We’re now halfway through the inaugural season, and both SHL divisions remain up for grabs.
In the West, the Michigan Gray Wolves were out front most of the way thanks to a combination of ferocious (some say extra-legal) defense and stellar goaltending from Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist. “We’re not afraid to call ourselves throwbacks,” said Gray Wolves coach Martin Delorme. “Our style of play hails from a time when men were men and games were won with hard, physical work.” Most of Michigan’s games have been low scoring, but the Wolves flashed some offense as well in recent games. “If we start scoring too, we’re gonna be really dangerous,” said C Hunter Bailes.
Despite their excellent play, the Gray Wolves lost the division lead to the Anchorage Igloos this week. C Jake Frost believes the Igloos are “just finding our stride. Things are starting to click on all three lines, and we’re determined to take this thing.”
The Dakota Rapids also remain in contention, success against the East, at least prior to this week’s skid. “This is a physical division,” said Rapids LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, “and a lot of folks think a finesse team can’t contend. But we’re showing everyone that we’re in it to win.”
Meanwhile, in the East, the Washington Galaxy have maintained a small but steady lead all season, having weathered the 10-game absence of C J.C. Marais. “We need one good winning streak to establish some separation,” said RW Jefferson McNeely. “But we consider ourselves the class of the division, and now that J.C.’s back, I think we’re ready to go on a run.”
The Hershey Bliss and Hamilton Pistols have been trading second place back and forth, but neither team has managed to stay above the .500 mark for long. Hershey is suffering from a lack of production on their second and third lines and now must contend with the long-term loss of LW Lance Sweet, while Hamilton is having major problems with goaltending.
Even the last-place New York Night, who have been ice-cold and have shown little interest in playing defense, don’t consider themselves out of contention. “In the end, talent will win out,” said Night coach Preston Rivers. “We have the most talent, and therefore we will prevail.”