CHL Update: Spuds Stop Rhinos in 6 to Claim Title

The Idaho Spuds were an unlikely contender in the CHL.  Last season, playing as the Muncie Squirrels, they finished fourth in their division.  Their rebuilding parent club, the Dakota Jackalopes, called up several of the best prospects from that squad.  The Spuds received a warm reception in their new home, regularly selling out Treasure Valley Arena.  But the idea that they’d finish above .500, much less make the playoffs, seemed far-fetched to most observers.

However, coach Gilbert McCoyne wasn’t interested in what most observers thought.  “I wasn’t about to put any limits on what we could achieve,” McCoyne said.  “I just told my guys, ‘Why not us?’”

McCoyne’s power-of-positive-thinking approach paid dividends.  Idaho not only made the playoffs, they dismissed the heavily-favored division-winning Omaha Ashcats in a stunning sweep.  Then in the Finals, they dethroned the defending champion Virginia Rhinos in six games to win their first-ever Howard Trophy.

“This season has been one wild ride!” said Spuds C Dale Wilcox.  “We never gave up and never stopped believing, and now we’re the champs!”

The series opened in Boise in front of another pair of sellout crowds, and the Spuds gave their fans plenty to cheer about.  In Game 1, fueled by the energy of their fans, a fired-up Idaho team outshot the Rhinos 32-20.  The Spuds capitalized on their power play opportunities, going 3-for-4 in man-advantage situations, and goalie Kelvin White registered a shutout in a 3-0 Idaho win.  In Game 2, the Spuds once again had a huge advantage in shots, outshooting Virginia 43-23, but White wasn’t quite as sharp.  Idaho squandered a 4-2 lead in the third period when Rhinos LW Yuri Laronov and LW Errol Garner scored 90 seconds apart, but RW Britt Cadmium came through with what proved to be the game-winning goal in a 5-4 triumph.

The Rhinos regained their footing a bit in the middle three games, which took place on their ice.  In Game 3, Virginia got a pair of second-period goals from Laronov and D Gustaf Bergstrom, and goalie Quentin Chislic stopped all 30 Idaho shots for a 2-0 win.  In Game 4, Virginia got the early edge, only to see Idaho seize control of the game in the second on the way to a 6-2 blowout that included three third-period goals.  Staring at elimination, the Rhinos pushed back in Game 5, building a 3-0 lead through the first forty minutes.  The Spuds pushed back in the third, putting up another three-goal frame, but Virginia held on for a 5-3 win.  C Trent Harlow scored two goals in a winning effort for the defending champs.

With the action shifting back to Treasure Valley Arena for Game 6, the Spuds were looking for the quick kill, while the Rhinos were looking to prove that they could be competitive away from home.  Idaho controlled the play once again, outshooting Virginia 38-26, but Chislic kept the Rhinos in the game.  LW Van Dyke Browning scored in the opening minute to give Idaho a quick edge, but Rhinos D Gunther Stephens answered less than four minutes later to tie things up.  The Spuds got back in front in the second on a score by D Brett Stolte, and D Georg Ochre made it 3-1 early in the third with a blast from the top of the faceoff circle.  Idaho then endangered their lead with a string of minor penalties, and Bergstrom finally converted with just over five minutes remaining to pull Virginia within one.  The Spuds managed to stay out of the penalty box after that, though, and the Rhinos couldn’t come up with an equalizer in the time remaining.

Ochre, who led all Idaho scorers with 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists), earned the Finals MVP honors.  His teammates mobbed the quiet, rugged defenseman they fondly call “The Ogre.”  As Wilcox quipped, “I can’t wait to hear the Ogre’s acceptance speech, ‘cause it’ll be the first time he’s said more than two words in a row.”

For many of the Spuds, their next challenge will come in the SHL, as they’re called up and tasked with reviving the Jackalopes’ sagging fortunes.  “Making it in the SHL is a different kind of challenge,” admitted Wilcox.  “But we’ve gotten this far by believing in ourselves, so why not keep going?”

