SHL Holds First-Ever Mascot Race

As the SHL was planning for its fourth annual All-Star game, commissioner Perry Mitchell wanted to do something to make the event special.  “Obviously, the game itself is a lot of fun,” said the commissioner.  “But we thought we’d like to add something new and different to make it a little extra-special.”

The league considered adding a skills competition similar to the NHL’s, or perhaps some sort of celebrity game.  But adding a skills competition would make it a multi-day event, which the SHL wanted to avoid.  And identifying participants for a celebrity hockey game was a challenge, due to the need to find celebrities who can skate and are comfortable doing so in front of a live audience.

Eventually, they hit upon a truly unique idea.  It was dreamed up during a brainstorming session, when they were thinking about other events that arenas host.  One league staffer mentioned monster-truck rallies, and suggested that the teams’ mascots each get to drive one.

“We all laughed,” said Commissioner Mitchell, “but then we thought: Hey, that’s actually a cool idea!”

But how could they bring monster trucks on the ice?  They couldn’t, but they did the next best thing: having the mascots mount kids’ ride-on trucks.  Each truck was painted in the team’s colors, complete with logos affixed to the doors.

“We knew that we wanted to get the mascots involved, and what better way than having them ride toy trucks?” said Mitchell.

For the initial heats, the mascots were divided up by division.  The first heat had them compete in groups of three.  The winners of the first-round matches then faced off for the division crown, before the Western and Eastern winners faced off in a championship match.  Each heat was conducted over an obstacle course that circumnavigated the ice.

The first race matched up three Eastern competitors:

The race quickly turned into a two-way battle between the Canadian clubs, as Scratch lost control on the opening straightaway and smashed into the boards, damaging his truck beyond repair.  Le Tigre took an early lead, as he navigated his way through the traffic-cone chicane expertly and surged ahead.  But when he reached the first series of ramps, he tumbled off the side and overturned, allowing his Hamiltonian rival to gain ground.

The Quebec mascot’s hopes of winning were ultimately dashed when he veered off course going into the final turn and wound up in a “water hazard” fashioned from a kid’s wading pool.  Le Tigre’s misfortune allowed Crosscheck to sail down the homestretch to an easy win.

The second heat pitted a trio of Western mascots against one another:

Naturally, Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz couldn’t resist tinkering with Sparky’s truck, attaching what he called the “Mascot-Race-inator,” which deployed a pair of giant skis that turned the truck into something more like a snowmobile.  This worked well initially, allowing Sparky to zoom ahead of his competitors.  Alas, it made the truck impossible to steer, causing the Saskatchewan mascot to miss the traffic-cone chicane entirely and skid down the Zamboni tunnel, ending his hopes of victory.

With Sparky out of the race, Petey and Salty Sam settled in for a one-on-one duel.  Befitting a team whose name references a locally famous submarine, the Blueback mascot had fitted his truck with “missiles” (actually a couple of giant Nerf guns).  About halfway through the race, Salty Sam opened fire on his northern rival.  The barrage cause Petey to lose control and tip over, and the Portland mascot took the lead.  But Petey righted himself and continued on.  Eventually, the Igloos mascot caught up to his foe, and then unleashed a hidden spray gun that shot vegetable oil out of the side.  Salty Sam spun out, while Petey raced to the line and secured the victory.

The third heat matched up the remaining Eastern mascots:

Unlike the first two heats, none of these three competitors crashed out early, and the battle was close from beginning to end.  Rocketman was the first to the traffic-cone chicane and took the early lead.  But Nibs, who was drafting right behind him, cut to the inside on the following turn and hopped ahead.  Cool Cat sat back a bit at first, but dialed it up after the first quarter of the race.  When Nibs and Rocketman both slid a bit in the back straightaway, Cool Cat split the gap between them and was the first one over the bridge at center ice.

Cool Cat held a narrow but steady lead as the race entered its final stage.  Then Rockman turned on his (previously unseen) rocket booster and soared past his competitors to an apparent win.  Unfortunately for him, the use of the rocket booster led him to be disqualified, and second-place finisher Cool Cat advanced to the division final.

The final heat of the preliminary round matched up the last three from the West:

The race started off well for the KC fans and their mascot, as DJ Crushmore and Wally found that their trucks were chained together.  While they worked feverishly to get unbound, Pete sailed off to a huge lead.  He was almost a third of the way through the course before the other two even got started.  The crowd roared as their hero navigated the course’s challenges with ease, seemingly on a glide path.

Ultimately, the gigantic lead proved to be Pete’s undoing.  Feeling secure in victory, the Kansas City mascot felt it safe to stop in mid-race to tend to his smoker, which was parked in one of the tunnels just off the ice.  Pete pulled some beautifully-cooked burnt ends off of the grate and handed them out to a grateful crowd.  But while Pete fed his fans, Wally and DJ Crushmore had caught and passed his abandoned truck.  By the time the Smoke mascot returned to his vehicle, it was too late.  The other mascots crossed the finish line in an apparent dead heat.  The decision went to a photo finish, which showed that Wally’s prominent snout crossed the line first.  The Wolves mascot won by a nose – literally.

