Record: W: 27 – L: 23 – OTL: 2
View season stats here.
WSHL GOES TIER II & ADAM VAY SIGNS WITH THE MINNESOTA WILD
Before the 2015-2016 season started, the Rhinos’ year got off to a great start when the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) announced the League’s move to Tier II. Now on par with the North American Hockey League (NAHL), the WSHL would be able to recruit more skilled and talented players, increasing the caliber of play throughout the League. Former Rhino netminder Adam Vay evidenced the WSHL’s already elite level of play when he signed with the Minnesota Wild just four days before the WSHL’s announcement. The 6’5 Hungary native earned an entry-level contract with the NHL team after he posted a 3.67 GAA and a .911 SV% in three games for Team Hungary at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Russia. When the Wild announced his signing, they reported that Vay went 28-4-0 with a 2.03 GAA, a .923 SV% and five shutouts in 32 games with the El Paso Rhinos in the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) in 2014-15. He ranked T-1st in the league in shutouts, third in SV% and fourth in GAA as the Rhinos advanced to the Thorne Cup Final. Vay went 25-1-0 in 26 games with El Paso in 2013-14 and led the WSHL with a 1.76 GAA, a .936 SV% and ranked T-1st with five shutouts as the Rhinos won the 2014 Thorne Cup and National Championship. Additionally, former Rhinos Matthew, Nicholas and Peter Plesa – key members of the 2014 championship team – were all invited to the New York Rangers Prospect Development Camp over the summer.
CELEBRATING 10 YEARS WITH THE RHINOS
Building upon nine winning seasons since 2006, a place in a higher-level league, and an alumnus signed to the NHL, the Rhinos franchise prepared to celebrate its ten-year anniversary during the 2015-2016 season.
El Paso welcomed back Bryton Tomko, who posted 50 points in his first season in El Paso, goalie Cytulik and defenseman Gabe Goodroe for the new season. Mack Hollis also returned after suffering a season-ending concussion during the 2014-2015 season.
Donning throwback uniforms and a new anniversary logo, the Rhinos started their season in California where they split the series with the Valencia Flyers and earned an overtime win against the Long Beach Bombers. The Texas team then returned to the Sun City where they won the home opener against Wichita, but dropped the following two games. The losing streak continued when the Superior Roughriders swept the Rhinos at home for the first-time franchise history. El Paso went back on the road to California for a second split series against Long Beach and Valencia and lost all three games. Before reaching eleven games, the losing streak was halted when the Rhinos beat Wichita, 6-3, in the final game of the series in Kansas. When the Rhinos returned home for two consecutive home series, the Dallas Snipers took the first game, however El Paso won the following two and swept the Tulsa Oilers the next weekend. The Rhinos headed into the annual WSHL Shootout with a five-game win streak. After wins over Cheyenne, Seattle, Las Vegas and Phoenix, the Rhinos finished the Showcase with an undefeated record, something that was not even done during the season that the Rhinos won the National Championship.
The second half of the season, unfortunately, got off to a rocky start when the Rhinos were swept by the Springfield Express and Oklahoma City Blazers in their first two away series of 2016. Bouncing back quickly, El Paso won their next four series. The Blazers and the Express, however, halted the series win streak and the Rhinos ended the regular season with a loss.
Despite 23 losses on the regular season, the team still managed to make it to the playoffs. The Rhinos capitalized on their home-ice advantage in the first round, sweeping the Tulsa Oilers, 5-3 in game one, and 4-3 in game two. They then traveled to Oklahoma City where the season ended with two losses to the Blazers in the division semi-final series.
With 27 wins and 25 losses, the Rhinos earned their worst record in franchise history, but avoided a losing season and earned fourth place in the Midwestern Division.
AFTER RHINO COUNTRY
Continuing the legacy, Connor Beaudet, Petr Ceslik, Kyle Keeder, Jakub Husa, Bryton Tomko, Mack Hollis, Gabe Goodroe, and Jorge Duenas all committed to play hockey at a higher level.
Connor Beaudet, the Rhinos leading scorer, joined the Wentworth Institute of Technology for the 2016-2017 season. Deemed the El Paso’s most reliable and consistent player, he racked up a total of 67 regular-season points, and another four in the Rhinos’ post-season. Second to Beaudet in scoring, Petr Ceslik posted 64 points which helped him earn a spot on Poland’s Orik Opole’s hockey team for the 2016-2017 season. Arguably the Rhinos’ most physical forward, Bryton Tomko started his collegiate hockey career with Marian University. With 20 points and 10 assists, the 6’1 forward was ranked eighth in scoring in the Rhinos’ roster.
Kyle Keeder joined the Western Michigan Hockey Club for the 2016-2017 season after earning 29 points for the Rhinos, playing both as a forward and defenseman throughout the season. Fellow defenseman, Jakub Husa, ranked seventh in scoring on the Rhino roster with 26 points. Husa headed back home to the Czech Republic for a spot on the HC Benátky nad Jizerou roster for the 2016-2017 season.
Mack Hollis, Gabe Goodroe, Angel Sanca, Austin Grawbarger and Jorge Duenas decided to return to El Paso to play for the UTEP Hockey Club, an American Colligate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II club team that was started in 2015. The Rhino alumni, including Lukas Znosko, Alek Lazarski, and Jeramy Rezaeepour from the Rhinos’ 2014-15 roster, helped UTEP win the 2017 Texas Collegiate Hockey Conference championship.