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CHL Update: Rhinos to Defend Title Against Spuds

This year’s CHL finals present an interesting contrast.  One team has been in the finals every year of the league’s existence, and is bidding for back-to-back titles after surviving a back-and-forth first-round series that went the distance.  The other club is in its first year in a new city, and is trying to go all the way in its first-ever postseason appearance, coming off of a surprising sweep of the league’s best regular-season team.

In the East, the Virginia Rhinos are getting to be old hands at the postseason; this is their third straight trip.  Despite losing a number of key contributors from last season’s title-winning squad, the Rhinos managed to eke out the top seed in a closely-packed division.  But Virginia wasn’t the least bit embarrassed or deterred by their narrow playoff qualification; they remain fixated on the ultimate goal.  “We’re all focused on the repeat,” said RW Chris Quake.  “No one in here doubts that we can pull it off.”

In the division playoff, they faced the Cleveland Centurions, who sported the league’s best regular-season defense.  The Rhinos hunkered down for what they knew would be a tense, hard-fought battle.  Game 1 was a chippy affair with a slew of penalties, a couple of fights, and not a lot of offense (28 shots between both teams).  Virginia got goals from Quake and LW Jayden Gunn, while goalie Quentin Chislic stopped all 16 Cleveland shots for a 2-0 shutout.  In Game 2, the Rhinos rallied from behind with a pair of third-period tallies just 29 seconds apart from C Marvin Cascio and LW Yuri Laronov, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory.  The action shifted to the shores of Lake Erie for Games 3 and 4, and the Centurions battled back.  In Game 3, Rhinos C Trent Harlow notched a third-period goal to erase another deficit and force overtime, but Cleveland C Phoenix Cage scored 36 seconds into the extra session to stave off elimination with a 2-1 win.  In Game 4, Centurions netminder Eugene Looney came up big, stopping all 27 shots in a 3-0 triumph to force a fifth game back in Virginia Beach.  But in the deciding game, it was Chislic’s turn for another shutout (24 saves) as D Roscoe “Ruckus” Corbetta netted two to lead the 3-0 series-clinching victory.

“That was a tough series, for sure,” said Corbetta.  “But it got us tuned up, and we’re firing on all cylinders now and playing our best hockey.”

Virginia’s Finals opponent will be the Idaho Spuds, who played to sellout crowds after moving from Muncie in the offseason.  The Spuds came into the postseason with the CHL’s top-ranked offense (3.6 goals per game), but they had a lackluster performance in the last few weeks of the regular season, and they were largely written off in their first-round series against the heavily favored Omaha Ashcats.

But the boys in russet brown not only beat the Ashcats, they did so in a stunning three-game sweep.  In Game 1, they buried Omaha in an avalanche of shots (45 vs. the Ashcats’ 22) and scored three goals (from LW Rick Crisak, D Victor Addison, and LW Terry Cresson) before the game was 3 minutes old, on the way to a 4-2 win.  For Game 2, Ashcats coach Butch Slazenger switched goalies from Bill Bates to Jim Fleetwood.  Fleetwood did a better job, stopping 28 of 30 shots, but Spuds LW Van Dyke Browning scored three minutes into overtime for a 2-1 win.  In order for Omaha to rally in the series, they’d have to win twice on enemy ice.  Slazenger raised a number of eyebrows by going back to Bates for Game 3, a decision that looked foolish when Idaho went up 2-0 by the first minute of the second period.  The Ashcats rallied back to tie thanks to tallies from blueliners Trevor Lockwood and Lowell Sharkey.  With just over three minutes left in regulation, however, Spuds C Jacob Cunniff scored a power-play goal that would prove to be the difference in a 3-2 contest.  Treasure Valley Arena – sold out as usual – exploded in cheers as the players formed a celebratory circle in front of their net.

