Interview of the Week: Arkady Golynin

This week’s interview is with Dakota Jackalopes RW Arkady Golynin.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with one of the SHL’s brightest young scoring prospects, Arkady Golynin of the Dakota Jackalopes.  Arkady, thanks for speaking with us.

Arkady Golynin: It is a great honor.  Thank you very much.

SHLD: You’re not a household name, but with the way you’ve been playing, you might be on your way to becoming one.  Last season, in your rookie year, you broke out with 23 goals.  This year, you’re on pace to match that mark. What’s the secret to your success?

AG: I have a good shot.  When I was a boy, I drew a box on the side of my house.  Every day I practiced shots at the box.  Aim for this corner, that corner, in the five-hole.  After many years, I got it so that I could make my shots with my eyes closed.  Now when I am on the ice, in the middle of a big game, I just pretend I am looking at the box.

SHLD: A born shooter like you must really enjoy playing for a team like Dakota, which is geared toward offense.

AG: Yes, I like it very much.  To me, this is the heart of hockey: speed and skill.  Close timing, skillful passes.  It is a ballet on skates, and it is beautiful.

SHLD: Obviously, other teams in the league have a very different philosophy, teams like Michigan and Quebec.

AG: Yes, their style is heavy and hard.  Hard hits, blood on the ice.  I think it is ugly, but I know it is Canadian and American style.  In Russia, we grew up on the game of Tarasov, Tretiak, like that.  Very fluid and beautiful.

SHLD: You are one of the smaller players in the league at only 5’7″.  Some of the league’s harder-hitting defensemen have targeted you because of your size, figuring they can push you around.

AG: Yes, but they are slow and I can skate around them! (laughs)

SHLD: So you don’t find that your size is a challenge when playing hockey at the highest level?

AG: No, I do not.  In the end, it is the skill that makes the player, not the height.  Would I like to be a tall man like Jumbo Joe [Freedlander]?  Maybe it would be nice, especially when dealing with ladies.  But for hockey, I am happy to be just as I am.

SHLD: Let’s talk about the Jackalopes for a moment.  Despite playing in a beautiful style, as you put it, you haven’t been able to keep up with the division powers in Michigan and Anchorage.  What do you think has held you back from greater success?

AG: It is difficult for me to say.  But I think one important thing is that those teams, they can dictate their type of play.  Michigan likes to slow it down, and it is very hard to prevent that.  Anchorage is faster, but they are very smart with possession; they control the ice.

SHLD: There’s some talk about Dakota rebuilding this offseason.  Are you worried what might happen to the team in the future?

AG: I have many friends on the team, and I will be said if they are not around anymore.  But I am sure we will still have many good players, and we will still be a good team.

SHLD: One last question.  You’ve been in Dakota for almost two years now.  Have you ever seen a jackalope?

AG: (laughs) When I was a rookie, some of the older guys on the team took me and the other rookie out to the Badlands to go on a jackalope hunt.  They sent us rookies out ahead to do “scouting,” while they went back to Wall Drug and had some beers.  I never saw a jackalopes, but I saw a snake.  I do not get along with snakes at all.  When I saw him, I think I ran all the way out of the Badlands by myself.

SHLD: Sounds like quite the adventure!  Well, thank you for your time, Arkady, and best of luck.

AG: This was a fun talk.  I hope we can do it again.

Jackalopes Go “Fauxback” on ’70s Night

The throwback trend has become increasingly popular in sports in recent years.  A team will wear the uniforms it wore in a bygone era, and will often incorporate musical and visual cues to evoke the time period in question.  Fans often get into the spirit by wearing vintage clothes or team apparel.  All in all, it’s a fun time for everybody.

But what if you’re the Dakota Jackalopes, and you decide to throw back to a time – the 1970s – when your team didn’t exist?  What do you wear then?

Dakota Jackalopes Fauxback Uniform

For the Jackalopes, the answer is the “fauxback.”  A fauxback uniform is designed to look like a uniform from a previous era, but it’s one that didn’t actually exist.  The MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays pioneered the fauxback trend, creating 1979-style uniforms that have proven wildly popular with fans.  The Jackalopes decided to follow in the Rays’ footsteps for their “’70s Night” promotion on ______ against the _______________.

According to Dakota GM Paul Mindegaard, the idea was born when the team changed its name from the Rapids to the Jackalopes during the offseason.  When the team redesigned its uniforms to reflect the new name, they commissioned multiple different design concepts.  Mindegaard said that the runner-up design was frequently referred to as “a ’70s kind of look.”  Although the team ultimately chose a different design, “a lot of people on staff really liked the ’70s-looking one.  So we thought, why not run with it?”

