08/11/2010 1:54 AM - In an unprecedented move, 4 Rhinos will lace up their skates for the St. Mary’s Cardinals (MIAC) this Fall.
Recruited by former San Antonio Diablos head coach Ryan Egan, St. Marys will be pulling in: All Time point leader, and holder of just about every offensive record, 2009-2010 Captain Austin Balko
Top scoring defenseman and Alternate Captain Andrew Ketterer
Last season’s WSHL leading scorer, and always-dangerous sniper Nic Gualano.
Speedy, hard working, perpetual motion machine, Trevor Erickson
St. Mary is rebuilding from the ground up, and first order of business was good recruits and Ryan Egan has been the instrumental first step towards getting the Cardinals on track.
“We’re committed to succeeding, and recruiting the right players is where it begins, we’ve signed a lot of good players and we’re on track to hit the ground running, we’ll be young, but we’ll be competitive.
We’ve signed several captains of teams and we’ve gone after kids that are from good programs that are used to winning.
Austin (Balko), Andrew (Ketterer), and the boys are a big part of that philosophy.
I saw these kids when I was coaching in San Antonio they’re solid players.
El Paso is a quality program, and player development is a big reason for their success."
-Ryan Egan Asst. Coach St. Mary’s University
"This is a very unique situation getting to experience college as teammates coming from juniors.
I’m really happy the guys will get to play together again.
St. Mary’s is getting a great group of talented players that are used to winning.
They’ll provide a great nucleus for what will be a really good young team."
-Cory Herman Head Coach El Paso Rhinos
Austin Balko and Andrew Ketterer Interview
What teams were actively recruiting you?
AB: Nichols, MSOE, Worcester St., SUNY-Brockport
AK: Fredonia, Johnson &Wales, Worchester St., St. Michaels
What swayed you towards St. Mary’s?
AB: Coach Egan made it very apparent that the team is surrounded by change and that I would have a good chance to be a major part in it. Both him and Coach Moore were very open about any and every question I had and they made me feel very comfortable there.
AK: I wanted to be closer to home and its good league, they were the first to team talk to me, Coach Egan approached me last November and kept in touch with me throughout the rest of the season.
How special is it to be playing together again?
AB: Awesome. Its always s surprise going in to college not knowing anyone or anything about your new home. To have three of my closest friends and teammates in Andrew, Nic, and Trevor makes me even more excited to get there.
AK: Awesome! You make your best friends in juniors. I’ve known Nic (Gualano) for years, and Balko and Swift (Trevor Erickson) these last 2 years. Me and Balko knew we’d be leading the team last year as captains along with Nic.
How do you think you’ll transition to the college game?
AB: I think at first it will be an adjustment but just as it was in juniors the game comes to you. I have been training hard all summer to improve on all aspects of my game and I cannot wait to get on that ice and get to work. Hopefully my speed will help me transition to the bigger ice surface.
AK: Hopefully well, I like to consider myself a physical player, I figure I’ll need to think defense first, and I’ll need to have a good +/-.
I’ve been working out all summer and staying in shape. I’m excited for the opportunity; I know I can raise my game to be a player that earns ice time as a Freshman.
What about college life?
AB: I am nervous about it but excited also. I have been out of school for a while and just hope I can pick up where I left off. As far as campus life, I have no idea what to expect but can’t wait to get started.
AK: I had a year at Bradley when I was playing in Peoria, so I’m excited to go back to school again, and to go to a college where playing hockey is the reason I’m there.
Looking back on your time in El Paso, do you feel you became a better player here?
AB: Yes 100%. My game has shifted from one role to the next and back again. Coach Herman made me work on my weaknesses as well as improve on my strengths.
AK: Oh my god absolutely!
What about Coach Herman?
AB: Herm is the best coach I have ever had. He knows from personal experience what life is like for a junior hockey player. He is strict but fair, and knows when to talk and what to say, along with how to get the most out of every player. He has made me a 100% better hockey player.
AK: Herm is an amazing coach, he gives you freedom to develop and create your own identity as a player. You get to be creative; he wants you to be who you are on the ice and helps you find your place within the system
What are you gonna miss about El Paso?
AB: Everything! From the early practices to the gym, from the long bus rides to coaching the youth players, I am going to miss it all. I have spent the past three years down here. I am comfortable here and I am going to miss so much. The fans, the locker room, Herm, the city, etc. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. El Paso will always be a part of my life and I hope to be back down here on many occasions throughout my life.
AK: The people, everything, *Murray (Bates Rhinos Assistant Coach), I mean never again in my life will I meet an 80 year old man that talks s#%t constantly (laughs).
Honestly though, it’s been hard to see the guys going back, going to camp, I feel like I should be getting ready to head back down there. When I left Dubuque I didn’t know what I was getting into going to El Paso, but my best days growing up were in El Paso and I never would have even thought that 2 years ago.
There is nothing like junior hockey, I got up and did my favorite thing in the world.., played hockey, then went to the gym , and spent the rest of the time hanging out with my best friends.
Nothing will take the place of living in El Paso with my friends, and even though we’re leaving El Paso we want to make a good name for the team and organization now that we’re going to college, we want to represent the team and organization in the best way.
Are you gonna miss the 7am practices?
AB: Yes/no, I won’t mind getting a bit more sleep, but I will miss the boys and the locker room and all the commotion early in the morning.
AK: St. Marys practices at 7:30pm so not really hahaha
Do you think you’ll stay in touch with the program?
AB: Of course, I am working at the new Rhino’s Training Facility right now. I am showing all the new kids around and getting all the vets settled in to their new houses. I told the team I will be keeping tabs on them and if something bad happens they will hear about it from me. I plan to come and visit when I get the chance and I told all the boys if they ever need anything I am a phone call away.
AK:We’re (my family and Nic’s family) already talking about heading to Las Vegas after finals to catch the showcase in December, so absolutely.
*Murray Bates is not 80 years old he just appears that way, but he does talk s#%t constantly.