“We’re probably going to be the underdogs again in the final, since [the Rhinos are] the defending champs,” said Idaho coach Gilbert McCoyne.  “But we like that underdog role.  If anyone’s thinking of sleeping on us, they’d better think again, because we’re ready to shock the world.”

CHL Update: Playoff Picture Clicks Into Place

The SHL’s minor league, the Continental Hockey League, wrapped up its regular season this week.  Both divisions weren’t resolved until the final week, with the wide-open, topsy-turvy East going down to the very last day.  As usual, the division series will be best-of-five, with the winners facing off in a best-of-seven Finals with the Howard Trophy at stake.  Here’s a preview of the first-round matchups:

Eastern Division

The defending champion Virginia Rhinos battled through a bumpy season.  Several of their key contributors from last season departed; Ds Rennie Cox and Blake Blacklett were called up by the parent Saskatchewan Shockers, while starting goalie Gus Parrish departed in free agency. The Rhinos suffered another blow when C Tanner Brooks, who was in the midst of a breakout season, was moved in a deadline trade.  But the Rhinos held on in the closely contested East (only seven points separated first place from last) and won their third straight division title.  As befits their just-above-.500 record, the Rhinos were in the middle of the pack this year on offense and GAA.  The secret to their success has been special team; both their power play (20.9% conversion rate) and penalty kill (85.1%) were second-best in the league.  Virginia also did a good job staying out of the penalty boxes; their 585 PIMs were the CHL’s fewest.  Even though they just squeaked into the postseason, the Rhinos are eager to defend their title and confident that their past experience will serve them well.  “We do not get scared in the big situations,” said LW Yuri Laronov, whose 29 goals led the team.  “This has all happened for us before.”

The Cleveland Centurions didn’t secure a spot in the postseason until the last day of the regular season, when they beat the Oshawa Drive 2-1 to leapfrog the Canadian club into second place.  Like their parent club, the Michigan Gray Wolves, the Centurions are built around defense and goaltending.  Cleveland allowed only 21.8 shots per game, the fewest in the league by far, and 19-year-old Eugene Looney (19-15-1, 1.84 GAA, .914 save percentage) had a breakout season in net.  They’ve also got some punch on offense, with a trio of 20-goal scorers in LW Fendrick Scanlan, C Phoenix Cage, and RW Steve Brandon.  And like the Rhinos, they excel on special teams; their 24.8% power-play percentage led the league, while their 84% penalty kill percentage was fourth.  In the end, though, Cleveland wins when they can bang bodies, control the neutral zone, and slow the pace of the game.  “We don’t play pretty hockey,” admitted D Burton Cullidge.  “But guess what?  Life ain’t pretty either.  Ugly and effective beats pretty and soft every time.”

 

Western Division

The Omaha Ashcats were the only CHL team to punch their playoff ticket last week, completing a worst-to-first turnaround that they celebrated memorably with their “World’s Smallest Playoff Parade.”  The Ashcats are a strong team at both ends of the ice; they had the third-most goals in the league and finished fourth in GAA.  They have one of the league’s best offensive defensemen in Brandon Lockwood (22 goals, 33 assists).  They don’t have any players on the offensive leaderboards, but they have a couple of quality scorers in RW Adriaen van der Veen (23 goals, 26 assists in 44 games) and LW Aaron Knorr (25 goals).  They have a pair of strong goalies in Bill Bates (22-8-2, 2.19 GAA, .920 save percentage) and rookie Jim Fleetwood (6-5-0, 2.16, .913).  Several of these players are likely to be called up to the parent Kansas City Smoke next season, so this season may have a bit of a last-dance quality for the squad.  “It’s been great for me watching this team grow up and grow together over the season,” said coach Butch Slazenger.  “Now I want to see us take the next step and go all the way to the title.”