The Eastern final pitted a pair of bitter rivals against one another, Hamilton’s Crosscheck vs. New York’s Cool Cat. Their two teams have battled fiercely in every game they’ve played over the last couple of seasons. And when Crosscheck debuted earlier this season, Night coach Nick Foster mocked the mascot mercilessly, calling it a “freaky inbred Teletubby” and claimed that Crosscheck’s “family tree is a straight line.” The Pistols rallied to the defense of their mascot, and both teams were eager for a victory in this contest.

Cool Cat got off to an early lead in a somewhat controversial fashion, as he appeared to cut off Crosscheck going into the first turn. But the fuzzy orange creature refused to be shaken, and remained close behind his competitor. In the latter half of the race, Crossheck unveiled a secret weapon; a laser pointer, which it pointed at the side boards just off the track. Sure enough, Cool Cat abandoned his truck and began chasing the red dot around. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Crosscheck surged into the lead. Once Cool Cat realized that he had been tricked, he remounted his truck and launched back into the race, but it was too late.

Meanwhile, the West final pitted a pair of longtime frenemies in Anchorage’s Petey the Polar Bear and Michigan’s Wally Wolf. The two mascots had a rivalry that dates back to the SHL’s earliest days. Petey and Wally seemed to settle their feud at the end of the league’s inaugural season, although there have been occasional flare-ups since then.

Right at the start of the race, Wally ensured himself the early edge by swatting Petey with a giant stuffed fish, an apparent reference to a 2018 incident when Michigan’s radio announcer claimed that the city of Anchorage “smells like rotting fish.” While Petey reeled from the unexpected attack, Wally took the early lead.

But Petey got some help from a friend. As Wally roared down the back straightaway, a figure in a walrus costume emerged from the bench area and tackled Wally. As the Wolves mascot struggled to get free, the walrus character whipped off its head to reveal Igloos LW Jerry Koons. “Don’t you mess with Petey!” Koons hollered as the Anchorage mascot raced by. Wally shook free from Koons and got back on track. But Petey managed to hold off his rival down the stretch and won by a couple truck lengths.

This set up a final matchup between the mascots from last year’s Finals contenders: Crosscheck of the Pistols vs. Petey of the Igloos. This team, both mascots were joined on the ice by the All-Stars from their teams. Some players tried to thwart their opponent; Anchorage’s Ty Worthington whacked Crosscheck with a Nerf bat, while Hamilton’s Hercules Mulligan body-checked Petey into the water hazard. Other players chose a more positive approach, like the Igloos’ Tom Hoffman helping Petey up out of the pool.

It was a tightly pitched battle from beginning to end. But in the end, it was a wet but undaunted Petey who won it for the Igloos, beating Crosscheck to the finish line by a couple feet.

“Petey has always been a top-notch competitor, and he overcame a lot of adversity out there today,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor. “This definitely doesn’t make up for losing the Vandy, but it is a nice little bit of revenge. Petey forever!”

CHL Update: West Rolls to Rout in All-Star Game

In the first two CHL All-Star Games, the home team had come away with the win.  With this year’s contest taking place at Hartford’s Aetna Center, the East was hoping that history would repeat itself.  Unfortunately, the Western squad had other ideas.  They broke the game open with a four-goal eruption in the second period, and wound up cruising to a 7-2 win.

“I’ve coached every one of these, and each time is a different experience,” said East coach Jeffrey Marsh.  “This time, we got the experience of what it feels like to get run over by a Mack truck.”

The most critical stretch of the game was in the middle of the second period, when the West scored three times in a three-minute span.  The game was competitive through the first period, when the score stood 2-1 in the West’s favor.  The teams traded goals early in the second, with Idaho Spuds LW Terry Cresson striking first and Hartford Harpoons RW Felix Delorme answering a few minutes later.  Then came the West’s big run.

Milwaukee Hogs C Yegor Nestorov got things going by going five-hole on Oshawa Drive G Hector Orinoco a few seconds shy of the the nine-minute mark.  A minute and a half later, Delorme coughed up the puck to Cresson on a bad pass in the neutral zone.  Cresson found Utah Owls D George “Brain” Brinson, who got Orinoco to commit down low, then went high to find the twine for a three-goal lead.  Just over a minute after that, Spuds D Brady Prussian fired a shot from near the blue line that beat a screened Orinoco.  Suddenly, a 3-2 game was 6-2, and the West had control of the game from there.

“That was the game right there, absolutely,” said West coach Gilbert McCoyne.  “We felt the ice tilting in our direction, and we decided to keep the hammer down and take advantage of that.  And we did.”

McCoyne also praised his team for spreading the offensive load around.  “I loved the way that all three lines and all of our D pairings were engaged and involved on offense,” the coach said.  Each of the West’s seven goals was scored by a different player.

Hogs D Conrad van Rijn received All-Star MVP honors for recording a most unusual achievement: a Gordie Howe hat trick (that is, a goal, an assist, and a fight.)  van Rijn got the fight out of the way first, dropping the mitts with Halifax Atlantics D Axel Borgstrom early in the second period.  Less than two minutes after he got out of the box, van Rijn got the primary assist for setting up Nestorov’s goal.  Then, in the third period, van Rijn redirected a shot past the East’s backup netminder, Eugene Looney of the Cleveland Centurions, to complete the feat.

“I don’t know what kind of maniac gets into a fight in the All-Star game,” said McCoyne, “but at least Connie went on to get the Gordie.  Good for him!”

van Rijn, who was reportedly unaware of his accomplishment until the game ended, received a sailboat from Morris Yachts, a Maine-based company.  “It is a beautiful boat,” said the Milwaukee defenseman.  “I want to sail it after the season, when the weather is more warm.”

