BECOMING A JUNIOR ‘A’ TEAM
After the conclusion of the 2007 season, Commissioner Ron White announced the approval of Tier III Junior ‘A’ status for the WSHL. White noted, “It is an exciting moment for the WSHL and all potential junior players in the Western United States. Junior ‘A’ hockey is now coast to coast, border to border and we plan to meet this new opportunity with the maximum effort possible. All of our owners look forward to the success that this decision by USA Hockey will bring to the WSHL.”
FIRST THORNE CUP CHAMPIONSHIP
Naturally, El Paso’s 2007-2008 looked promising with the new Junior ‘A’ status under their belt. Finishing fifth in the overall standings, Rhinos player Marcus Wilhite turned in a 46 goal, 109 point season to lead the Mid-West Division of the WSHL in scoring. In turn, El Paso’s early success attracted higher-level talent. The team acquired new talent in players like Anthony Paulsen, who led his previous league in scoring among all defenseman, scoring 6 goals and 18 assists in 38 MJHL games.
With talent and determination to boot, the Rhinos finished the 2007-2008 season with only 1 loss in regulation, giving them 98 point. As fate, or perhaps talent, would have it, the Rhinos faced off against the Phoenix Polar Bears in the WSHL championship after sweeping the Rampage for the Mid-West Division Champion title. Ultimately, the Rhinos defeated the Polar Bears and earned the right to hoist the 2008 Thorne Cup.