Like the Ashcats, the Idaho Spuds sailed through most of the year in comfortable playoff position.  They cooled off a bit toward the end of the season, though, and ultimately had to withstand a late charge from the defending division champion Minnesota Freeze in order to clinch their postseason spot.  The Spuds’ success has been built on a potent offense.  They scored 233 goals this season, far and away the most in the league; their +65 plus-minus rating is by far the league’s best.  They have three of the CHL’s top 10 goal scorers (D Brady Prussian with 31 – tied for the league lead, C Dale Wilcox with 29, and LW Terry Cresson with 28) and three of the top 10 assist leaders (Wilcox with a league-leading 51, RW Dylan Alizarin with 47, and Cresson with 37).  Idaho’s firewagon style meant that they gave up a lot of shots (30.9 per game, second-most in the CHL), but they got strong work from netminders Kelvin White (20-16-4, 2.44, .917) and Xavier St. Pierre (12-9-1, 3.28, .901).  They’re especially dangerous on their own ice: their 22-7-3 mark at Treasure Valley Arena was the league’s best home record.  If there’s a big hole in their game, it’s the penalty kill; their 78.5% kill rate was second-worst in the league, and they took 699 penalty minutes, which is the third-highest.  They come into the postseason on a cold streak, having lost 7 of their last 11 games.  Like the Ashcats, there’s a good chance that several of these players will be toiling for the parent Dakota Jackalopes next season.  Coach Gilbert McCoyne believes that the Spuds’ high-powered offense will be too much for Omaha to handle.  “We’re a well-oiled scoring machine,” said McCoyne.  “When we’re on, nothing can slow us down.  I think we’ll just run past [the Ashcats] and bury ‘em in an avalanche of goals.”

CHL Update: Ashcats Celebrate Playoffs With “World’s Smallest Parade”

This season has seen a remarkable turnaround for the Omaha Ashcats.  Last season, the Kansas City Smoke affiliate finished dead last in the West, thanks in large part to a late-season swoon that got so bad that superfan Karl Loesser (aka “Krazy Karl”) staged a “live-in,” during which he refused to leave the arena until the team won.

This year, thanks to an influx of young prospects, the Ashcats have been at or near the top of their division all season long.  They sent an impressive four players to the CHL All-Star Game, several of whom have since been promoted to the SHL.  The Omaha fans have largely stuck by the team in good times and bad, but the atmosphere has definitely been more festive now that the team is winning.

This week, the Ashcats completed their turnaround by clinching a playoff spot with a 3-2 win over the Utah Owls.  Naturally, the fans wanted to celebrate… and Krazy Karl was there to lead the way.

“No one lives and dies with this team quite like Krazy Karl,” said Ashcats GM Steve Galesko.  “This season has been a real thrill ride for him.”

In order to celebrate the Ashcats’ triumph, Loesser wanted to hold a parade in downtown Omaha.  He quickly realized this plan would be impractical.  “Permits, building floats, all that stuff… that’s not for me,” the superfan told reporters.

Instead, Krazy Karl talked to the Aschats management about a smaller-scale parade that could take place inside the arena.  On Saturday, the team staged what Loesser dubbed “The World’s Smallest Playoff Parade.”  As he put it: “You know the saying ‘Go big or go home?’  I decided to go small instead.”

The parade route consisted of a loop around the main concourse of the Ashcats’ arena, the Switching Yard.  Loesser naturally led the parade, wearing a drum major outfit and a sash with the words “#1 FAN” and blowing his trademark railroad whistle.

Behind him came a series of “floats” that rode on top of little red wagons.  The “floats” included cardboard cutouts of Omaha players, mannequins dressed in Ashcats uniforms, inflatable hockey goals, and a paper-mache rendition of the team’s logo, built by Krazy Karl himself.  “It’s not exactly true to life,” admitted Loesser, “but hey, it’s my first time with paper mache.”

In lieu of a marching band, the parade featured a group of elementary schoolers wearing Omaha jerseys and railroad engineer hats, playing songs on recorders, kazoos, and slide whistles.  “They sure were… enthusiastic,” said one parade-goer.