Continue reading “CHL Update: West Rolls to Rout in All-Star Game”

East Captures First All-Star Win

Traditionally, the West has been considered the stronger of the SHL’s two divisions.  In recent seasons, however, the East has been getting stronger.  They’ve won two of the last three Vandys.  During the most recent round of interdivisional play leading into the break, the Easthad a winning percentage above the .600 mark.  One thing the East had never done, however, was win an All-Star Game.  This year, they hoped to walk into the Kansas City Smoke‘s Heartland Telecom Center and skate away with the win.

Apparently, the fourth time was the charm.  Powered by a hat trick from Hershey Bliss RW Christopher Hart, the East dominated the first two periods and survived a late rally from the West to claim a 5-3 victory.

“Finally, victory is ours!” shouted Hamilton Pistols RW Claude Lafayette, who handed out celebratory cigars to his teammates after the game.  “We’ve been waiting a while for this one.”

As befits Kansas City’s reputation for music, the pregame skate was accompanied by a string of songs with ties to the city.  The tunes spanned the decades, from Big Joe Turner and Charlie Parker to modern-day blues guitarist Samantha Fish.  During player introductions, the Western team skated out to Wilbert Harrison’s “Goin’ to Kansas City,” while the Eastern squad emerged to the theme from “Rawhide,” a nod to the city’s connections to the livestock industry.

Eastern coach Keith Shields was determined that his team get off to a strong start.  Last year, the West scored three times in as many minutes, essentially burying the East’s hope of victory.  “I wanted to do to [the West] what they did to us last time,” said Shields.  And that is essentially what his team did.

Hart opened the scoring just under two minutes into the game, streaking to the net and redirecting a shot from Pistols C Calvin Frye over sprawling Western goalie Ty Worthington.  Approximately one hundred seconds later, Frye got a goal of his own when Worthington allowed a juicy rebound on a shot by Hershey’s Lance Sweet and Frye stuffed it home on the short side.  Then around the six-minute mark, Hart and Sweet got loose on a breakaway, just as if they were on the Love Line back in Hershey.  Sweet faked a slapshot and passed it to Hart, who went top shelf to make it 3-0.

“The boys ran the game plan to perfection,” said Shields.  “I loved it!”

The West got one back on a strike from the slot by Michigan Gray Wolves C Hunter Bailes, but they closed out the first period trailing by two.  But lest the three-time champs get any ideas about rallying, the East got back on the scoring train at the start of the second.  Pistols LW Steven Alexander got on the board on a thundering slapper from the left faceoff circle to restore the East’s three-goal lead.  Then two and a half minutes later, Hart struck again, this time on a power-play wraparound shot that slipped between Worthington’s pad and the pole.

Even though the home team now trailed 5-1, the fans tossed their hats onto the ice to honor Hart’s achievement.  One of them was a cowboy hat; Sweet picked that one up and slapped it on Hart’s head.  The Hershey wing let loose with a “Yeehaw!” and fired his invisible six-shooters into the air.

West coach Sam Castor wasn’t willing to give up, in spite of the sizable deficit, and he directed his team to play a more wide-open style in the third period.  The East responded in kind, and the result was a frantic frame in which the teams combined for 47 shots.  The West’s relief goalie, the Portland Bluebacks‘ Jesse Clarkson, turned aside all 27 Eastern shots.  The Western offense, on the other hand, had more success against the East’s backup netminder, Mike Ross of the New York Night.  Less than four minutes into the final period, the West narrowed the deficit to two with goals from D Sebastian Pomfret and C Tom Hoffman, teammates on Castor’s Anchorage Igloos.  But Ross stopped the West’s remaining shots, and the East kept the action in the other end for long stretches over the last ten minutes, sealing their victory.

Hart’s three-goal performance made him the unanimous choice for All-Star MVP honors.  As a reward for the selection, the Bliss star received a Kia Seltos SUV, along with a gift package of barbecue sauces from some of Kansas City’s best-known joints.  “The last time we were in KC, I tried burnt ends for the first time,” said Hart.  “I’m looking forward to making some ‘cue of my own at home.”

In the victorious Eastern locker room, the players smoked their cigars and doused each other with beer and hard seltzer.  “Don’t mess with the Beast Division, baby!” shouted Alexander.  “The world turned upside down!”

The East will try to make it two in a row next year on home ice, as next year’s game is north of the border at Quebec’s Centre Citadelle.

Continue reading “East Captures First All-Star Win”

2020 CHL All-Star Rosters

The day after the SHL’s All-Star Game, their minor league will be holding its third annual All-Star contest.  The game will take place at the Aetna Center, home of the Hartford Harpoons. The rosters for the game, along with each player’s current stats, are below.

