CHL Update: Cleveland Coach Reichler Returns to Ice

Glenn Reichler is not a name that many SHL fans will remember.  The journeyman reserve forward played 79 games over four seasons in the league with four different teams.  When the contract offers dried up after the 2018 season, the then-33-year-old Reichler retired without fanfare and accepted a job as an assistant coach for the Michigan Gray Wolves’ minor-league affiliate, the Cleveland Centurions.

“I love the game enough that I wasn’t ready to go get a real job,” said Reichler, “even though I wasn’t good enough to play anymore.”

Just when Reichler was getting used to his playing days being over, however, a key injury and a thin market in free-agent forwards combined to offer the now-35-year-old a second chance of sorts.

On Sunday, the Centurions faced off against the Omaha Ashcats.  Cleveland lost 1-0, and to add injury to insult, RW Boris Badenov was helped off the ice in the third period after being crunched into the boards, and he did not return.  He is expected to be out until after the All-Star break, and could miss as much as six weeks.  The offense-starved Centurions suddenly found themselves with a hole on their second line and no good options for filling it.

There are a handful of available free-agent forwards out there, but they all have reputations as very poor defenders, which makes them unpalatable to a defense-minded Cleveland club.  The coaching staff gathered to review the possible options.  Reichler was so unimpressed with the available options that he blurted, “Hell, I’d be better than most of these guys!”

Glenn Reichler

It was a careless remark born of frustration, but Cleveland’s other coaches took it seriously.  Reichler has reportedly remained in good shape during his transition to the bench, and he’s looked sharp while running drills with the team.  After some persuasion from the front office and after passing a medical exam, Reichler signed a short-term contract with the team.

“I’m not deluding myself here,” the coach-turned-player noted.  “I don’t think this is my ticket back to the big leagues or anything.  But if I can help the team weather a temporary problem by getting back on the ice, I’m not going to pass that up.”

Wisely, the 35-year-old didn’t rush back to the ice; he gave himself a few days to get into game shape. He made his debut on Saturday, skating on the third line and recording a +2 rating in a 5-4 overtime upset of first-place Hartford.

“It felt good to be out there, moving at game speed again,” Reichler noted after his re-debut.  “It’s a real rush.”

He acknowledged again, however, that he doesn’t expect the rush to last forever.  “Ask me again tomorrow, when the muscles start to stiffen up,” Reichler said with a smile.  “I’m happy to relive my playing days for a few weeks, but I know that’s as far as it goes.  Making it through a game is one thing; making it through a season at 35 is something else.”

Does Reichler anticipate a wave of recently-retired players deciding to lace up their skates again?  “Definitely not,” he said.  “If anything, I’ll probably prove why us old goats are better off staying retired.”

Night’s Foster Roasts Pistols’ New Mascot

New York Night coach Nick Foster is a master at using verbal jabs to stir up rivalries with opposing teams and players.  Over the last couple of seasons, he has trained the bulk of his rhetorical fire on the Hamilton Pistols, turning that rivalry into one of the league’s most heated.

Crosscheck

The two squads faced off again on Sunday, and after a 2-2 tie, Foster took the opportunity in his postgame press conference to open up another front in his verbal war against his opponents from the north: he mocked the Pistols’ new mascot, Crosscheck.

The Pistols originally planned for Crosscheck to debut at the beginning of this season.  After they won the Vandy last year, though, Hamilton’s front office shifted their early promotions to focus on celebrating the team’s title.  The new mascot – a rather unusual-looking orange creature clad in a Pistols jersey – finally took its bow late last month.  It’s received mixed reviews so far; some fans find it fun and cheerful, while others seem to consider it creepy.

Foster’s first exposure to Crosscheck occurred during Sunday’s game, and he wasted no time opening fire on the new mascot.  “So I look up at the scoreboard for a second, and suddenly I’m staring at this freaky inbred Teletubby,” Foster told reporters.  “At first I thought I must be hallucinating, but I rubbed my eyes and it was still there.  I asked [assistant coach] Biff [Lombardi] if he saw it too, and he did, so it must be real.”

After bugging out his eyes in mock shock, Foster continued.  “Now, I know Halloween isn’t for another eight months, so what the hell is this?  Are they trying to scare kids, or get the adults to throw up in the aisles?  I know I’m scarred for life: I’m going to see his one extra-wide tooth in my sleep.