Galesko, coach Butch Slazenger, and several players also appeared in the parade.  In a normal parade, they might have ridden in the back of a convertible or on top of a bus.  In Krazy Karl’s version, they sat on lawn chairs on top of platform trucks pushed by members of the Cool Cats, the team’s fan club.  The players and staff threw plastic necklaces, candy, stress balls, and leftover promotional items to the fans lining the concourse.

“It was pretty cool,” said D Lowell Sharkey, who rode on one of the makeshift cars.  “I think the guy pushing me had had a few beers, and he had a hard time pushing in a straight line, but it worked out okay.”

Engineer Eddie, the Ashcats’ mascot, ran up and down the parade route high-fiving fans, signing autographs, and handing out trinkets.  At one point, Eddie hopped up on Sharkey’s platform and began wiggling his tail at passersby.  “I think Eddie might have had a few beers too,” said Sharkey.  “I don’t know why he didn’t bring me any.”

Loesser proclaimed the parade a “total and unqualified success.  This was a true fan’s celebration, and it just proves again that the fans here in Omaha are the best in hockey.  Krazy Karl out!”

“Overall, it was a really fun experience, and our fans loved it,” said Galesko.  “The credit goes to Krazy Karl, for dreaming this up and figuring out a way to see it through.  The only downside of it for me is that they put me right in front of the kids’ band, and all those recorders.  But I’m sure the headache will go away eventually.”

CHL Update: Freeze-Moose Dud Prompts Coach’s Call for Refund

As a minor league, the CHL is focused on player development; the on-ice results, while important, are ultimately secondary.  This can sometimes mean that the games themselves aren’t of the highest artistic or competitive caliber.  Sunday’s contest between the Minnesota Freeze and the Maine Moose, though, was so bad that Moose coach Barney Flintridge called for refunds… on behalf of the opposing fans.

What made the game – a 2-0 Minnesota victory – such a dud?  Start with the offenses.  The two teams produced a total of 28 shots – combined – in the contest.  The Moose fired a total of 16 shots, while the victorious Freeze had only 12.  Worse yet, the action declined as the game went on.  In the first period, the teams combined for 13 shots, a fairly respectable number for two defense-minded teams like these.  But across the final two periods, Maine and Minnesota had only 15 shots between them.

And it’s not as though that number concealed a big number of narrow misses or blocked shots, either.  Both teams worked throughout the game to deny entry into the offensive end, meaning that much of the action stalled out in the neutral zone.  And once Minnesota scored a pair of goals in the second, they sat on their lead and focused on keeping the puck away from the Moose, the hockey equivalent of basketball’s old four-corner stall.

There weren’t any fights or big checks to liven up the action, either.  There were a total of four penalties called in the game, all minors: one puck-over-glass penalty, an embellishment call, and a pair of high sticks.

Barney Flintridge

After the game, Flintridge – often a prickly interview – roasted the game in no uncertain terms.  “In my 40 years playing and coaching at every level of this sport, that was the worst game I’ve ever seen,” said Flintridge.  “Just garbage from beginning to end, ugly and boring.  They say hockey is the world’s fastest and most exciting sport, but you wouldn’t know it from watching this game.  My biggest challenge during this game was not falling asleep on the bench.”

The coach then bashed the Freeze’s decision to grind clock once they got ahead.  “At the beginning, at least it sort of looked like hockey,” Flintridge said.  “But once [Minnesota] got a couple-goal lead, they turtled for a period and a half.  Just disgraceful.  And my guys should have tried to break that, but I think they must have taken sleeping pills on the flight out here, and they hadn’t worn off yet.”

Flintridge concluded his harangue with an appeal to the fans.  “If any of the fans out there were watching hockey for the first time, I’m sorry.  It’s not like this most of the time.  I imagine some of the fans were just happy because they won, but the rest of you should demand a refund.  You were promised a hockey game, and instead you got this pile of crap.  At least, [the Freeze] should have given the fans pillows, so they could be comfortable while this was going on.”

