We have less than 48 hours until the puck drops at center ice of the Sierra Providence Events Center for the first of two games in El Paso. The two best teams in the Western States Hockey League are preparing to do battle.
Here are some more numbers to get you ready for this weekend’s showdown.
1 – One point separates the two teams in the playoff standings. The Rhinos come into the Thorne Cup Championship Finals with 13 points from six wins and one overtime loss during their run to the finals. The Steelheads also have six wins but their one loss was in regulation time resulting in the team having only 12 points.
2 – There are two national championships between the two teams. In fact, the last two – Idaho in 2012-2013 and El Paso in 2013-2014.
3 – The two teams met up earlier this season and headed into overtime after both scoring three goals in regulation. Neither team scored in overtime and the Rhinos won in a shootout. Forward Sebastian Borg scored the lone shootout goal. Goaltender Adam Vay stopped all three Idaho shots in the shootout.
4 – The Rhinos and Idaho Jr. Steelheads were separated by only four points in the standings at season’s end. Despite being in different divisions, the two teams no doubt kept an eye on each other’s record.
5 – Five is the jersey number of defenseman Robert Horak. Horak currently has five playoff points coming from one goal and four assists. Horak’s four assists rank him 4th on the team.
6 – Defenseman Brennan Johnsson only played in six regular season games for the Rhinos after joining the team at the trade deadline. The new environs did not affect Johnsson at all – proved by his two goals and seven assists during those six games.
7 – Three players for the Rhinos are tied with seven playoff points – forwards Kendal Craig, Jiri Pestuka and Lukas Znosko. Seven points ranks them third on the team behind forwards Marek Langhammer (10) and Martin Hanl (9). Idaho is led by forward Arturs Sevcenko with 13 points.
8 – Eight times in the last seven years the Steelheads and Rhinos have finished either first or second in the WSHL playoffs. Last season, the Steelheads were the runners-up to the Rhinos. In 2010-2011, it was the Rhinos who finished second to the Steelheads.
9 – Forward Jordan Cullum – like Johnsson – came over at the trade deadline and set the ice on fire – in only nine regular season games. Cullum netted a goal in five straight games and ended the season with a total of 13 points. So far in the playoffs, Cullum has three points in seven games.
10 – Idaho has scored a total of 10 power play goals during their seven playoff games – the Rhinos have eight. The Steelheads are led in playoff power play goals by forwards Nikita Zgirskis and Victor Carlsson who each have two. Carlsson was the teams’ leading regular season point scorer with 76. He was tied in that category with the Rhinos’ Pestuka.
The two teams are clearly the two best that the WSHL has to offer. Let’s hope that the final numbers on the scoreboard when the clock hits 0:00 in the third period are higher on the good guys’ side. Go Rhinos!