“I finally figured it out, though,” the New York coach concluded.  “This… thing is supposed to represent Hamilton’s fans!  Think about it: It’s fat, missing most of its teeth, and it looks like its family tree is a straight line.  Just like your typical Pistols fan!  It must be like looking in a mirror for them.  So now I get it.”

In the wake of Foster’s barbs, the Pistols and their fans rushed to Crosscheck’s defense.  “Crosscheck is one of us,” said coach Keith Shields.  “Crosscheck is all about fun and love of hockey, and certainly deserves better than Foster’s insults and cruelty.  If you insult any member of the Pistols family – whether it’s a player, a fan, or a mascot – you have to answer to all of us.”

Added LW Steven Alexander, “Crosscheck might be ugly, but it’s better to be ugly on the outside than ugly on the inside.”

Hamilton’s fans have bombarded social media with memes and posts supporting Crosscheck and attacking Foster.  “I think perhaps we owe our gratitude to Coach Foster,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire.  “He has done more to unite our fan base behind our new mascot than anyone ever could.  For this, I am thankful.”

Pistols, Bliss Get Goal-Happy in Roller Coaster Third Period

The Hamilton Pistols and Hershey Bliss are battling for supremacy in the East, and they both possess an offensive explosiveness that makes them dangerous.  Hamilton is one of the highest-scoring teams in the league; Hershey doesn’t typically generate quite the same volume of scoring, but their “Love Line” of LW Lance Sweet, C Justin Valentine, and RW Christopher Hart is as potent as any line in the league.

When the Pistols and Bliss squared off on Tuesday at Chocolate Center, they showed just how explosive they can be, combining for seven goals in a dynamite third period that turned a seemingly sleepy game into a roller coaster of an evening.

“I don’t know just what happened there in the third,” said Valentine.  “But it seemed like somebody flipped the fun switch.”

After the first forty minutes, there were no signs of the frenzy to come.  Hamilton led 1-0, with an early second-period tally by RW Ben Summers the lone goal to that point.  Pistols netminder Lasse Koskinen had looked fairly sharp, turning aside all 27 Bliss shots, but he was unaware of what awaited him in the third.

The Bliss went a man to the good in the opening seconds of the third, as Summers went to the sin bin for interference.  Hershey’s power play made the Pistols pay, as Sweet converted on a shot from the slot that sailed over Koskinen’s right shoulder and under the crossbar.  The tally brought the home crowd back to life as Sweet hip-checked the glass before bounding into the arms of his teammates.

“Up to that point, it had felt impossible to get one past Lasse,” said Valentine.  “So Lance’s goal definitely opened the dam for what came later.”

First, though, the home team had to endure a stiff pushback from the visiting Pistols.  Hamilton grabbed control of the game over the next several minutes, and they made that control count.  Their little-heralded bottom line got things going in a big way over the next few minutes.

LW Jamie Campbell, C J.C. Marais, and RW Kenny Patterson worked an extended shift in the Hershey zone, pinching off the boards and thwarting the Bliss attempted to flip the puck back to center ice.  They’d been in the zone for over a minute when Patterson crashed the net, then fired it back to D Clayton Risch at the blue line.  Risch threaded a perfect pass to Marais, who was streaking toward the net and beat Hershey goalie Christien Adamsson on the short side to retake the lead.

Less than a minute later, Marais returned the favor, putting the puck right on the blade of Risch in the high slot.  Risch fired the puck over the glove of a screened Adamsson and into the upper-right corner of the net to take a two-goal advantage.

“One of the things I love about our team is that we can roll all three lines and feel totally comfortable,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.  “We don’t burn out our top-line guys, and everybody stays sharp and engaged.”

The Pistols’ pressure eased a bit after that, but the Bliss couldn’t mount a sustained counterattack.  And when LW Steven Alexander buried a slapshot from the faceoff circle to make it 4-1, the arena fell into a despondent silence.

Hershey, though, wasn’t about to concede anything.  After they killed off an interference penalty to Hart at mid-period, they tilted the ice in a big way and bombarded Koskinen with shots.  They launched 16 shots over the final eight minutes of regulation, and even Koskinen couldn’t stop them all.