 

EAST ALL-STARS

Coach: Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh (Virginia)

 

First Line

LW: Fendrick Scanlan, Cleveland (13 G, 10 A, 23 Pts, 23 Blk, 52 PIM, +4)

D: Morris Starling, Baltimore (10 G, 13 A, 23 Pts, 31 Blk, 10 PIM, -2)

C: Liam Engstrom, Hartford (13 G, 25 A, 38 Pts, 15 Blk, 2 PIM, +22)

D: Brett Stolte, Hartford (12 G, 13 A, 25 Pts, 37 Blk, 39 PIM, +3)

RW: Felix Delorme, Hartford (10 G, 17 A, 27 Pts, 20 Blk, 2 PIM, +22)

 

Second Line

LW: Jarmann Fischer, Halifax (8 G, 14 A, 22 Pts, 14 Blk, 16 PIM, -1)

D: Russ Klemmer, Oshawa (2 G, 22 A, 24 Pts, 63 Blk, 10 PIM, -1)

C: Dwight Flynn, Halifax (16 G, 21 A, 37 Pts, 11 Blk, 8 PIM, +3)

D: Burton Cullidge, Cleveland (1 G, 18 A, 19 Pts, 70 Blk, 19 PIM, +5)

RW: Anders Pedersen, Oshawa (12 G, 16 A, 28 Pts, 11 Blk, 14 PIM, -3)

 

Third Line

LW: Maurice Coutard, Baltimore (11 G, 11 A, 22 Pts, 9 Blk, 12 PIM, -18)

D: Teddy Morrison, Halifax (4 G, 13 A, 17 Pts, 57 Blk, 14 PIM, -2)

C: Ron Yaeckel, Virginia (10 G, 19 A, 29 Pts, 23 Blk, 41 PIM, +10)

D: Axel Borgstrom, Halifax (7 G, 9 A, 16 Pts, 54 Blk, 27 PIM, -9)

RW: Steve Brandon, Cleveland (12 G, 10 A, 22 Pts, 23 Blk, 24 PIM, +4)

 

Goalies

Hector Orinoco, Oshawa (13-8-2, 2.11 GAA, .918 save %)

Eugene Looney, Cleveland (9-12-3, 1.97 GAA, .917 save %)

 

WEST ALL-STARS

Coach: Gilbert McCoyne (Idaho)

 

First Line

LW: Terry Cresson, Idaho (8 G, 22 A, 30 Pts, 13 Blk, 12 PIM, +14)

D: Trevor Lockwood, Omaha (7 G, 20 A, 27 Pts, 36 Blk, 20 PIM, +5)

C: Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax, Utah (16 G, 23 A, 39 Pts, 28 Blk, 20 PIM, +14)

D: Brady Prussian, Idaho (14 G, 12 A, 26 Pts, 40 Blk, 16 PIM, +13)

RW: Britt Cadmium, Idaho (14 G, 15 A, 29 Pts, 21 Blk, 15 PIM, +16)

 

Second Line

LW: Chuck Alley, Utah (8 G, 19 A, 27 Pts, 29 Blk, 6 PIM, +14)

D: George Brinson, Utah (8 G, 20 A, 28 Pts, 26 Blk, 26 PIM, +11)

C: Yegor Nestorov, Milwaukee (16 G, 11 A, 27 Pts, 15 Blk, 8 PIM, -10)

D: Brian Coldivar, Minnesota (15 G, 10 A, 25 Pts, 32 Blk, 18 PIM, -3)

RW: Harris Wondolowski, Utah (16 G, 17 A, 33 Pts, 11 Blk, 14 PIM, +3)

 

Third Line

LW: Rick Crisak, Idaho (5 G, 22 A, 27 Pts, 8 Blk, 32 PIM, +18)

D: Conrad van Rijn, Milwaukee (3 G, 24 A, 27 Pts, 72 Blk, 39 PIM, -5)

C: Nikolai Valkov, Colorado Springs (16 G, 11 A, 27 Pts, 8 Blk, 24 PIM, -15)

D: Laszlo Cierny, Minnesota (5 G, 18 A, 23 Pts, 58 Blk, 36 PIM, -3)

RW: James Clay, Milwaukee (13 G, 15 A, 28 Pts, 16 Blk, 12 PIM, -4)

 

Goalies

Kelvin White, Idaho (14-5-1, 2.07 GAA, .927 save %)

Kostya Arsenyev, Minnesota (9-4-1, 1.92 GAA, .933 save %)

 

2020 SHL Eastern All-Star Roster

The roster for the 2020 Eastern Division All-Stars, as announced by coach Keith Shields, was as follows:

First Line:

LW: Steven Alexander, Hamilton.  Last year, the voting in the East was dominated by fans of the Pistols and New York Night, the latter of which hosted the game.  Without the draw of hosting and with the Night’s lackluster record this year, votes from the New York metro area dipped considerably, while backers of defending champion Hamilton came out in force to support their heroes.  Alexander was the league’s top vote-getter, earning his fourth straight trip to the game and his third appearance in the starting lineup.  Although the feisty winger’s numbers are not quite up to his career norms, he is tied for the league lead in goals with 21.

D: Clayton “Crusher” Risch, Hamilton.  Backed by the voting power of the Greater Toronto Area, Risch was the top vote-getter among Eastern defenseman, making his second All-Star appearance and his first start.  The 24-year-old is on track for a career season; he’s already scored more goals in the first half (8) than he ever has in an entire year.  He isn’t just an offensive force, either; he continues to deliver strong play in his own end.  His 73 blocks is the second-most among Eastern players.

C: Justin Valentine, Hershey.  In something of an upset, Valentine managed to hold off Hamilton’s Calvin Frye to make his first All-Star start since 2017.  Valentine is the leading man in Hershey’s famous “Love Line,” and he’s producing in line with his top season.  He’s currently in third place in goals with 20 and tied for third in points with 42.  He’s also among the top ten in plus-minus at +14, a distinction he shares with his fellow Love Liners.