In order to maximize the ’70s-ness of it all, the team traded in their standard red-and-white color scheme for a brown-and-tan look.  When the fauxback uniforms were unveiled to the players before the season, the initial reaction was a little skeptical.  “Brown isn’t a color you usually associate with sports,” said LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston.  “We thought it would look like we were driving for UPS.”

But as the throwback day drew closer, the team grew to embrace the new look.  “We actually started thinking it was pretty cool,” said Airston.  “It was something different that other teams don’t do.  And the ’70s were kind of a cool time anyway.”  The team started wearing the fauxbacks in practice, with a soundtrack of ’70s disco and funk to back it up.

Fauxback Logo

For ’70s Night itself, the team went all out to evoke the era.  In addition to the fauxback uniforms, coach Harold Engellund dressed in a glen plaid suit and a suitably wide tie.  “I had to dig pretty far back in my closet,” joked the coach, “but I found it.”  The team replaced the modern logo with the fauxback one throughout the arena, even going so far as to serve sodas and beers in cups with the “old” logo.  The usual modern pop and rock musical selections were replaced with the disco and funk tunes the team had played in its practices.  The Jumbotron even switched to a ’70s-style dot matrix display.

“We really wanted fans to feel like they’d stepped into a time machine,” said Mindegaard.

Between the second and third period, the team held a costume contest for fans dressed in vintage apparel.  The winning fan – who was dressed like a student from “Welcome Back, Kotter” – received tickets to a future Jackalopes game.  At the end of the game, the team raffled off the fauxback jerseys; judging by the number of fans who bought raffle tickets, the promotion was a hit.

Mindegaard said that the team was “really thrilled” with the success of the promotion.  “I’ve been getting flooded with emails and calls asking when we’re going to do it again,” said the Dakota GM.  “We’d only planned on doing it once, but given how popular it was, we might need to make this a recurring thing.  It’s pretty groovy!”

Engellund On Hot Seat Again

Groundhog Day seems to be coming early for the Dakota Jackalopes and coach Harold Engellund this season.  Last year, Dakota came into the season with high expectations.  But when they stumbled out of the gate with a sub-.500 record, Engellund’s job was reported to be in jeopardy.  Shortly thereafter, the team rallied around their coach and went on a winning streak, and Engellund was spared.  This season, the Jackalopes spent heavily on trades and free agents and again came into the season expecting great things.  But they’re off to a sub-.500 start again, and Engellund is reportedly on the hot seat… again.

Harold Engellund

“The sense here is that ownership has spent a lot of money building a contender,” said a team source.  “And we’re still seeing average results.  At some point, you’ve got to start wondering if Harold is the coach that can get us to the next level.”

After the Jackalopes allowed six goals in the third period in a 7-4 loss to Anchorage, Engellund was asked about his job security.  “It’s not like I’m not used to this,” said the coach.  “This is a results-based business, and we’re not having the kind of results that would make me secure.  I know that the only way you stop the rumors is by winning.”

Prior to the season, the Jackalopes made perhaps more moves to improve than any other team in the league.  They bolstered their already-potent offense by trading for C Mike Rivera from New York, and aimed to shore up their defense by signing Rusty Anderson from Washington and acquiring Scott Hexton from Hershey.

The results?  Dakota’s offense has been even better than last year; their 104 goals are the most in the league.  Rivera (7 goals, 20 assists) has fit right in with the Jackalopes’ fast-paced attack.  But the defense, if anything, has taken a step back.  They’ve allowed 94 goals (they allowed 86 through this point last year).  The blueline corps itself has posted similar stats to last season; it’s the goaltending that has slipped a notch.

Last season, one of the points of contention between Engellund and the Dakota front office revolved around the net.  Engellund reportedly preferred veteran Jesse Clarkson, while the front office wanted prospect Christien Adamsson to get more playing time.  The team wound up trading Clarkson at the deadline, clearing the way for Adamsson (in conjunction with another youngster, Buzz Carson, who came over in the Clarkson deal).  The duo has combined to post an .899 save percentage; only cellar-dwelling Seattle is worse.

It all adds up to a so-so team, which is not what small-market Dakota wants to see.  The team is reportedly losing money at a concerning rate, and if the team isn’t going to challenge for the Vandy in its current form, ownership would like to tighten its belt and cut payroll.  Others within the front office, though, think that the Jackalopes can contend with the current roster, and that Engellund isn’t a strong enough leader to get the most out of the team.

Engellund remains popular with the players, a definite point in his favor.  But some in the organization feel that he is too close to the players, and is unwilling to call them out or push them hard.

“I don’t think there’s any magic bullet here,” said the coach.  “It’s a tough division, and Michigan and Anchorage set a high bar.  But that’s the bar we’ve got to clear.”

Asked if he was tired of the constant speculation about his employment status, Engellund said, “Well, yeah, it gets old.  At some point, you want to fish or cut bait.  But that’s how it is in this line of work.  There’s no tenure in coaching, no life appointment.  You do the job or you’re out the door.”

