Following up our examination of the 2012-2013 Midwest
Division of the Western States Hockey League, we continue to move west and now
will take a gander at the Mountain Division, which is by far the most diverse
of the four new divisions.
The division loses three teams from last season but gains
four new squads, bringing the total amount of teams up to six, spanning two
time zones. What's even more interesting is that the Mountain Division will
contain two teams from each of the three divisions that made up the league last
El Paso Rhinos (El Paso, TX)
New Mexico Renegades (Rio Rancho, NM)
Boulder Bison (Superior, CO)
Cheyenne Stampede (Cheyenne, WY)
Phoenix Knights (Chandler, AZ)
Arizona Redhawks (Peoria, AZ)
Moving to the new Northwest Division are the Idaho Jr.
Steelheads, Ogden Mustangs and Salt Lake City Moose. Hopping in are the El Paso
Rhinos and New Mexico Renegades of the Midwest Division and the two Arizona-based
teams, who competed in the Western Division for the last few years. The only
two teams returning to the division are the Boulder Bison and Cheyenne
Boulder and Cheyenne were two of the better teams in the
Mountain Division last season and despite both going through coaching changes
this off-season, they should have no problem repeating their success, in the
El Paso moves out of the Midwest Division, where they have
dominated since joining the league in 2007. Moving with the Rhinos is the New
Mexico Renegades, who made the playoffs last season for the first time in
Both teams look as though they'll have strong recruiting
seasons and each will be in the thick of things all season long.
Lastly, the two Arizona teams have proven they can beat just
The Phoenix franchise was the WSHL's elite for years but
they took a step back last season, missing the playoffs for the first time in
Don't expect a repeat from the Knights, however.
The Redhawks are at the other end of the spectrum, after
finishing with the best record in their short history last season, while also
making their first-ever playoff appearance.
I expect this division to be one of, if not, the most
competitive in the entire league. Five out of the six teams made the playoffs
last season and every team has a proven track record. The Mountain Division
will also contain the two most successful franchises in WSHL history, in
Phoenix and El Paso, which is a nice little feather in its cap.
Although travel isn't terrible, the Mountain Division is the
most geographically spread out of the four divisions in the WSHL.
When I first heard that El Paso had been moved from the
basically "all-Texas" division, I was shocked.
I ran into Rhinos Head Coach Cory Herman shortly thereafter however,
who was very happy with the move, in terms of both travel and competition.
He explained to me how long the rides into Dallas were and
how gruesome of a trip Tulsa and Wichita would have wound up being for his team
(despite the Rhinos having the most luxurious bus in the league.)
A trip to Dallas, for the Rhinos and even the New Mexico
Renegades, could very easily take well over 10 hours, with traffic.
Now, their longest trip is about a 12-hour ride up north to
Cheyenne, Wyoming, with Boulder a tad bit shorter.
In comparison, Tulsa and Wichita would each have been over
13 hours one-way.
Some trips are going to be lengthy but with Tulsa and
Wichita coming into the league, somebody had to move and with the two Phoenix
teams being very near, the Rhinos and Renegades were happy to do so.
The good news however, is that each team keeps a rivalry
going, in terms of proximity.
The Rhinos have the short jaunt to New Mexico, the Knights
and Redhawks are down the street from one another and Cheyenne and Boulder are
a short trip apart.
Another rivalry that will be renewed is Boulder/El Paso,
which carries over from the Midwest Division of 2009-2010, in which they went
back and forth all season long, playing gritty, physical hockey.
It should be fun to see that play out all over again.
With the division being one of the only two containing six
teams, two squads will miss the playoffs, which will only make for some great
competition throughout the year.
It will be fun to watch the old rivalries be rekindled and
new ones spring-up.
The Mountain Division is a six-way coin flip, so call it in
Story by Brent
Maranto, Director of Communications for the Western States Hockey League