NA Now: El Paso Rhinos
The NA Now series features a look at all teams in the NAHL for the 2021-22 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
El Paso Rhinos
Head Coach: Anthony Bohn (1st Season)
2020-21 record: Did not play
2021-22 Division: South
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 15th vs. Anchorage Wolverines
Home opener: Friday, October 15th vs. Odessa Jackalopes
The El Paso Rhinos are one of two expansion teams in the NAHL for the 2021-22 season. However, the team got a huge head start when it began operations last season with their NA3HL team with the full knowledge and staff that was also working towards an NAHL team in 2021-22.
The organization is still riding high and seeing the benefits of being named the winner of the 2020 Kraft Hockeyville USA contest, which was awarded to them a year ago. The team’s home arena, the El Paso County Coliseum received $150,000 in rink upgrades and the fan support has been through the roof as the team joins the 8-team South Division in the NAHL this season.
Longtime head coach Cory Herman, who coached the NA3HL team in their first season last year, has stepped aside to focus on the business side of operations. “We have modeled our objectives after the NAHL excellent level of play, commitment to players' career advancement and personal development, and the league's overall business professionalism. As an organization and ownership group, we believe that the step to the NAHL will facilitate the growth and development of the Rhinos’ program and athletes, and in turn, help the organization continue to expand and succeed in the years to come,” said Herman.
In his place, the Rhinos have announced Anthony Bohn as the team’s first head coach. Bohn, who is a former NAHL player and a veteran of over 100 NAHL games, isn’t a stranger to coaching. He began his coaching career as the Head Coach/GM for the Atlanta/Topeka Capitals in the NA3HL for three seasons. That was followed by a stint as an Assistant Coach with the Aberdeen Wings for two seasons. Following that, Bohn was the Assistant Coach for the Maine Mariners in the ECHL for two seasons.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity here in El Paso. The NAHL has such a good brand and development model and as a former player I very familiar with it and excited to be making the jump to this level as a head coach. There are so many great things happening here in El Paso and ownership has committed 100% to making this a long-term success in the NAHL. It is very professional and the fans feel that and expect a certain level of success, so that is something we as a staff want to provide,” said Bohn. “Having been a coach in the NA3HL, we are excited to have both teams here in El Paso. The NA3HL team had a great first season last year and we know that our success as an organization relies on both teams working together to make sure the players on both teams are getting the best opportunity possible,” continued Bohn.
The Rhinos have been tendering players since last November and participated in both the NAHL Supplemental and Entry Draft this Summer. Bohn said that the focus was finding the right kind of player. “We wanted to find the right people to bring in that are going to play the way we want. It starts from the net out and through our tenders and draft we tried to build that way. We have to have talented and hard-working players that can withstand playing in the South Division. There is a huge premium on being a fast and physical team that is hard to score on, so that was our focus in the construction of the roster,” said Bohn.
As an expansion team, it will be all new faces on the Rhinos NAHL roster, but there are some players that arrive with NAHL experience. Forward Alex Krause and defenseman Hank McDonough both played for the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks in the NAHL last season with Krause scoring 30 points in 43 games played and McDonough leading all defensemen with 51 games played. Forward Connor McGrath comes to El Paso after putting up nine points in 40 games last season for the Chippewa Steel.
“On the ice our goal is to just get better every day. That is only going to come through hard work and dedication, so we have to be focused on that one step at a time mentality. Off the ice, El Paso is a passionate hockey community so we have to maintain a great connection with our fans, the youth hockey community, our local schools, and make sure we are doing everything we can do maintain and grow their support. They are going to love the NAHL product and the new rivalries that we establish in the South Division,” said Bohn.
Next up: Fairbanks Ice Dogs