Wilhite, Cesarz, DePalma, Hoff, Nelson, and Strusz commit to St. Mary’s
Four Rhinos players from the 2014 Thorne Cup Championship squad will move on to play NCAA Division III college hockey at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.
Defenseman Chris Wilhite and forwards Chad Cesarz, Drew DePalma, and Austin Hoff have committed to suit up in red, white, and navy for the St. Mary’s Cardinals next season.
Blueliner Chris Wilhite led the Rhinos in scoring among defensemen, posting an impressive 45 points in 41 games. Head coach Cory Herman noted that Wilhite “grew a lot as a player and a person in our program that will help him tremendously at the collegiate level.” Wilhite will bolster the St. Mary’s Cardinals’ defense corps with solid power play numbers and sound defensive instincts.
Michiganders Chad Cesarz and Drew DePalma will also join Wilhite in Minnesota in the fall. Cesarz became known in Rhinos country for his gritty play paired with superb scoring acumen, a combination that can be hard to find in young players. Cesarz notched 109 penalty minutes and 66 points in just 45 games with the Rhinos this past season. Coach Herman noted Cesarz’ “killer instinct” on the ice, also noting that “teams can’t stop [Cesarz] when he plays to his strengths.”
Acquired at the trade deadline, Drew DePalma suited up for just 15 games in the Rhinos. However, the right winger made the most of his ice time with his new squad. DePalma scored 13 goals and 6 assists for the Rhinos, while keeping his discipline with just 4 penalty minutes. In the previous season with the San Diego Gulls before being dealt to El Paso, DePalma easily eclipsed the 50-point mark in just 35 games. Coach Herman described DePalma as a “hard worker who sees the game very well.”
Washington native Austin Hoff, described by Herman as a “very big presence” on the ice, will add depth to the St. Mary’s Cardinals. Hoff was a valuable part of the Rhinos’ high scoring third line, switching from his natural left wing to the right wing to contribute to the line’s success.
Wilhite, Cesarz, DePalma, and Hoff will join fellow Rhinos David Nelson and Jack Strusz as well as numerous Rhinos alumni at St. Mary’s. Forward Eric Baldwin is also expected to commit to St. Mary’s in the coming weeks.
Beaulieu Commits to Worcester State
Yet another Rhino will be taking his ice hockey talents to the NCAA Division III collegiate level.
New Orleans native Dakota Beaulieu has committed to playing at Worcester State University in Worcester, Massachusetts for the upcoming season.
The 6’3”, 215 lbs. forward was an imposing figure on the ice for the Rhinos this past season, using his lethal combination of size and skill to score 32 goals and 25 assists in 40 games.
Head coach Cory Herman commented on Beaulieu’s play, stating, “[Beaulieu] has all the tools to become a great hockey player. He learned a lot in our program which will help him at Worcester.”
Beaulieu will join Rhinos alumnus Vinny Bohn at Worcester State, a defenseman for the Worcester State Lancers.
Bartell signs with Hamline University
Coming off both a Thorne Cup and United Hockey Union National Championship, while amassing a combined record 57-2-1, the El Paso Rhinos continue to make it clear they are not just one of the top organizations in the WSHL but in all of junior hockey. Their play on the ice speaks for itself but Cory Herman and Co. have also had another busy off-season of moving players on to the collegiate ranks and forward Tom Bartel has given them a league-best seven NCAA Division III commitments, announcing he will play at Hamline University in the fall.
One of the most underrated players in the league, Bartel had a busy first year in El Paso, where he finished seventh on the team in the regular season with 66 points, with his 50 assists also good enough for third. The 5’11” 160 pounder was also at his best during the post-season and had a big hand in both Rhinos championships, notching six points in nine Thorne Cup playoff contests and seven in five games played at the UHU National tournament in Las Vegas.
Herman had this to say about Bartel, who was one of his prize recruits coming out of training camp “Tom has a great work ethic on and off the ice.” Herman continued, “His greatest asset is his speed; he was one of the fastest players in our league last year.”
Bartel will return to his home state of Minnesota and play under first-year head coach Cory Laylin at Hamline, who is looking to get things turned around after a tough 2013-2014 season for the Pipers. Making things even more interesting, Bartel will face-off against a handful of his former Rhinos teammates (Chris Wilhite, Chad Cesarz, Austin Hoff and Drew DePalma) when Hamline faces the Cardinals of St. Mary’s University in February.
Fink heads to the University of Wisconsin Superior
After backstopping the El Paso Rhinos to both a Thorne Cup and United Hockey Union National Championship, goaltender Bryce Fink has committed to play his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in the fall.
The Thorne Cup Most Valuable Player came to the Rhinos at the trade deadline in January, a move which was made as a favor to him by Seattle Totems General Manager/Head Coach Mike Murphy, who wanted to give the homegrown product a chance to finish his junior career with a championship.
The Tacoma, Washington native came to El Paso as the back-up to Adam Vay, who lost only one game all season but Fink quickly showed he was more than capable of shouldering the load, going 6-0-0 down the stretch of the regular season, before taking over the number one role and going 9-0-0 in the playoffs, including wins in both championship games.
Prior to the championship run in El Paso, Fink spent nearly four full seasons in Totems green, with his numbers consistently amongst the league’s best. Even as Seattle hit some bumps against tougher competition over the last two years and Fink was forced to sometimes face 60-plus shots per night, he found a way to keep his save percentage well above .900 and hit double digits in wins every year.
Showing his leadership and likability in the locker room, Fink was also an assistant captain of the team for two seasons and also picked up personal achievements like being named the NORPAC Rookie of the Year in 2011, Goaltender of the Year in 2012 and the Totems Team MVP in 2013, to go along with his 2014 Thorne Cup MVP.
A true battler that finds ways to win games, Fink will have a great chance to keep his championship pedigree alive at Wisconsin-Superior, which competes in the prestigious Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and has won NCAA Division III National Titles in 1976 and 2002.
Fink had this to say about his collegiate choice, “I’m honored to join the great hockey tradition at Wisconsin-Superior and would like to thank my parents and coaches Mike Murphy, Kris Wilson and Cory Herman for their encouragement and assistance in helping me reach my goal.”
The WSHL joins the Totems and Rhinos in wishing Bryce the best of luck at Wisconsin-Superior, where he’ll surely come in and compete for minutes from day one.