Just Chirp’n 15

Just Chirp’n #15  (2009-2010)
Dec. 9, 2009
by Michael Hissam

Remember that old abbreviation WYSYWYG (What you see is what you get)?

Forget about that one when it comes to the Tulsa Rampage, especially when you change the “see” to “saw.”    This week’s visitors and long-time nemesis to the first-place El Paso Rhinos look very little like the “short bench” team the Rhinos beat early in October in Oklahoma.

Proof point?  Tulsa added four new players just this week; the fifth meets his new teammates for the first time when the Rampage arrives in El Paso in time for Friday’s game.  They even have a new coach (Marty Quarters) since early November.   “I’ve been tracking their changes, their ‘adds,’” said Rhino Coach Cory Herman.  “They’ve turned things around.  They’ve added good forwards on top of the good forwards they already had.  They have improved considerably.”

What added concern for Herman is that Tulsa recently grabbed two games from second-place Boulder, now trailing the Colorado squad by 11 points in the battle for second place.  Tulsa now sits one game under .500.  “They look a lot different than what we saw in Tulsa.”
Herman also has a few new moves up his sleeve as the Rhinos have been practicing with different line combinations, with emphasis on the fore check.  “By later in the week, we’ll be working more with the special teams on the power play and the penalty kill.”

He pointed out that star goalie Andrew Duff will get the Friday call.  It was against Tulsa in early October that Duff suffered a leg injury that knocked him out of the goal crease for more than a month and a half.  At the same time, Herman looked to continued leadership from league-leading scorer Nick Gualano.  “He’s playing very well, definitely ‘on’ his game.  We want him to keep shooting on the net.”

Rhino captain Austin Balko felt this week’s practices have the team on the right track.  “We’re working on details – more consistency, a more offensive mentality.  We got to get more comfortable with our leads.  We want to build leads that make it easier for the ‘D’ guys to carry through.  We want a game that is as good offensively as it is defensively.”

Any other team in the Midwest Division of the Western States Hockey League might think Balko’s is being offensive in making that last statement.  The Rhinos have scored 183 goals and have surrendered only 43 – fewer than 1.5 a game to the opposition.  No one else is near those stats in this division.

From Tulsa:  Rampage owner Julie Wilson is fired up about this weekend’s games.  “The turnaround with the existing players under coach Quarters has been phenomenal.  When we saw the Rhinos the last time we did not even have a full roster.  Coach Quarters has good players coming in.  We are full on the roster.  His teaching ability on the ice is outstanding. To be able to take two of three from Boulder only two weeks after he took over says a lot.”

The four-year owner of the Tulsa franchise went on to say, “We’re excited about coming down to El Paso for good games.  We hope to win; it could happen.  We know El Paso is a strong team.”

Tom Whetsel leads Rampage scoring with 16 goals and 24 assists.  Last year’s leading scorer Michael Criscoulo rejoined the team this week – just in time for El Paso.

Cholesterol Department:  Rhino defenseman Kyle Shapiro, from the Philadelphia area, said he finally found a good El Paso source for the right ingredients for a Philly steak sandwich.  He agreed that he would gladly volunteer to be a quality control inspector for paseños who think they have found the right way to make that eastern Pennsylvania delicacy.