Patrick Chillingham

Freeze coach Patrick Chillingham defended his team’s strategy.  “We’re still in the playoff chase, and we’re going to do what it takes to win,” Chillingham said.  “I’m not going to be embarrassed about that.  Besides, it takes two teams to make a slow game.  Barney’s boys weren’t exactly lighting it up out there.  It’s a long season, and not every game’s going to be a barnburner.”

Responding to Flintridge’s call for fan refunds, Chillingham said, “If Barney wants to hand out refunds, he can do it out of his own check.  But I believe our fans were satisfied with this game.  When they come to a Freeze game, our fans are looking for two things: a chance to see tomorrow’s SHL stars, and a home team win.  They got both of those.

“Tell you what, though: the next time the Moose comes to town, we can give Barney a pillow so he can nap on the bench.  I’ll even pay for it.  It must be hard staying up this late at his age.”

CHL Update: Spuds Set Goal Record in Rout of Harpoons

The Idaho Spuds have had a tremendous debut season in their new home.  The Dakota Jackalopes affiliate rocketed off to a strong start this season and hasn’t looked back since.  Barring a collapse, they will make the playoffs.  And their merchandise – which features an angry hockey-playing potato – has become the most popular in the league.

On Thursday at Treasure Valley Arena, the Spuds gave their fans another moment to cherish in a memorable season.  Facing off against the Hartford Harpoons, Idaho set a new CHL record for goals scored in a game during a 12-0 whitewashing.

“We were firing on all cylinders, but it went beyond that,” said Spuds coach Gilbert McCoyne.  “We were firing on cylinders I didn’t even know we had.”

Idaho got the scoring started virtually right out of the gate.  It took only 45 seconds for C Dale Wilcox to record the first goal of the game.  Just 42 seconds after that, Wilcox scored again on a shot that deflected off the right leg of Hartford goalie Jonas Schemko and into the net.  Six and a half minutes later, D Victor Addison cashed in on a power play to make it 3-0.  Later in the period, D Brady Prussian banged home a pair of goals.  By the end of the first period, the Spuds led by five and Schemko was out of the game.

Idaho seemed to throttle back a bit in the second period against backup netminder Jeff Bingley.  LW Terry Cresson scored within the first 90 seconds of the period, and Addison tipped in a rebound for his second goal of the evening in the latter half, but those were the only tallies.  After the frenzied barrage of goals in the first, the middle stanza gave the fans a chance to catch their breath.

The Spuds got things cranked back up again quickly in the third, however.  Forty-seven second in, Wilcox fired a shot over Bingley’s left blocker to complete his hat trick.  The fans sailed their lids onto the ice in tribute.  Just over a minute later, Prussian stuffed one home for a hat trick of his own.  The fans who had held onto their hats during Wilcox’s tally relinquished them now to salute Prussian.  Several of the Spuds tossed their helmets on the ice to augment the total a bit.

“I told Victor he’d better not score again, because there weren’t any hats left in the building,” quipped Prussian.

Addison didn’t score again, but D Rusty Sienna put the Spuds in double digits just over seven and a half minutes into the period with a blast from the blueline that beat a screened Bingley.  The fans barely had time to process that milestone, because RW Dylan Alizarin scored again a mere seven seconds later.  Less than two minutes later, Cresson got has second goal of the game on a wraparound, making it an even dozen.  Amazingly, the Spuds made it through the last half of the final frame without scoring again, which would have tied the Michigan Gray Wolves’ all-time SHL record for highest-scoring shutout.

“Somebody better check on [PA announcer] Brody Watkins,” joked McCoyne after the game.  “He probably got laryngitis from calling out all those goals.  I’d consider him day-to-day at this point.  Hopefully, he can stay off the DL.”

