GAINING RECOGNITION & EXPANDING COMMUNITY OUTREACH
With the brand new state-of-the-art training facility as a bonus, Shapiro, Benson, Ridgedell, Posillico, Bohn, Poland, Henne, and Wallace re-signed with the Rhinos. The organization also welcomed four new forwards, Moco Willis, Todd Thomas, Chip Callahan as well as goaltender Matt Tyler and defenseman Oliver Williams.
Attempting to avoid a repeat of the 2009- 2010 season opener, the Rhinos sought revenge on the defending Mid-West Division Champions, the Boulder Bison. El Paso started the series with a win, which was unfortunately followed by two losses.
Despite a tougher beginning to the season than previous years, the team remained committed to the community and returned home to wear a special Boy Scout jersey. The sweaters were auctioned off with all of the proceeds benefitting the local Boy Scout association. Just over a month later, the Rhinos replicated the auction with military jerseys during a home series that the organization named “Military Appreciation Weekend.” All active soldiers and their families were given free tickets, with two military hockey games played during second period intermissions. Making their participation annual, the Rhinos again collaborated with “Toys 4 Tots” to collect toys for children. The franchise also auctioned off law enforcement jerseys that commemorated the annual El Paso “Guns and Hoses” baseball game. Additionally, the players and staff collected money and shaved their heads for St. Baldrick’s.
The Rhinos continued to gain prevalence on the ice as well as off the ice. Because of their success, the team was featured monthly in the USA Junior Hockey Magazine 2011 edition.
Before heading into the post-season, the team and franchise saw their hard work pay off when they unveiled a brand new team bus on March 27, 2011. The team hopped on the bus to travel to Minnesota where they competed in the National Tournament. The Rhinos’ first game ended in a tie with the Granite City Lumberjacks. With wins over the Northern Cyclones and the Chicago Hitmen, El Paso earned a spot in the junior hockey version of the Final Four.
Allowing only one goal, netminder Trent Casper led the Rhinos to a win over the Idaho Steelheads, acquiring a berth to the Tier III Junior ‘A’ national championship game with a hard-fought 2-1 win in Rochester, Minnesota. The team was then set to face off against the Helena Bighorn in the national championship game.
On their fifth straight day of hockey, the Rhinos faced a 1-0 deficit just after 54 seconds of play against the Bighorn. Helena was able to maintain their lead and the Rhinos were stopped just one game short of their goal. However, the season of hard work and dedication was rewarded when the team returned to El Paso with silver medals in hand.