to make history yet again.

Turning the page to this 26th installment of WSHL Hockey, the Rhinos will be without their top five scorers and are down both their stalwart netminders.

Jonas Burman

(Photo of Burman by Mark Mauno, WSHL Photographer)

Burman was the Rhino’s leading scorer with 35G-41A-76Pts. The center played multiple roles for the team and was clinical on special teams collecting 23-points on the power play. It was Burman’s first year in the WSHL but the 98’ born has played the entirety of his junior hockey eligibility.    

Martin Dubsky

The Rhinos did a solid job with the recruitment process leading up to last season. Like Burman, Dubsky spent only one season with the team but performed to an explosive expectation finishing as the second leading scorer. Dubsky registered 24G-51A-75pts. He added three goals and 10 assists during the postseason and was named to the 2019 All-Thorne-Cup Team. 

John Erramousepe 

The forward spent four years in the Rhinos Organization and was clinical for the team’s success. Erramousepe had his best season last year notching 29G-31A-60Pts in 48-games during the regular season. His production during the post-season sustained itself with another seven points by way of 2G-5A. Erramousepe ranks among the team’s top five players in All-Time Goals and All-Time Games Played. He is tied for third overall in points with the next player on the list.  

 J.C. Dubecky

(Photo of Dubecky taken by Tim Broussard, Ogden Mustangs Photographer)

Dubecky patrolled the blueline for the Rhinos over the span of three years. As a defenseman, points don’t always come your way as much as other positions. With that said, Dubecky had a stellar opening season with 24-points, tripled his total the following year to 76-points and a Thorne Cup, and finally concluded his WSHL career with 12G-48A-60Pts. Dubecky was the highest scoring defender on the team in 2018-2019 and tied for third overall with Erramousepe.   

 Dubecky’s production in the playoffs stands out when looking at last year’s Thorne Cup Tournament in Ogden. The Regina, Saskatchewan native scored 5G-2A-7pts to earn a spot in the 2019 All-Thorne Cup Team. He ranks fourth in Rhinos All-Time Points, second in All-Time Assists, and third in All-Time Games Played. Dubecky has been named the Rhino’s top d-man for the past two seasons and will continue to be teammates with Erramousepe at UCO for 2019-2020.

 Notable Returners 

The Rhinos are very particular in which players they deem as impact players but Coach Herman lead with Dominic Erdt as the first notable returner. Erdt will be coming back for his second season after cashing in a 36-point rookie season that ended with a championship. 

 Erdt was the third leading scorer among defensemen with 12 goals and 24 assists. It’s easy to see why Coach Herman stated the team will rely on Erdt to take his first year numbers above and beyond. With Thorne Cup winning experience and the track record to back it up, Erdt will clock in a big time role as a second year guy. 

 Sam Sykes is returning for a second go-around with the Rhinos, third in the league. Sykes debuted for the Las Vegas Storm in 2016-2017. He transitioned to the NA3HL for a season and then returned to the league with the Rhinos last year. Sykes has a habit of reaching or surpassing the 40-point mark doing so with the Storm, Jr. Brahmas (NA3HL), and finally the Rhinos last season with 13 goals and 27 assists. 

 Sykes had a goal and one assist versus the Oklahoma City Jr. Blazers during last year’s Thorne Cup Semi-Final. 

 Easton Easterson caps off the trio of notable returners that Coach Herman will rely on through out the season. 

 Easterson’s case is one that is also interesting because the California native has experience in the NAHL but implemented that experience with the Rhinos. After stints with the Aberdeen Wings, Chippewa Steele, and the Brookings Blizzard, Easterson came back for the home stretch adding four goals and two assists in the postseason. The heavily penalized forward doesn’t let himself become wrongfully intrigued by physicality and can still generate offense.

 In 2017-2018, Easterson had 18G-15A-34Pts. in 39 games for the Tahoe Icemen. Last year, Easterson had 6G-8A-14Pts. in 22 games, for El Paso. 

Goaltending 

The Rhino’s had an interesting goalie outlook last season because Nils Velm played on his head the entire season, but, it was Richie Parent who shutout the Ogden Mustangs to win the Thorne Cup Championship. 

 In a game where everything was on the line, Coach Herman entrusted a goalie with less than ten games under his belt to beat the best team in the league. Parent was voted top goalie at the Thorne Cup and was also named to the 2019 All-Thorne Cup Team. 

 It ultimately panned out for the Rhinos but it speaks highly on Herman’s ability to bring in trustworthy and role-worthy players. Niether Velm or Parent is coming back but Herman says the team is still evaluating potential No. 1 goalies. The Rhinos have announced that Nils Schieder will be returning for 2019-2020. Schieder had two wins and one loss in three games and held a .844 SV% with a 2.56 GAA. 

 The Rhino's have an exhibition series versus the U20-Mexican National Team, this weekend, and Coach Herman believes the games will be a good measuring stick for players and the team. In the end, El Paso will come back with the same identity and style of play. The unique marriage of a very skilled yet highly physical game has somewhat been perfected for the Rhinos who will again enter title defense mode. 

More news and details to be released by teams as the 2019-2020 season approaches. Stay up to date with the latest  and complete El Paso Rhinos news by going to ElPasoRhinos.com