05/27/2014 10:23 AM -
After recent commitments from El Paso Rhinos forwards Drew DePalma and Austin Hoff, St. Mary’s University and head coach Bill Moore strengthened their backend via the 2014 Thorne Cup Champions, as defenseman Chris Wilhite announced that he will attend the school in the fall.
A four-year Rhino who became the club’s all-time leader in games played by a defenseman this past season, Wilhite played a pivotal role in the Rhinos championship run. One of the team’s leaders, the 6’4” 175-pound rearguard made huge strides and rounded out the offensive side of his game, which combined with his already stellar shutdown skills, including elite shot-blocking, quickly turned him into one of the top defensemen in the entire league.
In 41 games played during the 2013-2014 regular season, the Colorado Springs, Colorado, native notched 45 points (12 goals and 33 assists) second to only Kalvis Ozols on the team and third amongst all WSHL defensemen. He was able to do that even while consistently being matched up against the oppositions’ top players and being featured on the penalty kill. He then went on to acquire four goals and seven assists in nine Thorne Cup Playoff games, leading the Rhinos to their first league title since 2008 and carried on to amass seven points in five games during the United Hockey Union National Championships, again won by the Rhinos.
A poster child for the progression players often show during their time under Cory Herman in El Paso, Wilhite improved his offensive numbers every season with the team, beginning with nine in year one, jumping to 33 during the 2011-2012 campaign and then 34 in 2012-2013, before a career-high 45 this past season.
Wilhite will now head to a sanctuary for Rhinos alumni and play for Bill Moore, who has carried on a great working relationship with Herman over the years. He’ll join teammates Drew DePalma and Austin Hoff, as well as former Rhino standout Tyler Ridgedell in Winona, which should make the transition easier on all three of the newcomers. Three more former Rhinos, Austin Balko, Nic Gualano and Andrew Ketterer, recently finished up their senior season with the Cardinals and are moving on, with Balko returning to El Paso to serve as an assistant coach.
Herman had this to say about Wilhite and his commitment, “Chris improved greatly over his four seasons here in El Paso and grew into the player he is today because of his hard work and dedication.” Herman continued, “He’s turned himself from a stay-at-home defenseman into a versatile player that excels in all situations and I couldn’t be happier to see him continuing his career at St. Mary’s.”
The WSHL joins Herman and the Rhinos in wishing Chris the best of luck in his collegiate career!