Just Chirp’n #6 2009-2010
October 15, 2009
by Michael Hissam
Déjà vu. Sort of.
Ten years ago this weekend at the Blades Multiplex in Rio Rancho, N.M., Peter Ambroziak, an up-and-coming player for the New Mexico Scorpions, skated onto the ice to tangle with the El Paso Buzzards and no-sass, “hard-work” forward Cory Herman.
This weekend, Ambroziak and Herman meet again: same location, no skates. Each will pace the bench as head coach respectively of the New Mexico Renegades and El Paso Rhinos hockey teams.
Those Buzzard-Scorpion battles featured just about everything, including a hockey game. You knew something was going to happen, in El Paso or up in Duke City. You didn’t know what – either on the ice or in the stands or the runways back to the locker room – but it would be something, as in mayhem. Those stories get better, especially with consecutive sasparillas.
Back to 2009.
Both coaches feel the excitement of the re-kindled rivalry. El Paso fans are asking Herman for directions to get to that rink a slap shot north of Albuquerque. “El Paso-New Mexico is always a great rivalry,” said Herman.
Polar opposites in the standings, Herman told his 8-1 division-leading team not to look at who-is-where on the sport pages. “They’ll throw everything at us. We need to play them as though they are second place. They’ll be riled up. They’ll have a full house. As with every other team, they’ll say, ‘We want to beat those El Paso guys!’”
Ambroziak’s gang already has lined up the proverbial kitchen sink. “My guys want to show the league we are here. I know the Rhinos will not take us for granted. There could be an upset; it’s hard work every shift!”
New Mexico’s coach pointed to goalie Colton Ishmael and defenseman John Connolly as keys to any upset. “Look beyond the goals against, and Ishmael has been a great surprise. Connolly, from Scotland, is a leader with skills for the next level. He’ll get the (13) rookies to step it up.”
Over the past two weeks – a bye weekend in there – Herman had the Rhinos working progressively “tough practices,” with an emphasis on game situations. “You’re up 5-4 with a minute to go, or you’re down a goal with a minute to go.
“We also worked with our new guys to understand the philosophy, ‘Practice the way you play.’ Each day you improve.”
That practice philosophy extends into peppering your own goalies with “everything you got” on practice shots, as well banging up your own defenseman with a solid forecheck.
Speaking of goalies, Herman will have to decide between Max Dizgun and Keenan Wallace, both 17- year olds to replace star netminder Andrew Duff, injured in Tulsa. Dizgun shut out the Rampage in his first El Paso start.
Ambroziak and Herman love the new schedule which later this season will see one or two games a weekend in one city, then jump on I-25 toward the other to round out the set of three.