February 8, 2014 will mark a monumental moment for the Rhinos as they participate in a franchise first– playing an outdoor game.
Established in 1936, the Los Alamos County Ice Rink is the only refrigerated, NHL regulation, outdoor rink in New Mexico. The rink has decided to clear the ice for the Third Annual Fusion Series featuring the WSHL’s El Paso Rhinos and the New Mexico Renegades.
El Paso coaches and players alike are excited for the historical event. Coach Cory Herman explains, “An outdoor game is a pretty unbelievable experience for any hockey player. Not many times in your career do you get to participate in an outdoor game. Most players remember playing on an outdoor rink or pond as a kid, but to play an actual game outdoors will be a great experience.” Defenseman Chris Wilhite adds, “I’m looking forward to playing outdoors. I’ve played outside before but never in a real game.”
Leaving the Sun City for outdoor ice will be a unique experience, but El Paso wants more than that. They want to win. A familiar opponent, the Renegades have had a perfect record when competing in the series. In 2012, the Rio Rancho team battled to secure a one goal win over the Cheyenne Stampede. Continuing their winning ways, they rolled over the Wichita Thunder in an eleven to two win at last year’s outdoor game. But New Mexico’s success doesn’t have the El Paso defenseman worried. “We are going to stick to the game plan and not get caught up in [the excitement]. We’re there for one reason,” Wilhite remarks.
Hoping to end the Renegade’s Fusion streak this season, the Rhinos have the full support of their city. Two buses packed with fans will follow the team to New Mexico. El Paso will also be clad in vintage throw back jerseys, channeling good luck from seasons past. Prepared with focus, support, and luck, the Rhinos are looking forward but not looking past the regular season games that lie before them.