What years were you with the Rhinos?
I was with the Rhinos during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons.
How did you become a Rhino?
I became a Rhino after being contacted by Trevor Converse during the Topeka tryout camp in the summer of 2008. I was trying out with my eventual roommate and teammate Mike Bottcher. We didn’t like our odds at the Topeka tryout coming into it and I would say we were pretty accurate with the results. However, that next week Trevor contacted both Mike and I about playing in El Paso. We scheduled a visit and made the trip to El Paso to check things out. We were sold on the idea of being Rhinos rather quickly from meeting Coach Herman and the gang. Mike and I were both drafted by Quad Cities in the CSHL that summer but the Quad City main camp was canceled due to flooding that summer. Instead, we scheduled a visit to El Paso and Quad Cities were no longer in our plans.
Go back to when you were here. Describe the season or seasons in which you were here, how you felt, and what you experienced.
My first season as a Rhino was a learning experience. I had played 4 years of high school hockey in Wisconsin so I had to get acclimated to the style and level of play that Herm expected rather quickly. Guys like Gorup, Bill Krueger, and “Rick” La Bounty were great mentors that all had their own unique ways of doing it. Bill’s chirp game was second to none in the league even though Rick thought he had all the answers. Overall, I knew I made the right decision to come to El Paso but I felt, in that season, that I had lots of room for growth and improvement heading into my 2nd year. The motivation I had gained from that year really carried me over into the next year. I played a lot of wing with Austin Balko my first year as a 2nd liner and penalty killer. I came into the 2nd season and Herm asked me to be the 3rd line center that matched up with the other team’s top line. I grabbed the opportunity even though Mr. Balko was not happy with me. Anthony Knuth, my other roommate from Wisco, was my winger for that entire season. My 2nd year was a special season but did not end the way we envisioned it. Losing the 3 game series to Boulder and ending our season my 2nd year was something that none of us saw coming. We had a tight team that year and it is still tough to swallow to this day.
What is your most memorable moment as a Rhino?
I have several memorable moments as a Rhino that stick out: One would be coming from behind down 5-0 to beat Tulsa in a shootout on the road my second year. The Rudy’s bag skate will live on in infamy in honor of Josh DeLoach. Coach Murray Bates getting decked and yardsaling at random points in the practice because of his inability to get out of the way was hilarious, but scary. I’ll never forget the time we lost a game in Boulder and someone laughed on the bus on the way back to the hotel and Herm had us running for hours in a field on the Boulder campus in the dark. It was a Friday night so the campus was buzzin’ with parties and we were running aimlessly on some college terrace into the night.
What is one funny story about your time as a Rhino?
One funny story I won’t forget was my first year when we stopped in St. Louis for a practice on the way to nationals in Boston. We were all sleepy and a little out of whack for a morning practice. Bill Krueger stepped on the ice a minute or two late and Herm noticed and kind of gave him the signal to get off the ice and we were all kind of like, “Oh no, here we go, getting’ bagged in St. Louis after a McDonald’s breakfast.” But Bill took it in stride and gave Herm the look that kind of said, “Oh yeah coach, no problem. I’ll sit this one out today.” We ended up having a decent practice with no bag session and when we got back to the locker room it was pitch dark and Billy was laid out sleeping.
Looking back, what do you miss the most?
What I miss the most about El Paso is the ability to walk into that rink every day and play for Coach Herman, be with the guys, and play in front of our fans. That was a very positive thing for me in my life and something that I will always remember.
Did you continue to play after your time with the Rhinos? And if so, where? Did you receive any awards?
After my career with the Rhino, I went to Saint Mary’s in aspirations of playing division 3 hockey. I played junior varsity my freshman year and was moved up at the end of the year to varsity but did not play in any varsity action. The next year I was placed on junior varsity again to start the year and decided to hang the skates up instead of transferring to another school. I think I quickly realized that any experience I would encounter at the college level would not even be close to the experience and fun I enjoyed in El Paso as a Rhino. That made my decision to end my career a bit easier.
Is there anyone you that still keep in touch with in El Paso?
I still like to keep in touch with Cory, Tom, and Murray from time to time. I would like to make a trip back to El Paso every year if I could. The friendships that were built with the El Paso Rhino community is something I will never forget.
Where are you and what do you do now?
I am currently heading into my senior year at Saint Mary’s next fall. I just started working this summer as a financial representative for the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. I will also be playing in my 2nd year of varsity golf for Saint Mary’s next fall. I’m trying to do my best Happy Gilmore impression. I share a house with two old teammates Nick Gualano and Andrew Ketterer, who play varsity hockey at Saint Mary’s.
What is one last thing would like to go back and do one last time as a Rhino?
If I could go back and do one more thing it would be raising the Thorne Cup. I wouldn’t mind fighting in front of a packed crowd on a Friday night or scoring a breakaway goal on the penalty kill either. Or maybe trying to run a D-man in practice one more time on the fore checking drill.