The Bliss began their comeback with seven minutes left in the game, as D Jean-Luc Aubin picked off a lazy Pistols pass and fed fellow blueliner Reese Milton, who fired a blast that deflected of a Hamilton stick and between Koskinen’s pads.  The fluky goal got the crowd back to life, and Milton amped up the energy by swinging his stick over his head like a helicopter.

“I just thought it would be a cool thing to try,” said Milton.

A couple minutes later, Valentine picked up a rebound and found Hart, who stuffed it just inside the right post to make it a 4-3 game.

The final five minutes of regulation were a thrill ride; the fans stood and screamed while Hershey maintained intense pressure and kept up the barrage on the Hamilton net.  Koskinen kept stopping the shots, though, and it looked as though the visitors would escape with a narrow win.

Finally, with 16 seconds remaining, Valentine skated behind the net and lifted a backhand shot over a sprawling Koskinen to tie the game.  Valentine’s teammates mobbed him in front of the crease as the fans somehow shouted even louder.

It seemed inevitable that the Bliss would complete the rally and win in overtime.  But the Pistols used the break between periods to take a breath and gather themselves, and then came out an won it in the extra session on another Summers goal.  The win moved Hamilton six points ahead of Hershey in the East.

“There were some wild swings in this one, but it was a nice statement win for us,” said Shields.  “I think we’re showing that we’re the team to beat, but there’s still plenty of season left.  We have to stay on our toes if we’re going to get back to the postseason.  Fortunately, no one in here is taking anything for granted.”

Continue reading “Pistols, Bliss Get Goal-Happy in Roller Coaster Third Period”

“Ministry of Fun” Raises Shockers’ Spirits

The Saskatchewan Shockers are the West’s answer to the Quebec Tigres: a solid team that has hung around the .500 mark all season, lurking around the edges of the playoff race but not quite getting over the hump into contention.

The attitudes of the two teams couldn’t be more different, however.  While Quebec seems downcast, having struggled with injuries and offensive stagnation – the latter serious enough that their star winger groused about it to reporters last week – the Shockers remain cheerful and upbeat.

What’s the difference?  It seems that the credit goes to a group of Shockers players who refer to themselves as the “Ministry of Fun.”

Zeke Zagurski

“Hockey can be a pretty intense business,” said goalie Zeke Zagurski, who is considered the Ministry’s ringleader.  “That’s why we spread nonsense and silliness wherever we go, to bring a little bit of balance to the whole thing.”

What sort of silliness does the Ministry engage in?  Some of it is garden-variety pranks and practical jokes: whoopee cushions, fake dog turds, dribble glasses and the like.  Some of their moves, though, require a bit more sophistication.  There was the time, for instance, that they hacked into the PA system at the team’s practice facility and started blasting “I Feel Pretty” in the middle of morning skate.  Or the time that they showed up for the team picture and slipped on Groucho glasses just as the shot was taken.  Or the time they burst into a flash mob-style dance in the middle of the airport.

The Ministry was the brainchild of Zagurski, a well-known eccentric.  He is dubbed the “Prime Minister,” and many of the group’s shenanigans stem from his fertile, if twisted, imagination.  Backup netminder Shawn Stickel was named Deputy Prime Minster.  Other Ministry members include C Elliott Rafferty (Minister of Foreign Affairs – “because he helps us meet women on the road,” according to Zagurski), LW Vonnie McLearen (Minister of Practical Joke Innovation), D Rennie Cox (Minister of Funkitude), and D Chris Oflyng (Minister of Silly Walks).

The Ministry initially formed in the 2019 season, after Morris Thompson was named head coach.  Thompson is a disciple of Michigan coach and noted disciplinarian Ron Wright, and he was hired in part to encourage a more serious and dedicated attitude from a team with a reputation for (often drunken) hijinks.  Several players thought that Thompson’s initial approach was too firm, and the Ministry was their form of civil disobedience.

“We’re not opposed to working hard or taking our jobs seriously,” explained Zagurski.  “But frankly, a lot of our guys have a couple screws loose.  This isn’t a team that’s going to react well to a drill-sergeant approach.”

Morris Thompson

When Thompson first figured out what was going on, he was furious and wanted to crack down on the players involved.  But after he cooled down, he decided to take a different tack.

