Reviewing El Paso Rhinos

(Photo by Manny Brizuela, WSHL)

Of the two teams already reviewed, the El Paso Rhinos have relished in the most success, particularly when it comes to collecting hardware at the end of the season. The Rhinos had a more successful campaign this year than its two prior championship seasons. They collected 135-points which is 15 more than last year’s finish, and 36 more than in 2017-2018.

They were well on track to potentially being the first three-peat champion since the Idaho Jr. Steelheads in 2013. But, Head Coach Cory Herman asserted, at the start of the season, that it wasn’t their main focal point. The main objective was to take it one game at a time, and to evolve from success as there’s always room for improvement going into a fresh season.

Nils Velm had carried the Rhinos in the goaltending facet for a vast majority of the 2018-2019 season. He was a single workhorse in a stable all to himself, until Richie Parent showed up and persisted for the team through post-season, including an appearance on the 2019 All-Thorne Cup Team.

But this year, El Paso reinforced itself with a tandem and brought eventual top goalies in Oliver Soovik and Sawyer Schmidt.

Soovik (.936) and Schmidt (.935) ended up with almost identical Save % numbers, as Schmidt held the starting position with 23 wins over Soovik’s 17 total wins. Where quality goaltending was never scarce, neither was the souped up engine under the Rhinos hood.

It didn’t matter which line you were up against but the Rhinos never stopped moving forward due to its depth. They were able to shed Niklas Froden from the line up early on, and first years such as Niklas Ornmarker, and Sebastian Jovicic, a defenseman not to mention, quickly racked up the points. Because Jovicic registered 78-points, he moved into second all-time (WSHL) for points by a defenseman in a single season.

Second year Rhino and third in scoring, Easton Easterson, had a career high 52-points in his third WSHL season (began with Lake Tahoe); Something Coach Herman needed of him after Easterson nearly went a point-per-game in last year’s playoffs.

The Rhinos made it evident they weren’t taking its championship defense lightly, though, especially after acquiring a heap of talent between the Showcase-Trade Deadline window. Of impactful players that made their debut for the Rhinos include Wichita’s Marcus Ohlsson-Ornelius, Seattle’s Michelle Vignoli, and WSHL All-Time Scoring Leader, Tomas Urbanec.

El Paso had a short battle for first place in the Midwest-Mountain Division toward the first half of 2019-2020. They began the season with 12 of its first 15 games on the road.

Ornmarker, Jovicic, and Urbanec (including points with Las Vegas) place within the Top-20 scorers for 2019-2020, while Schmidt and Soovik place among the Top-10 goalies in wins and Save %. 

Top-5 Scorers

1. Niklas Ornmarker

43 Goals 50 Assists 93 Points

2. Sebastian Jovicic

18 Goals 60 Assists 78 Points

3. Easton Easterson

24 Goals 28 Assists 52 Points

4. Sam Sykes

34 Goals 18 Assists 52 Points

5. Dominic Erdt

8 Goals 43 Assists 51 Points

Top-2 Goalies

1. Sawyer Schmidt

23W-2L-2OTL GAA 1.63 SV% .935

2. Oliver Soovik

17W-2L GAA 1.45 SV% .936

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