03/15/2012 11:05 AM - A Good Ole Texas Showdown
Mar. 15, 2012
El Paso, TX – Watch any old Clint Eastwood western and you know how this goes down. The townspeople scatter to the nearest shelter but peak out from behind their protection. Both men are standing 100 feet or so in front of each other without a single blink while one spits tobacco and the other flicks a cigarette. Everything is silent with one random harmonica player in the background and tumbleweed lazily drifting by in the crosswinds. It’s a showdown in the southwest.
Well there may not be spurs on skates and cowboy hats done fit over a helmet unless it’s a Disney film, but this is as big of a showdown in the lone star state as any. Two great junior hockey teams will face head to head with the winner skating away with the Mid-West Conference title. The El Paso Rhinos will host the Dallas Ice Jets in another thrilling best-of-three series. Winner moves on and loser goes home…well not exactly this time.
Due to the Rhinos hosting the upcoming Thorne Cup tournament, they have drawn an automatic bid, and the Ice Jets will go representing the Conference. So why even bother you ask? Everything is still on the line. Seeding is huge, conference domination is everything, and regardless of guaranteed entry to the biggest tournament the WSHL has to offer, it is still playoff hockey. This weekend look for high-powered offenses on both ends of the ice.
El Paso’s Mike Rivera leads the charge for the Rhinos with six points in the post season already, but will he be able to out-perform Dallas’ Christian Elsborg who is only one point behind him? It could honestly be a toss-up as both are capable of changing the game at any given moment. And who can forget about Brandon Unser who gave both Rhino goaltenders fits?
The big question here is, will we see a repeat of the final series of the season for the Rhinos? Lest not forget the last weekend in February where Dallas took two out of three games in El Paso. The Rhinos cannot afford to fall behind in this one. Goaltender Trent Casper had arguably the best weekend in the entire first round of playoffs, but can he repeat the effort? And in the other pipes, Michael Baldwin made the Ice Jets the fourth best goaltending team in the WSHL.
Defensively, who knows what to expect? Both teams have struggled at the blue-line to stay consistent. One game everything is gravy and the next it’s a flop. But this makes for an exciting two-three games of hockey as nobody knows what to expect. Game one could be a goalie duel while game two is a scoring rampage. Either way, the stage is set, the fans are ready, and when the smoke clears there will be a Mid-West winner.
Matt Prosser, El Paso Rhinos Beat Writer for JuniorHockey.com. Founder of Fifty8 Productions and freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU1580 Sacramento. For comments and writing ventures e-mail Matt@Fifty8productions.com. Follow on Twitter @MattProsser58 or visit www.kssusportsycle.com.