“After I thought about it, I realized that if I went hard after these guys, I’d probably tear the team apart,” Thompson said.  “Especially since a lot of these guys are leaders in the locker room.  What good is it to win the battle and lose the team?  Besides, most of what they were doing was just goofy.  They were working hard and playing well, just blowing off a little steam afterward.”

So Thompson made the Ministry a deal: As long as they worked hard in practice and in games, he wouldn’t complain about their antics.  He even agreed that whenever the team won, he would designate a 15-minute period after practice where the Ministry could engage the locker room in whatever sort of lunacy they dreamed up.

The Ministry took the deal, and it’s worked quite well so far.  “Every once in a while, we’ll do something so ridiculous that [Thompson] will just kind of bury his face in his hand, like a frustrated dad,” said Zagurski.  “But he’s been good to his word: as long as we play hard and don’t embarrass the team too much, he lets us do our thing.”

Will the Ministry of Fun and their zaniness propel Saskatchewan into the postseason?  It’s too soon to tell.  But the team is playing solid hockey and having a good time, and that’s a good place to start.

2020 SHL Week 6 Transactions

  • On Sunday, the New York Night announced that D Ed Francis, who had been playing for their minor-league affiliate in Utah, will miss the rest of the season.  The 30-year-old Francis suffered a severely broken leg during last Saturday’s game against Minnesota, an injury so severe that it required surgery to reconstruct the leg.  In the wake of the injury, Francis announced that he would retire from hockey. (Story here.)  To replace Francis on the roster, the Night signed D Gustaf Bergstrom for the rest of the season.  Bergstrom recently played a 10-game stint in Halifax, where he recorded a goal and six assists.
  • On Friday, the Washington Galaxy traded LW Casey Thurman to the Boston Badgers in exchange for LW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, D Kermit Kaufman, and a first-round draft pick.  (Story here.)  In related moves, Boston demoted LW Norris Young to their CHL affiliate in Hartford and promoted D Jackson Creed from Hartford.  They also signed D Gerry Michaud to a minor-league deal.
  • On Friday, the Night demoted G Sherman Carter to their CHL affiliate in Utah and promoted G Corey Franklin-Lee from Utah.  Carter, expected to be New York’s top starter in the next, has been atrocious so far this season.  Despite compiling a 5-5-1 record, he has put up a 5.75 GAA and an .861 save percentage.  The 20-year-old Franklin-Lee makes his first appearance on an SHL roster; with Utah this season, he has gone 9-4-2 with a 2.82 GAA and a .905 save percentage.
  • On Saturday, the Quebec Tigres placed D Kevin Buchanan on the injured list.  The veteran blueliner has been plagued by injuries this season; he missed 10 games with an upper-body injury earlier this season.  It is unknown whether this latest setback, suffered in the second period of Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Hershey, is an aggravation of his prior injury or a new one.  To replace Buchanan on the roster, Quebec recalled D Hampus Olsson from their CHL affiliate in Halifax.  Olsson was sent down two weeks ago when Buchanan returned from his prior IL stint; he spent 9 games in the minors, recording 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists).  To fill Olsson’s roster spot in Halifax, the Tigres signed veteran D Igor Shovshenkov.

2020 SHL Week 6 Team Stats

Team Totals

====================================================
Team              GP    SH    G    A  Pts   PP%  +/-
----------------------------------------------------
Hamilton          24   901   98  183  281  25.6   16
Anchorage         24   903   94  172  266  18.6   28
Portland          24   953   91  173  264  18.4   20
New York          24   900   88  162  250  22.0  -16
Hershey           24   938   84  158  242  20.0   19
Kansas City       24   778   75  141  216  14.1   -5
Dakota            24   686   70  130  200  22.4  -10
Saskatchewan      24   842   68  131  199  17.2   -7
Washington        24   695   62  115  177  19.1  -30
Michigan          24   695   61  113  174  12.3    7
Boston            24   631   57  105  162  17.9   -9
Quebec            24   682   56  103  159  21.4  -13
====================================================

