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Just Chirp'n 10

11/11/2009 11:38 PM -
Just Chirp’n #10 2009-2010

November 11, 2009

by Michael Hissam

El Paso Rhino Head Coach Cory Herman hates excuses.

He will never hide behind the fact that his comfortably-in-first-place team has held its spot despite injuries and illnesses that never allowed him to put the exact team on the ice at the exact moment he wanted.  Goalie Andrew Duff and defenseman Drew Montague prowl the wrong side of the north-end dashers in street shoes, unable to get into the action.  David Fegler got derailed with a malady knocking him out of his right-wing spot, and, in his case, penalty box duties.

Comfortably in first?  Word to the wise in the west Texas town is, “¡No sean flojos!”  A nice translation is, “Don’t get lazy.”  There exist other translations in hockey language.  However, this is a “family oriented” column.   Herman won’t let this team “mail in” three victories against New Mexico starting Friday in the Duke City and finishing Saturday and Sunday in the Sun City.

Herman knows New Mexico – current occupants of last place – derailed Tulsa for two of three last weekend up in Oklahoma, and gave El Paso fits the weekend before. “Their goalie (Colton Ishmael) ‘stood on his head’ stopping about 50 shots each game from us.  They gave us all we could handle up there.  He’s given the team a lot of confidence.”

Herman added his strategy is to “put traffic in front of their goalie.  We’ll take the ugly goals, the garbage goals.  If that kid sees the shot, he stops it!”

New Mexico bench boss Peter Ambroziak pointed to Ishmael as the sparkplug behind his club’s resurgence.  It is a trend that started a couple weekends ago when the Renegades held El Paso to surprisingly-low winning margins, and taken further with the two “W’s” in Tulsa.  “Colton has started in all three of our victories, two of them in his hometown of Tulsa.  He has worked his way to become our Number One goalie.  He took the opportunity and ran with it.  Two of three has given us confidence.”

Ambroziak likes the fact that his team faces the Rhinos so often in the first half of the Western States Hockey League 2009-2010 season.  “We step up our game when we play them.  It will help us down the road when we play others. Our goal this weekend is to steal one or two from El Paso – give them a game!  I’m looking forward to more parity in our division as the season goes on.”

New Mexico may be 3-15 in the standings.  For what it’s worth, in year one of the old Western Professional Hockey League, the El Paso Buzzards had pretty much the same record – then blasted off to take the championship.  “¡No sean flojos!” are words to the wise.
Herman’s translation:  “Just compete every shift.  I want 20 competitors out there, not 20 guys just happy to wear the Rhino jersey.  Losses happen when you say, ‘We’ll win this one easy.’”

(Inland) Empire Strikes Back:  The first two words describe the portion of the Los Angeles megalopolis out around the city of Ontario and points east.  Ontario is home to the ECHL Reign.  Thanks go to Reign PR/Community/Corporate Relations Director Laura Tolbirt for last weekend’s hospitality when the Victoria Salmon Kings came to town.  She runs a top-notch communications effort in a new building – totally paid for – that can house about 9,000 for hockey.  It also has bells and whistles “Soundguy” would love.  Next stop on the annual ECHL scouting mission will be Estero, Florida to see the Everblades.

¡Hasta la vista!  mhissam@elpasorhinos.com


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