D: Matt Cherner, Boston.  In another upset, Cherner surged into second place, ahead of Hershey’s Reese Milton and New York’s Dominic Sanchez, who have been the East’s starting defensemen in each previous All-Star Game.  Cherner reportedly benefited from a strong crossover vote, as fans from his previous teams in Dakota and Quebec cast ballots for him in significant numbers.  It’s his second All-Star appearance, and his debut representing the East; he showed up on the West’s roster back in 2018.  Like his fellow top-pairing blueliner Risch, Cherner has 8 goals and 28 points so far this season.

RW: Claude Lafayette, Hamilton.  The Pistols’ rabid voting base lifted Lafayette to his first ever All-Star start (and only his second overall start), appearing alongside his longtime teammate and friend Alexander.  Lafayette won his spot by less than 5,000 votes over Hershey’s Christopher Hart and New York’s Rick Nelson.  Lafayette is one of the league’s elite passers, and it’s no surprise that he leads the SHL in assists with 35.  His 42 points overall ties him with Valentine for the league’s third-highest total.

 

Second Line:

LW: Lance Sweet, Hershey.  Shields mentioned during the lineup announcement that he has a great deal of respect for the Bliss, Hamilton’s fiercest rival.  His admiration came through in his picks, as he tapped three Bliss players (in addition to starter Valentine) to the lineup.  It’s the second All-Star selection for Sweet, who also appeared in the SHL’s inaugural midseason contest in 2017.  Sweet is a highly deserving choice; he leads the league in points with 44, and is in the top 10 in both goals (16) and assists (28).

D: Raymond Smyth, Hamilton.  Shields’ respect for Hershey was topped only by his affection for his own squad; the coach selected four players from his Vandy-winning, division-leading Pistols.  The veteran Smyth, though, is no homer pick; his 30 points are tied for the highest total among SHL defensemen, and his 26 assists are tied for fifth in the league overall.  He also leads the league in plus-minus rating with +17.  It’s Smyth’s third trip to the All-Star Game, making a reappearance in the lineup after a one-year absence.

C: Calvin Frye, Hamilton.  After Frye was beaten out by Valentine for the starting center spot, there was no doubt that Shields was going to tab his star for a spot.  Frye is only of only four Eastern players to have appeared in every All-Star contest to date.  Frye is tied with his teammate Alexander for the league lead in goals with 21, and his 43 points is the second highest total in the SHL.  “I’ll bet this is the last time for a long time that Calvin isn’t the starter,” said Shields.  “If he keeps producing the way he has been, he’s going to make it impossible for the fans to ignore.  He’s just a special, special player.”

D: Hercules Mulligan, Hamilton. It’s the third straight All-Star appearance for the 22-year-old Mulligan and the third appearance for a Hamilton defenseman in this lineup.  It’s the first time since 2017 that a single team landed a trio of blueliners on the roster; Michigan was the last team to accomplish the feat. The hard-hitting Mulligan brings an extra edge of the Eastern roster; his 68 blocks is sixth in the SHL and second on the Pistols to his linemate Risch.

RW: Christopher Hart, Hershey.  Hart joins his linemates Sweet and Valentine on the East roster.  Surprisingly, Hart is the only one of the trio who has appeared in every All-Star contest, though he has never started.  Like his fellow Love Liners, Hart is in the top ten in the league in points (39), assists (26), and plus-minus (+14).  “Last year, I had to carry the Love Line banner all by myself at the game,” said Hart.  “This time, I’ll be there with both my brothers, and that’s the way it ought to be.”

 

Third Line:

LW: Magnus Gunnarson, Hamilton.  At a loaded position, Shields tapping his own player again generated some controversy around the league.  Many felt that New York’s Chase Winchester or Boston’s Casey Thurman would be a more fitting choice.  But Gunnarson is having a strong season in his own right.  He has produced 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) at the halfway point.  And when Alexander missed several games with an injury in the first half, Gunnarson stepped in and kept the Pistols from missing a beat.  It all adds up to an All-Star debut for the 24-year-old winger.

D: Reese Milton, Hershey.  It’s the first time that Milton won’t be starting in an All-Star Game, but the Bliss blueliner keeps his string of appearances alive.  Milton’s offensive numbers (8 goals, 17 assists) are a tick below his career norms, but he remains as defensively strong as ever; his 77 blocks are the most in the East, and he maintains a solid +8 rating.

C: Alain Beauchesne, Boston.  The 22-year-old Beauchesne receives his second straight All-Star nod; his selection marks the first time that the Badgers have had more than one honoree.  This was another somewhat controversial choice: Night fans argued that Brock Manning should have gotten the call, while DC fans clamored for Harvey Bellmore.   But Shields went with the youngster, who leads Boston with 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists).

D: Richard McKinley, Quebec.  The 21-year-old blueliner is the Tigres’ lone representative this year, and he makes his debut in the All-Star game.  Quebec is suffering through considerable offensive struggles this season, but McKinley is a relatively bright spot, having recorded 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists).  He also is tied for the team lead in blocks with 65.

