Roadrunners 2008
Sierra Providence Events Center 2008

Just Chirp'n 9

Just Chirp’n #9 2009-2010
November 5, 2009

by Michael Hissam

“Hard work!” represented the two-word answer to the 15-word question, “What is the key to this week’s El Paso Rhinos/Boulder Bison rematch in Colorado?”

Now, the multiple choice question to readers:  Who said it?

A. El Paso coach Cory Herman in one of his longer answers
B. Boulder coach Brent Cullaton in one of his longer answers
C. Both
D. The Rhino team bus driver somewhere along I-25 after another cup of Joe.

Answer:  I’ll take any of the above.

One could swear that interviewing these coaches is a study of the stereophonic.  Their answers are virtually dead ringers.  Their seemingly similar approach to hockey in the Western States Hockey League – the obsession with hard work and focusing their players “every time they step on the ice” – may explain why the Rhinos and the Bison are 1-2 in the standings.  Boulder represents the only blemish on the Rhinos rip-snortin’ season record of 16-2.  The Rhinos represent the only reason Cullaton’s squad is not top dawg.
Herman and Cullaton were pros about a decade ago.  They know what it takes to get to the next level.  They want to imbue their players with that knowledge, more importantly attitude.

Crash. Boom. Bang!

There’s going to be a hockey collision this weekend up there in Quite-Cold Colorado.

Looking to polish any tarnish on his hockey juggernaut machine, Herman went after consistency.  “That loss at home to Boulder happened because we didn’t show up for the game.  Consistency means playing 60 minutes, playing every shift.”

To keep the balance of goals in his favor, Herman stresses practices “where every shot is a good shot!”  The stats show the Rhinos outscoring the opposition on a nearly four-to-one ratio.  “I like when the players shoot and put the puck on the net.”

Despite the ratio, Herman said he is never totally happy with the defense until they surrender no goals.  “We also need to keep focus away from the puck.  We got to pick up the late guys and ‘trailers’ that you don’t see coming at you.”

He sent kudos to goalie Max Dizgun, whose contributions, shutouts and strings of no-goals-allowed in consecutive periods have contributed to the team’s miniscule 1.72 goals-against average.  “He’s a big surprise.  He’s very calm, very mature player at 17.  He handles the situations.”

Cullaton told his team in practice this week, “If you turn over the puck to El Paso, you’re going to see the red light!”  He is also the guy who a couple weeks ago “credited” one of his guys with an assist when El Paso scored a goal during a defensive breakdown – the ultimate lesson in humility for a hockey player.

He also instructed his players, “Know your man, don’t let anyone be open.  Know your job, not someone else’s. Hard work!”

Sound familiar?  Cullaton offered the post script:  “We know what it takes to play El Paso.  We have to match, really trump their work ethic.”

Département: Qu’est-ce que c’est?  Cullaton said his goalie Mathieu Laberge remembered a game back in Montréal where his position opponent was Dizgun.

Dizgun gets the start in place of the injured Andrew Duff.  Dizgun attributed his one-goal-against-per- game average to “being more focused lately and hard work in practice.  The defense is clearing the rebounds.  One thing I learned from playing Boulder is that I have to push the rebounds to the corner or smother that puck.  Boulder will crash the net.  They’ll pick up every mistake we make.”

Hace frio en Boulder.  It’s cold up in Boulder.  Bundle up, fasten your seatbelts, secure the dasher boards.

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