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12/28/2011 8:26 AM -
In-Depth Look at Mike Rivera of the El Paso Rhinos
Dec. 26, 2011
EL PASO, TX – Following a rough tournament at the WSHL Western States Shootout, the Rhinos have been given an extended break. El Paso didn’t have the tournament they were expecting, finishing just 1-3 by losing to the Boulder Bison, Idaho Junior Steelheads, and Fresno Monsters with their only victory coming against the Cheyenne Stampede, but get to enjoy some R &R now. The theme to their Showcase was simply the lack of scoring as the team was only able to net six goals all weekend long and was blanked by Idaho.
When asked for a quote on how he thought his team performed, El Paso head coach Cory Herman said “I thought the showcase was a good experience. I really liked our schedule; we played the top teams in our league. I didn’t think we played bad, we just couldn’t score. We played against some goaltenders that played really well. Sometimes those games will happen. I would rather have it happen at the showcase than at the Thorne Cup Championship. The positives from the showcase I thought we outplayed each team we faced, we just could put the puck in the net.”
It’s hard to dispute what Herman said but the effort just didn’t show up on paper. The team’s normally high-caliber offense barely scraped 30 shots against the three elite goaltenders in the league and that just won’t get it done. He mentions a good point though that if it has to happen, then it’s better at the Showcase and not the Thorne Cup. The only problem with that is what if it occurs at both when it didn’t need to happen at either?
Since all teams in the WSHL are on hibernation though, I thought it would be nice to step aside from the critiques and add some flavor in this update. So I decided to take a few minutes to sit down with team captain, Mike Rivera for a quick interview. Here are the specifics on the young center and the conversation with him:
Birthplace: El Paso
Tenure with El Paso: Currently Playing 3rd Season
Favorite Hobby: Spending time with friends and playing video games
MP: Mike, how long have you been wearing the “C” for the Rhinos and what’s it been like?
RIVERA: I was voted Captain by the team right after our first series this year and it’s been great. I enjoy being the person my teammates and coaches look to when they need something, whether that’s keeping them in line or firing them up. It’s a huge responsibility but very rewarding.
MP: Well you’ve just mentioned the added responsibilities so I’ll ask you this: you play for one of the most successful franchises in the history of the WSHL, the team you grew up watching. What has that been like and has that alone added any extra pressures on top of those you’ve already stated?
RIVERA: It’s a lot of added pressure. Growing up here, I remember watching the team win the Thorne cup and so losing isn’t an option here in El Paso. You know, this team won silver last year at Nationals and we’re expected to win not only from the coaches but fans as well. Representing a dynasty comes with those pressures but it’s good pressure. A lot of teams go into a dressing room expecting to lose so it’s a great feeling going into our dressing room expecting to win and expecting that every night.
MP: It seems as though dealing with extra pressures has been a theme for you throughout your career, but I want to ask you something on a something a little bit more personal. Being a player of Mexican descent, have you had to deal with any adversity playing in a sport that until the last decade or so hasn’t seen much diversity?
RIVERA chuckles: Well I think in a way that comes with the territory. I mean if you ask anybody, or pretty much any black hockey player also, they’ll tell you that you get the occasional idiot out there who is quick to throw slurs when the refs aren’t watching but you just have to be mature about it and stay calm. Coaches are pretty good about controlling their players though and we have a lot of Mexican players especially in this league anyways so it’s not a huge deal. When it comes to opportunities to play though I don’t think it’s affected me in any way…at least not that I know of, which is nice.
MP: You bring up opportunities so I’d kind of like to expand on that. What exactly are you hoping this opens up for you career-wise? Are you interested in pursuing a career in hockey or are you hoping that this will punch your ticket to college so you can go another direction?
RIVERA: Honestly I’d like to play as long as I can. However, I realize that I’m a bit undersized so it may not be completely realistic but I’d like to see what my options are. I do want to go to college and get a business degree so I can start my own business after all of this is over. If I can play minor-pro though, then I’ll look into that too.
MP: How has the break been? Has it been a good holiday season for you and your family?
RIVERA: It’s been great. We get two weeks after the Showcase and don’t have to report back until [January] 2nd so it’s been really nice to catch a break.
MP: Yeah I’m sure the break has been something the team has been enjoying. You guys had a rough Showcase this year and I know that Cory [Herman] has stated that he liked the schedule you had for the weekend and that he thought it was a good experience, but you just couldn’t find a way to score. As a player and specifically as a Captain, do you agree with his take on the tournament or do you have somewhat of a different opinion?
RIVERA: Well I do agree that it was a good experience but I think as a player I’m a bit disappointed. We played some great teams but this certainly lowered our heads and humbled us. It showed us that we’re not invincible, which is something that to be honest, I think we needed.
MP: Do you think that there was maybe a bit of an arrogance coming out of a big weekend series win against Fresno the week before that made you kind of look past the Showcase and onto the two week vacation?
RIVERA: Yeah, I think I’ll agree with that one. You know we had just finished beating the best team in the league the week before and maybe we were just a little too high off that one and we were brought back to reality.
MP: Was there any team there that you were extremely impressed with?
RIVERA: I thought [the] Idaho [Steelheads were] our biggest competition. They played us hard and I think we had the most difficult time against them. They were fast and outshot us and I definitely expect to see them at the Thorne Cup.
Just a few other quick updates: with flurries of rumors surrounding possible trades for the Cheyenne Stampede, the Rhinos were able to jump into the equation and made a transaction. Two players have been traded straight up between the two clubs. Carl Graf will be leaving El Paso for Travis Cornwell. The native of Little Canada, Minnesota brings speed to the El Paso blue-line and adds some solid hitting as well whereas the Stampede receive one of the best scorers in the league.
Also, join the Rhinos, January 26th - 28th as they celebrate Pink on the Rink, an event to promote cancer research and to benefit a local girl named Memory Miller.
Matt Prosser, El Paso Rhinos Beat Writer for JuniorHockey.com. Matt is a freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. For the past two seasons he has been the voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and is the host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU 1580AM in Sacramento and KSSU.com. His other broadcasts also include Hornets football, baseball, and softball. To get in touch with Matt for comments and writing ventures please e-mail him at MProsser58@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @kssuMattProsser or visit his website: www.kssusportscycle.com