RW: Jefferson McNeely, Washington.  Like the Tigres, the Galaxy have only one All-Star representative.  This season, the honors go to McNeely, who will make his third appearance in the game.  He is second on the Washington roster in goals (with 11) and points (with 27).  “Honestly, I would have given it to Harvey,” said McNeely.  “But it they want me to go again, sure, I’ll go.”

 

Goalies:

Lasse Koskinen, Hamilton.  In a season when many of the East’s traditional top goalies are having down seasons, Koskinen’s solid performance and Hamilton’s strong voting base combined to earn the Pistols netminder his third straight All-Star trip and his second start.  Koskinen struggled in the opening weeks of the season, but he has improved as the season has gone along.  His 15 wins are second-most in the SHL; that achievement appears to have overshadowed his somewhat-subpar 3.14 GAA and .915 save percentage.

“Jersey Mike” Ross, New York.  With Shields in charge of choosing the East’s roster, is it a surprise that Ross is the lone Night player to make the All-Star squad?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  But the veteran goaltender, who is another first-time All-Star, has had a surprisingly strong season.  Believe it or not, Ross has the highest save percentage (.923) among starting goalies in the East.  After planned starter Sherman Carter imploded, Ross stepped in as the primary starter and has helped keep the Night afloat in the playoff race.

2020 SHL Western All-Star Roster

The roster for the Western Division in the 2020 SHL All-Star Game, which will be held on Wednesday at Kansas City’s Heartland Telecom Center, was announced today by coach Sam Castor.  The selections were as follows:

LW: Rod “Money” Argent, Portland.  The Bluebacks are hot, and they’re quickly building a strong and enthusiastic fan base.  The team’s fans showed their love in the All-Star voting, as they rivaled Hamilton in terms of the largest turnout.  Thanks to the strong support from the Rose City, the Bluebacks wound up with three starting slots.  Among those is Argent, who will appear in the All-Star game for the first time in his career.  The winger is fifth in the league in goals with 18, and has Portland’s second-highest point total with 34.  Argent is a strong two-way player, as reflected by the fact that he leads all Bluebacks forwards in blocks with 27.

D: Ted Keefe, Anchorage.  This marks the first time that a non-Michigan defenseman made the West’s starting lineup.  The strong support of Igloos fans allowed Keefe to finish with the most votes among defensemen.  Although this is Keefe’s first All-Star start, it is the third time that he’ll make an appearance in the game.   Keefe is having a strong year offensively; he is tied for the lead among SHL defenseman in goals with 11.  But it’s defense that’s his primary calling card.  Any unlucky opponent that’s been the victim of his punishing hits can attest to that; his 50 blocks on the season tell the same story.

C: Eddie Costello, Portland.  Last year, the veteran center was traded to Hamilton at the deadline, and went on to play a leading role as the Pistols won their first Vandy.  In the offseason, he signed with Portland, and has led the team to its spot atop the standings at the midway mark.  Those fans returned the favor by making Costello the top overall vote-getter in the West.  (It’s likely that he got support from his former fans in Washington and Hamilton as well.)  Costello’s 36 points are tops on his new team, while his 25 assists land him among the SHL’s top ten.  He’s no slouch defensively, either, with 26 blocks so far this season.

D: Fritz Kronstein, Michigan.  Kronstein continues his streak of All-Star starts, finishing ahead of teammates “Mad Max” Madison (a three-time starter) and Brooks Zabielski, as well as Portland’s Benny Lambert.  This comes as no surprise, in spite of the Wolves’ disappointing first half; Kronstein has started in every All-Star Game to date.  Though Michigan is not performing up to its usual standards, the German-born blueliner continues to produce on both ends, leading the team’s defensive corps with 22 points (including 10 goals, second among Wolves defensemen) and tied for the lead with 59 blocks.

RW: Vince Mango, Portland.  The colorful, high-scoring Mango secures his third All-Star berth and his second start, finishing roughly 1,500 votes ahead of Anchorage’s Nicklas Ericsson.  (It’s sweet payback for Mango; last season, Ericsson nosed him out of a starting slot by less than 800 votes.)  Mango is often regarded around the league as a one-dimensional scorer.  While his 15 goals does place him among the SHL’s top ten, Mango’s game has matured as he and the team have grown.  He has recorded 11 assists so far on the year, and he has even blocked 17 shots.  “Honestly, I never thought I’d see the day when Vince blocked a shot on purpose,” said Castor.  “He’d be afraid of mussing his hair.  But he’s clearly changed, and good for him.”

 

Second Line

LW: Jerry Koons, Anchorage.  Last year’s starter makes it this year on the second line, one of four Igloos chosen for the team by their coach.  Koons has appeared in every All-Star Game so far and has started twice.  Among all Western left-wingers, Koons is the leader in both points (with 37) and assists (with 25).  “I’m sure some people will say I’m a big homer because there are so many of our guys on the team,” said Castor.  “But you tell me which guy didn’t deserve to go.  No question about it that Jerry deserves to be there.”

D: Wyatt Barnes, Saskatchewan.  Barnes, who makes his fourth trip to the All-Star game, is the Shockers’ only representative at the All-Star game this season.  But he is no charity pick; arguably, he is the SHL’s best defenseman so far this half on both ends of the ice.  Only teammate Chris Oflyng has more points among the West’s blueliners than Barnes’ 29.  And no one in the league, in either division or at any position, has more blocks that he does, just one shy of the century mark.  “One of these days, the fans are going to wake up and realize that Barnesy should be starting in this thing,” said Oflyng.