The final stats were staggering.  Four Idaho players had five-point games: Wilcox, Prussian, Addison, and C Jacob Cunniff, who had five assists.  Only three Spuds failed to record a point: LW Rick Crisak, C Sammy Fryer, and D Gray Torian.

Harpoons coach Herman Chambers took the result in stride.  “This only counted as one loss, thank God,” Chambers told reporters.  “It’s not one we’re proud of, but it’s over now.  Let’s bury this game film at the bottom of the ocean and move on.”

CHL Update: Everest’s Remarks Get Chilly Reception from Freeze Fans

Minnesota Freeze C Tanner Everest has shown a great deal of promise this season.  He has persevered through injury and posted promising stats that suggest he could be in the SHL sooner rather than later.  He has also been popular with Freeze fans, who have nicknamed him “The Yeti,” both as a play on his last name and because of his appearance (“big and hairy,” in his words).

Everest might not be so popular with the fans any more, however, after he took some potshots at Duluth (where the Freeze play) and other CHL cities in a recent interview.

Tanner Everest

A local paper decided to do a profile on Everest as part of a series of features about the team that have run thoughout the season.  During the interview, Everest was asked if he is looking forward to making the SHL someday.  “Of course I am!” replied the center.  “That’s what every athlete dreams of: competing at the highest level.”

The interviewer then asked if there was anything in particular that Everest was looking forward to in the SHL.  “Well, for one thing, I can’t wait to take road trips and visit some of the SHL cities.  New York, of course.  DC and Boston, Seattle, KC… there are a lot of cool cities in that league.”

The interviewer then reportedly quipped, “What, Duluth isn’t cool enough for you?”

Everest chuckled and rolled his eyes.  “I mean, come on.  Duluth’s not exactly the Big Apple.  It’s not quite Little House on the Prairie, but it’s close.  And the places we visit… I mean, what’s the biggest place we city?  Salt Lake City?  All those Mormons, it’s not exactly Fun City.  Baltimore?  Lock your doors and keep moving.  Cleveland?  Never seen the sun there once.  Milwaukee’s okay, but it’s cold as hell.  The point is, none of these are places you’d go, like, on purpose.  There’s a reason why they call it the minor leagues, right?”

The profile ran on Sunday, and Everest’s unflattering remarks on Duluth and other CHL cities were front and center.  Everest claimed he had been quoted out of context, a defense that did nothing to stem the fans’ displeasure.

During the Freeze’s next home game on Thursday, the fans reacted to the announcement of Everest’s name with boos.  Several also brought signs with slogans such as “THIS ‘LITTLE HOUSE’ IS NOT YOUR HOME” and “EVEREST: NOT MINNESOTA NICE.”

“Getting booed by your own fans… that’s pretty painful,” Everest admitted.

Later in the week, Everest apologized to fans for his remarks.  “I made some comments that I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry about that,” he told reporters.  “I was trying to joke around with the [reporter], but it came off like I hated it here and in this league, and that’s not true.  I like this league, I like Duluth, and I love the fans here.  I want to go to the SHL someday, but I’m glad I’m here now.  The Yeti messed up, but I hope you forgive me.”

Everest also poked fun at his remarks by filming a commercial for Paul Bunyan’s Pancake House.  In the commercial, Everest first goes to an unnamed restaurant, where he’s served a comically tiny plate of food.  “Hey, what is this, Little House on the Prairie?” he says.  “This is minor-league food!”  Everest then heads to Paul Bunyan’s, where he is served their Bottomless Pancake Stack.  “That’s more like it!” he says.  “Even in a small town, you can get a big meal at Paul Bunyan’s.  Come on down and strap on your feedbag!”

The controversy largely seemed to blow over by the end of the week.  One fan, though, had a final thought: “I hope Tanner realizes that if he does make the SHL, he’s going to play in… Anchorage.  That’s not exactly the Big Apple either.”