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01/25/2012 12:03 PM -
A Walk through the Park City
Jan. 25, 2012
El Paso, TX – Thursday marks the first date of what you could call the Easy Street portion of the season for the El Paso Rhinos; but while their next three opponents spanning over the upcoming month are the three of the WSHL’s four worst teams, it is a perfect setup for hazards.
For 14 consecutive games, the Rhinos will face the most sub-par teams they’ve seen all season aside from the Dallas Snipers. No disrespect to the Park City Moose, Phoenix Knights, or Texas Brahmas, but they are a far cry from superior competition this year. El Paso has already proven they can hang with the big boys, especially since returning from vacation after their sweep of the Dallas Ice Jets, so these upcoming adversaries should be much to handle…on paper that is.
While this looks like a tasty treat for some hungry Rhinos, it could be an elegantly crafted trap if they aren’t careful; so here is a map to navigate through this façade of simplicity:
1. It is easy to overlook any of the upcoming series for the next four weeks but that is the best way for El Paso to set themselves up for failure. Don’t forget what happened in Las Vegas, arrogance is like the devil; he makes it seem like he is on your side, but in actuality he is your worst enemy. If they choose not to prepare as hard as they normally would, they will lose to weak opponents who have something to prove.
2. Phonebooks are among the most difficult things to rip in half with bare hands. However, if there is even the slightest tear in it to start with, the rest goes as smooth as butter. The point is, even though El Paso is strong enough to withstand the efforts of their upcoming opponents, if they allow a bad loss to occur, it will be easy to become overly self-conscious and begin dropping games. Stay on top of them and don’t let up.
3. Don’t play their game. All three of these teams have penalty issues especially when they are losing, and if the Rhinos allow them to get inside their heads, it could come back to hurt later. Time and time again, easy wins are squandered because of disciplinary issues and we have seen that El Paso is prone to bad penalties and retaliatory strikes. For this month, believer or not, take a tip from the Bible and turn the other cheek. Don’t make it worth your time because it will cost you and your teammates dearly. Remember that actions have consequences and the worst ones are always on the scoreboard.
4. Stay alert. When a superior team goes up five goals or so on an opponent, it is easy to go into coast-mode and just let the game play out. This is dangerous both figuratively and literally. Figuratively speaking, this is how wins are given up. Going into prevent only prevents you from winning, don’t do it. However, the scarier and more literal part is that it makes players forget to stay alert on the ice. Injuries occur when a player isn’t paying attention or doesn’t have his head in the game because they lose that sense of urgency to protect themselves. Don’t sacrifice playoffs because of one moment of oversight, it just isn’t worth it and it hurts.
5. Finally, don’t expect these teams to lie down. For two of them, the series against the Rhinos could be seen as playoffs for them since they are almost mathematically eliminated from contention. Bottom line, El Paso is going to be seeing their opponent’s best hockey of the season. Nothing fuels a competitor like being told they suck and don’t have a chance. They do have a chance and will be there to prove it. Even if the Rhinos go 6-0-0 entering their series with Texas, they need to act as though they just went 0-6-0.
There is no such thing as an easy game in a league that has as much parity as the WSHL. Hard work goes into all aspects of the game and that can all go down the drain if not utilized accordingly. These next four weeks have been beautifully giftwrapped for the Rhinos; the question is what will happen when they open it. So now that it has all been listed out, it is easy to see how this portion of the season could just be the easiest to let slip away.
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.