C: Hunter Bailes, Michigan.  In spite of the Wolves’ underperformance so far this season, Castor couldn’t overlook Bailes’ solid campaign for Anchorage’s longtime rival.  Bailes is the Michigan leader in goals (with 14) and points (with 29), and his +14 rating places him within the league’s top ten.  Somewhat surprisingly for one of the league’s consistent stars, this is the first time that Bailes will be appearing in the midseason contest.  He was named to the team in 2017, but he missed the game due to injury; teammate Warren Marlow skated in his place.

D: Benny Lambert, Portland.  The Bluebacks aren’t solely represented by players who were voted in by their enthusiastic fans; Lambert is one of two Portland players chosen by Castor to accompany their starting colleagues.  This is not Lambert’s first All-Star appearance; he was Seattle’s lone representative back in the 2017 contest.  Lambert’s 71 blocks are tops on the Bluebacks, and his 16 assists are tied for second on the team among blueliners.

RW: Nicklas Ericsson, Anchorage.  After Ericsson narrowly lost the starting spot to Mango, there was little doubt that Castor would add his top-line right winger to the squad.  Ericsson is is one of five Western players who has been an All-Star every year.  He’s justifiably renowned for his skills as a passer, and he remains as sharp as ever: he’s tied for second in the league in assists with 31.  Somewhat more surprisingly, he also has more points than anyone else in the West, with 40.

 

Third Line

LW: “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, Dakota.  Airston, the Jackalopes’ only representative, appears in his third All-Star game.  The fan-favorite winger has been named in rumor after rumor over the last couple of seasons, always supposedly on the verge of being dealt for financial reasons, but he remains in Dakota for the time being, continuing to produce as usual.  Airston leads the Jackalopes in goals with 12, and is tied for the team lead in assists with 15.  “You have to tune all that stuff out and just play your game,” said Airston.  “I think I’ve done a good job with that.”

D: Gary Hermine, Kansas City.  In a surprising pick, Castor tabbed the 22-year-old Hermine as a first-time All-Star.  The Western coach acknowledged that he gave Hermine the nod in part to give the KC crowd another Smoke player to cheer for.  “The fans deserve to see a couple of their own,” Castor said.  But Hermine is also on the team on merit; he’s put together a strong first half with 23 points (7 goals, 16 assists) and 41 blocks.

C: Tom Hoffman, Anchorage.  This pick by Castor definitely raised eyebrows around the league.  How could the coach pass over his own top-line center, Jake Frost?  How could the star who has started each previous All-Star contest miss the cut entirely?  According to Castor, the move came at Frost’s request.  “He told me, ‘Hoff’s outplaying me so far.  He deserves to go, not me,” said the coach.  “Of course, Frosty might have just wanted a few days off for a change.”  When the Igloos acquired Hoffman from New York in the offseason, the move was regarded as a cheap flyer at a position of need.  To the degree that fans knew Hoffman at all, it was as a draft bust who hadn’t lived up to his potential.  But he’s undergone a career revival in baby.  He has indeed produced more goals (12) and assists (16) than Frost so far on the year.  In addition, he leads the team in plus-minus with a +14 rating.

D: Sebastian Pomfret, Anchorage.  This spot originally belonged to Chris Oflyng of Saskatchewan, but the Shockers blueliner suffered an injury a couple games before the break.  To replace Oflyng, Castor went with a familiar face, tapping his own man Pomfret.  It’s the second straight All-Star appearance for the 25-year-old.  Pomfret is on track for a career-best season, putting up 19 points (5 goals, 14 assists) and blocking 61 shots to go with his +7 rating.

RW: Bengt Frederiksson, Kansas City.  The Swedish winger was the #1 pick in the draft, and he has completely lived up to the hype so far amid an otherwise forgettable year for the host city.  His 15 goals puts him among the league’s top ten and atop all rookies.  Similarly, his 36 points places him on the SHL leaderboard; no other freshman is within a dozen points of him.  “I am glad that I will have a chance to enjoy this honor among our fans,” said Frederiksson.

 

Goalies

Ty Worthington, Anchorage.  For the first time, Michigan’s Dirk Lundquist is not the Western starter.  And it’s not a fluke driven by the voters; in fact, Worthington has outplayed the mighty Bear so far this season.  His 2.11 GAA is third in the SHL, and his .933 save percentage leads the league.  His underlying numbers belie a 13-10-1 record, which speaks more to a lack of offensive support than anything else.  “It’s nice to see Ty get the top slot for a change,” said Castor.  “He’s earned it.”

Jesse Clarkson, Portland.  In another eyebrow-raising move, Castor elected not to pick Lundquist as Worthington’s backup.  Instead, the Western coach turned to Clarkson, making him the fifth Blueback to appear on the roster.  Clarkson was voted in as the starter of the Eastern team last season, when he played for New York.  After signing with Portland in the offseason, Clarkson rebounded from a shaky start to post his typically solid numbers.  His 16 victories lead the SHL, and he’s backing them up with a skinny 2.68 GAA and a stout .919 save percentage.

CHL Update: West Wins All-Star Goalfest

All-Star Games are generally not famous for their defense.  There’s no glory in blocking shots or wall work in an All-Star contest, and certainly nobody wants to risk getting hurt.  So games generally turn into shooting galleries, and high scores are commonplace.