=======================================================================
Team              GP   W   L   T   GAA   SH   SV    SV%   PK%  Blk  PIM
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Michigan          24   9  11   4  2.29  760  704  0.926  89.1  322  236
Anchorage         24  13   9   2  2.52  761  700  0.920  85.4  346  250
Hershey           24  13   8   3  2.59  775  712  0.919  77.8  345  190
Quebec            24  10  11   3  2.68  671  606  0.903  82.9  385  185
Saskatchewan      24  10  11   3  2.93  762  691  0.907  83.1  367  153
Dakota            24   9  12   3  2.93  837  766  0.915  87.2  335  207
Portland          24  16   5   3  2.97  776  704  0.907  84.3  352  288
Boston            24   8  14   2  3.05  688  614  0.892  70.5  366  218
Hamilton          24  15   7   2  3.43  855  772  0.903  74.1  326  212
Washington        24   6  14   4  3.78  878  786  0.895  80.6  341  233
Kansas City       24   9  14   1  3.81  845  753  0.891  76.9  349  238
New York          24  10  12   2  4.30  996  892  0.896  78.0  315  224
=======================================================================

Continue reading “2020 SHL Week 6 Team Stats”

2020 SHL Week 6 League Leaders

=========================
         Points          
-------------------------
Valentine      HSY     34
Sweet          HSY     34
Winchester     NY      33
Koons          ANC     32
Lafayette      HAM     32
Frye           HAM     32
Ericsson       ANC     31
Frederiksson   KC      30
Hart           HSY     29
Costello       POR     28
=========================

=========================
          Goals          
-------------------------
Frye           HAM     17
Valentine      HSY     17
Bellmore       WSH     14
Alexander      HAM     13
Frederiksson   KC      13
Argent         POR     13
Remington      NY      12
Chamberlain    SAS     12
Hoffman        ANC     11
Summers        HAM     11
=========================

=========================
         Assists         
-------------------------
Lafayette      HAM     27
Winchester     NY      25
Ericsson       ANC     24
Sweet          HSY     24
Koons          ANC     22
Smyth          HAM     20
Costello       POR     20
Hart           HSY     19
Oflyng         SAS     19
Nurmi          KC      18
=========================

=========================
          Shots          
-------------------------
Nelson         NY     165
Frederiksson   KC     117
Valentine      HSY    114
Mango          POR    106
Frye           HAM    105
Collins        ANC    100
Karlsson       SAS     97
Oflyng         SAS     97
Beasley        POR     95
Gunnarson      HAM     94
=========================

=========================
       Shooting %        
-------------------------
Eberlein       QUE  40.0%
Rudyard        BOS  33.3%
Bleyer         QUE  33.3%
Danner         NY   26.3%
Hitchcock      NY   25.0%
Tarisov        HSY  23.1%
Argent         POR  22.0%
Chamberlain    SAS  20.7%
Zhlotkin       ANC  19.4%
Bergdorf       MIC  19.3%
=========================

=========================
         Blocks          
-------------------------
Barnes         SAS     73
Milton         HSY     66
O'Neill        KC      66
Lambert        POR     60
Risch          HAM     55
Mulligan       HAM     54
Frederick      NY      53
Oflyng         SAS     51
Martinsson     ANC     49
Workman        QUE     49
=========================

=========================
     Penalty Minutes     
-------------------------
Kalashnikov    BOS     60
Duckworth      NY      51
Phthalo        DAK     45
Calligan       ANC     43
Argent         POR     39
Fairwood       POR     38
Zhlotkin       ANC     37
Mortensen      POR     36
Haakom         WSH     35
Zarkovich      QUE     32
=========================

=========================
       Plus/Minus        
-------------------------
Bailes         MIC    +15
Petronov       MIC    +15
Lunsford       MIC    +15
Adamczyk       ANC    +14
Calligan       ANC    +14
Gatecliff      POR    +14
Aubin          HSY    +13
Hoffman        ANC    +12
Miranda        ANC    +12
Bunyakin       ANC    +12
=========================

=========================
       Goalie Wins       
-------------------------
Clarkson       POR     13
Koskinen       HAM     12
Worthington    ANC     11
Adamsson       HSY      9
Mollenkamp     DAK      7
=========================

=========================
           GAA           
-------------------------
Colt           MIC   1.78
Worthington    ANC   1.87
Lattimore      QUE   1.98
Lundquist      MIC   2.46
Adamsson       HSY   2.57
=========================

=========================
         Save %          
-------------------------
Worthington    ANC  0.937
Colt           MIC  0.934
Lattimore      QUE  0.925
Lundquist      MIC  0.924
Mollenkamp     DAK  0.923
=========================