Jackalopes LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston strongly defended his coach this week.  “If you ask around the locker room, you’ll find out in a hurry that we’re all behind Coach Engellund 100%,” said Airston.  “Every one of us is happy that he’s in charge.  I’m sick of these rumors coming out of nowhere that Coach Engellund needs to go.  If the front office isn’t happy, they should man up and say it in public.  And don’t point the finger at Coach Engellund.  He’s not the problem.”

But Engellund himself said it best: It’s a results-based business.  As long as ownership expects a championship contender and the Jackalopes don’t deliver, the coach and players alike will be on the hot seat.

SHL Player of the Week – Week 4

Lars Karlsson

The SHL selected Dakota Jackalopes C Lars Karlsson as its Player of the Week.  Karlsson had a strong week, putting up 5 goals and 9 points.  His performance helped vault him into the league’s top 10 in both categories.

Karlsson’s most impressive performance came on Wednesday, when he had a hat trick and added two assists in the Jackalopes’ 7-3 win over Hershey.  Karlsson and teammate Matt Cherner (1 goal, 4 assists) became the first two players to record five-point games this season.

“Lars has been one of our cornerstones since the beginning,” said Jackalopes coach Harold Engellund.  “He’s got a terrific motor, and he’s not afraid to do the dirty work on both ends of the ice. “

SHL 2017 Season Preview – West

Michigan Gray Wolves

The defending SHL champions return largely intact for the 2017 season.  They lost only one significant contributor in D Patrick Banks, who went to Washington in free agency (rookie Brooks Zabielski takes over Banks’ spot in the third pairing).  But the loss of Banks should be offset by the arrival of LW Todd Douglas, bumping struggling Travis Gauss to the bench.  While their offense – particularly LW Vladimir Beruschko – showed some signs of age last season, the Wolves’ dominant defense and the peerless goaltending of Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist remain as strong as ever.  And it seems unlikely that coach Ron Wright will let the team rest on its laurels.  So what could slow them down?  The West is a tough division; Anchorage and Dakota should put up strong challenges.  But the biggest risk this team faces is injury, particularly to Lundquist.  If their star netminder goes down for any extended period, is rookie Brooks Copeland up to the job?  The Wolves hope they won’t have to find out.

 

Anchorage Igloos

The Igloos have made no secret of their desire to get back to the form that won them the 2015 SHL title.  Have they made the progress they needed?  It’s possible.  The biggest new addition is LW Ben Summers, a 10-goal scorer with New York last season.  He replaced Misha Petronov, whom the Igloos let go after a disappointing season.  But Anchorage’s fortunes are likely to hinge on the performance of their youngsters and their stars.  The Igloos are moving LW Les Collins, who had a breakout 35-point season in 2016, up the second line; they’re depending on him continuing to blossom as a scorer.  Their third defensive pairing is also new, combining rookie Tony Citrone with Sebastian Pomfret, who looked solid in limited action last year.  If those three have strong seasons, Anchorage should do well.  But their title chances likely rest on the shoulder of sniper Jake Frost.  Last season, Frost put up 45 goals, which would be a fine year for most players but an off year by Frost’s standards.  Since he is the key to Anchorage’s offense, a return to his typical output would make the Igloos dangerous.  If he has another off season, they’re likely to come up short again.

 

Dakota Jackalopes

For 2017, the Jackalopes have a new name (they changed from the Rapids) and a number of new faces.  After a couple disappointing seasons falling well short of contention, Dakota’s hoping that combination will be enough to help them catch up with the Western powers.  They did more to improve themselves than any other contender, adding C Mike Rivera via trade and D Rusty Anderson in free agency.  They also acquired D Scott Hexton from Hershey to make their defense that much stouter.  While the Jackalopes will always be an offense-first club, they’re arguably stronger on both sides of the puck than they’ve ever been.  If they were in the weaker East, Dakota would be at least a co-favorite to win the division.  This is the West, though.  If there’s an area where the Jackalopes may come up short, it’s between the pipes.  They’re relying on a pair of young goalies, Buzz Carson and Christien Adamsson.  Carson, the likely starter, had an impressive rookie season in 2016, and clearly improved as the season went on.  But nobody considers Carson to be in the same class as Michigan’s Lundquist or Anchorage’s Ty Worthington.  If Dakota finishes out of the money yet again, they may wind up ruing the day the front office ran Jesse Clarkson out of town.  But if Carson can take another step forward, the Jackalopes’ high-octane offense would make them a dangerous team.