Even by All-Star standards, though, Thursday’s CHL All-Star Game at the Utah Owls’ Wasatch Arena was an offensive showcase.  The teams delivered a high-octane contest at high altitude, combining for 97 shots, filling the arena with the booming crack of slapper after slapper.

“It was a total gong show out there,” said West coach Patrick Chillingham.  “It seemed like as soon as you got the puck on your stick, if you could see the goal, you were shooting.”

In the end, the Western squad managed to hold off the visitors from the East, taking the win by the preposterous and magnificent score of 9-6.  “That’s not a hockey score,” said Owls RW Harris Wondolowski, who had two of those goals.  “It’s a football score.”

At first, the contest seemed fairly even.  After a mere 14 minutes, the scored stood 3-3.  When neither team scored over the final six minutes of the first period, the buzz in the arena quieted; the fans seemed a little bored when the goal light wasn’t flashing constantly.

It was the second period when the West took firm control of the game.  The East actually took a brief 4-3 lead when Baltimore Blue Crabs LW Alan Youngman cashed in on a slapshot from the left faceoff circle.  But then the West scored three straight goals in a six-minute span to seize the momentum of the game for good.  Omaha Ashcats D Trevor Lockwood tipped a shot past the East’s netminder, the Cleveland CenturionsEugene Looney, a little over six minutes into the second to tie it up.  A couple minutes later, Minnesota Freeze D Laszlo Cierny scored on a blast from the blue line to put the West ahead.  Finally, Milwaukee Hogs LW Gabriel Swindonburg finished a breakway by going top-shelf on Looney for a two-goal Western lead.

“We were stuck chasing the game after that, kind of like a dog chasing a car down the street,” said East coach Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh.  “And just like that dog, we never caught up.”

In a special moment for the hometown fans in Utah, Owls C Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax won MVP honors.  He assisted on all three of the West’s second period goals, and scored one of his own in the third to help put the game away.  Along with the award, Banjax received a Polaris Rush snowmobile, perfect for carving trails through the Wasatch Mountains.

“I don’t know if it was a good idea to give me one of those things,” said Banjax.  “I barely even have a drivers’ license.  But hey, I bet I could drive this thing through the lobby of a hotel.  That’d be fun!”

 

CHL All Star Game
East All Stars @ West All Stars, Wasatch Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
East All Stars     3   1   2        6
West All Stars     3   3   3        9

 
East All Stars         G   A PTS PIM +/-   West All Stars         G   A PTS PIM +/-

Youngman        LW     2   0   2   0   0   Sikanen         LW     2   0   2   0   0
Melicar         D      0   2   2   0   0   Black           D      0   0   0   0   0
Barnhill        C      1   2   3   0   0   Wilcox          C      0   2   2   0   0
Bodett          D      1   2   3   0   0   Prussian        D      0   1   1   0   0
Brandon         RW     0   1   1   0   0   van der Veen    RW     0   1   1   0   0
Laronov         LW     1   1   2   0   1   Cresson         LW     0   0   0   0  -1
Morrison        D      0   2   2   0  -1   Cierny          D      1   2   3   0   1
Macy            C      1   0   1   0   1   Culp            C      0   2   2   0  -1
Druzek          D      0   0   0   0  -1   Sharkey         D      0   1   1   0   1
Archer          RW     0   2   2   0   1   Wondolowski     RW     2   0   2   0  -1
Pescatelli      LW     0   0   0   0  -5   Swindonburg     LW     1   1   2   0   5
Corbetta        D      0   0   0   0  -3   Lockwood        D      1   0   1   0   3
Brooks          C      0   0   0   0  -5   Banjax          C      1   3   4   0   5
Cullidge        D      0   0   0   0  -3   Werner          D      0   3   3   0   3
Delorme         RW     0   0   0   0  -5   Hagendosh       RW     1   1   2   0   5
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 6  12  18   0  -4   TOTALS                 9  17  26   0   4

Scratches:
EAS:  none
WAS:  none

 
East All Stars      SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Looney              29    23    6  0.793
Crane               22    19    3  0.864

West All Stars      SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Sanford             24    20    4  0.833
Freeze              22    20    2  0.909

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
00:53  EAS  Barnhill (Brandon, Melicar)
03:00  WAS  Hagendosh (Sharkey, Cierny)
10:17  WAS  Sikanen (Werner, Wilcox)
10:37  EAS  Laronov (Bodett, Melicar)
11:29  WAS  Wondolowski (Cierny, Culp)
13:57  EAS  Youngman (Barnhill, Morrison)

PENALTIES:
None

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
02:40  EAS  Youngman (Barnhill, Bodett)
06:17  WAS  Lockwood (Werner, Banjax)
08:07  WAS  Cierny (Banjax, Swindonburg)
12:26  WAS  Swindonburg (Banjax)

PENALTIES:
None

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
04:24  EAS  Macy (Morrison, Archer)
05:30  WAS  Banjax (Hagendosh, Prussian)
11:45  WAS  Wondolowski (Werner, Culp)
12:24  EAS  Bodett (Archer, Laronov)
16:58  WAS  Sikanen (Wilcox, van der Veen)

PENALTIES:
None


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
East All Stars    11  13  22       46
West All Stars    15  14  22       51

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

East All Stars   0 for 0
West All Stars   0 for 0

 
INJURIES
--------

None