 

Saskatchewan Shockers

Last season was a tale of two halves for the Shockers.  In the first 30 games, the fine goaltending of Zeke Zagurski and the scoring punch of rookie winger Troy Chamberlain had Saskatchewan hovering around the .500 mark and attracting notice as a young team on the rise.  The second half saw a dramatic fall from grace, as the Shockers lost 11 of their final 13 games and 23 of their last 30, and the team suffered a string of embarrassing personnel incidents that suggested a franchise coming apart at the seams.  The team improved in the offseason, drafting C Elliott Rafferty and trading for veteran G Oliver Richardson to back up Zagurski.  But the Shockers clearly lag far behind the contenders, with a subpar offense and a mediocre defense.  As a result, there are far more questions than answers headed into 2017.  Is coach Myron Beasley’s job in jeopardy if the Shockers stumble out of the gate, or fade in the second half again?  Can the front office get its act together and run the team in a more professional manner?  Can the team’s slow but steady building plan ever lift Saskatchewan into contention?  Should they consider dealing Zagurski and other veterans and go for a hard rebuild?  Can the team last in Saskatoon, or will owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz be forced to relocate?  Will the team ever abandon its bizarre yellow-and-seafoam color scheme?  Can this team ever be a real contender, or will they forever be a poorly-run, mistake-prone joke?  It’s hard to know what the future holds for this truly strange team, but it’s safe to expect that there won’t be a ton of wins this season.

 

Seattle Sailors

The Sailors had a rough inaugural season, looking weak on both ends of the ice.  Their star rookie, RW Vince Mango, turning in a disappointing campaign, scoring only 33 goals and lacking the explosive shot that made him such a highly-regarded prospect.  The Sailors are likely to finish last again, so the 2017 season is all about showing signs of growth.  The team defied expectations to draft LW Rod “Money” Argent with the top pick in the draft; Seattle hopes that he’ll add some scoring punch to the top line and force opposing defenses to stop overloading on Mango.  The Sailors will be eager to see progress from Mango, Argent, and D Benny Lambert.  In a surprising signing, they added D Timothy “Cyclone” Winston to bolster their leaky blueline corps; the defense is still nowhere near Michigan’s level, but it should be better.  Last season, goalie Rocky Goldmire struggled and looked shell-shocked at times; a stronger defense should help him get more comfortable in the crease.  If Seattle’s going to become a contender down the road, they’ll need to see their young core come together and take a step forward.  They’ll also need to decide if volatile coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan has the temperament to be a leader of men.  Sailors fans should try not to fixate on the win-loss record this season; instead they should watch to see if they have a solid foundation for the future.

Dakota Unveils New Name, Uniforms

When the Dakota Rapids take the ice next season, they’ll be doing so under a different name.  Team owner Roger Scott revealed on Friday that starting in the 2017 season, the Rapids will be known as the Dakota Jackalopes.

“This has always been Dakota’s team,” said Scott.  “We’ve always looked for ways to increase our ties with the local community.  But when I’ve talked to our fans, both in the arena and out on the street, they’ve told me that the name ‘Rapids’ didn’t really resonate with them.  It felt a little too generic.  So I thought: what says Dakota better than a jackalope?”

Although the first jackalopes originated in Wyoming in the 1930s, they quickly spread to South Dakota and have been a mainstay of local folklore ever since.  While the actual creature can be elusive, mounted heads and jackalope-themed merchandise can be found all over the state.  Perhaps the most famous example is the giant jackalope statue located at Wall Drug.

“I expect the new name to be a big hit,” said Scott.  “If you don’t love the jackalope, you have no heart.”

Along with the name, Scott unveiled the team’s new logo – a roundel with a leaping jackalope in the center – as well as new uniforms.  The new unis retain the crimson and cream from their previous color scheme; however, green is no longer present in the team’s uniforms or logo.  The new threads also retain Dakota’s triple-stripe motif.  The leaping jackalope crest is prominent on both home and road uniforms.

New Home Uniforms

“Our old uniforms were too busy and didn’t establish a consistent look,” Scott noted.  “We wanted something clean and fresh, while still being traditional and tied to our old look.”

Star LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, who modeled the new home jersey at the event, is excited about the new name.  “To me, it’s the perfect name,” said Airston.  “Jackalopes are fast but ferocious, just like us.  They look cute from a distance, but you don’t want to mess with them up close.  Plus, you all know how I feel about bunnies, and the jackalope is a close cousin.  I love it!”

G Christien Adamsson, modeling the road jersey, shared Airston’s enthusiasm.  “It’s a name that’s perfectly local,” said the South Dakota native.  “The fans here will go crazy for it.”

The defending SHL champion Michigan Gray Wolves, one of Dakota’s rivals in the West, issued a press release congratulating the Jackalopes on their new name.  “We look forward to doing battle with the Jackalopes next season,” read the release.  “We’re sure there’s no truth to the rumor that Dakota’s odds of winning the Vandy are slimmer than the odds of finding a jackalope in the wild.”