Night Ship Garcia to Badgers for Gladchuk

Amid the flurry of activity at the trading deadline, with contenders making both small and large moves to load up for a playoff push, one deal wasn’t like the others.  It was a trade between two non-contending teams that involved no big-name players.  Arguably, there was only one reason that the deal was made: to satisfy Diego Garcia’s trade demand.

Garcia, a 26-year-old winger, has had a productive season with the New York Night’s minor-league affiliate in Utah; his 41 points this season led the team.  But when it became clear that the Night had no intention of promoting him to the big club, Garcia grew disenchanted and demanded to be traded.

Diego Garcia

Three weeks later, New York accommodated Garcia’s demand, sending him to the Boston Badgers, an expansion club that is thirsty for offense.

“We took Diego’s demand seriously,” said Night coach Nick Foster.  “I’ve always been straight with my guys about my plans for them.”  After Garcia made his demand, Foster said that he called the disgruntled winger to talk about his place in the organization.  “I told him my thinking and how I saw our forward situation, and what I thought he’d need to do to crack the lineup here,” the coach told reporters.  “After we talked, Diego felt like he’d prefer to go somewhere that he would have an opportunity right away, and we looked for a chance to make that happen.”

In Garcia, Boston acquires an undeniably talented player, but one whose lackluster work habits and prickly personality have caused him to wear out his welcome in multiple cities.  He posted 9 goals and 22 assists over pieces of three SHL seasons with Dakota, Hamilton, and New York.  He has a reputation as a player who can contribute on offense, especially as a passer.  However, he is considered weak on defense, which makes him an odd fit for a Badgers team that is supposedly built around defense and hard work.

On the other hand, Boston’s need for offense is so acute – they are last in the league in goals scored by a considerable margin – that they may be willing to explore unorthodox choices.  Head coach Cam Prince was an assistant in New York during Garcia’s time there, and he likes what the winger brings to the table.  “Diego is a talented guy who has the explosiveness to make things happen,” said Prince.  “We could use a little extra pace and a spark on offense, and I think he can give us that.”

Shane Gladchuk

In exchange for Garcia and 19-year-old defenseman Horst Hasenkamp, the Badgers sent the Night a pair of players.  The prime return for New York is 29-year-old defenseman Shane Gladchuk, who put up 2 goals and 10 assists in 40 games with Boston.  Gladchuk, who is in his second tour of duty with New York, is expected to join Andy Ruger on the Night’s bottom defensive pairing.

In addition, the Night acquired Alvin Fawn, a 19-year-old prospect who scored 7 points over 36 games in the minors this season.

“Shane is one of those guys who doesn’t grab the headlines, but he does a good steady job,” said Foster.  “We’re looking to tighten up in our own end, and Shane’s just the guy we need to help with that.  If everything works out the way I think it will, I hope we’ll be able to lock him up long-term.”


Night Coach Calls Hamilton Arena A “Dump”

New York Night coach Nick Foster has made no secret of his desire to kindle a feud with the Hamilton Pistols.  Earlier in the season, Foster took a jab at Pistols star Steven Alexander, accusing him of cheating.  This week, he took his war of words up a notch.  After last Friday’s game against the Pistols, which New York lost Foster blasted Hamilton’s arena, the Gunpowder Armory.  Built in 1941, the Armory is the SHL’s oldest facility by far, and Foster ripped the arena as decrepit and disgusting.

Nick Foster

“The place is a total dump,” said Foster.  “The whole joint smells like sweat, cigarette smoke, stale popcorn, and motor oil.  There are rats running around the place that are so big you could slap a saddle on ‘em and go for a ride.  It’s an embarrassment to the league, to tell you the truth.”

When asked what he thought would improve the facility, the Night coach replied: “A bulldozer.”

New York’s arena, the Neon Sky Center, is only five years old, and is well-known for its wide array of concessions options and high number of luxury suites.  “We’re a first-class city, and we have a first-class facility,” said Foster.  “Hamilton is a broken-down, worn-out city, so they have a broken-down dump for an arena.”

Several of the Pistols took umbrage to Foster’s remarks.  “The Armory might not be the most modern arena, but it’s good enough for us,” said coach Keith Shields.  “Hockey’s a blue-collar sport, and this is a blue-collar town and proud of it.  Maybe we’re not fancy enough for Nick, but we don’t need fancy.  We’re just here to have a good time and win some games.”

RW Kenny Patterson, a Toronto native who previously played for New York, stood up for the city.  “Remarks like that are why I was so happy to get out of New York,” said Patterson.  “They’ve got a beautiful building, but it’s an empty shell, just like the team.  Their games are full of so-called fans sipping Chablis in their luxury boxes and ignoring the game.  Me, I’d rather be here, with real fans who drink beer and cheer us on.

“I thought it was an upgrade when [the Night] got rid of [ex-coach Preston] Rivers, but it seems like they just got another guy who likes to run his mouth.  He can’t win on the ice, so he’s taking cheap shots in the papers.  That’s all right; we’ll just take care of our business, just like we did on Friday.”

When told of Shields’ and Patterson’s remarks, Foster laughed and rubbed his hands together.  “We’re cookin’ now, boys!”  the coach crowed.  “I’m Public Enemy Number One!  Can’t wait for the next time we come back to Tank Town.  If that dump doesn’t fill up with boos the minute I walk in, I’ll be disappointed.”

SHL Quote of the Week (Week 4)

“Let’s just say it’s good that sticks are cheap.  Otherwise I’d have to start docking his paycheck.”

  • New York Night GM Royce McCormick, after C Brock Manning snapped a half-dozen sticks in the Night’s 4-3 win over Saskatchewan on Saturday

SHL Quote of the Week (Week 3)

“They should be more grateful.  They don’t recognize what an honor it is to get to watch me play.”

  • New York Night RW “Rick the Stick” Nelson, after getting booed during Friday’s game against Michigan

Interview of the Week: Misha Petronov

This week’s interview is with New York Night LW Misha Petronov.

SHL Digest: Today we’re talking to a player who’s on his way to a breakout season, Misha Petronov of the New York Night.  Misha, thanks for speaking with us.

Misha Petronov

Misha Petronov: Thank you.  I must be having a good season if you are speaking to me.

SHLD: You certainly are!  You’ve always been a steady and solid performer, but you’ve never scored more than 14 goals in a season.  But here we are, only a quarter of the way into the season, and you’ve already scored 11!  How have you reinvented yourself at age 27?

MP: Reinvented?  That is a big word!  I think is better to say I got better.  I spent the offseason getting my best shape.

SHLD: You worked on getting in shape?

MP: Yes, right.  I felt that if I got in my best shape, I could be a better player.  So that’s what I did.

SHLD: What sort of exercise program did you follow?

MP: This might sound silly.  But in my family, we have many ballet dancers.  So I practiced ballet!

SHLD: Ballet!  That’s a pretty unusual fitness regimen for a hockey player.

MP: When my teammates heard that, they made much fun of me.  But it really makes sense.  To be good at ballet, you must be both strong and flexible.  Both of those things are good for hockey.  So I work like a ballerina!

SHLD: Interesting!  So, other than your ballet training, are there any other factors that have contributed to your success?

MP: I must give thanks to Coach [Nick] Foster also.  He believes that too often, we have waited for our top line to deliver the goals, and he wants the rest of us involved.  So he went to guys like me, Trainwreck [Ivan Trujwirnek], and Cat [Sylvester Catarino], and told us: “I want you to be aggressive.  I want to give you more minutes, but you must earn them with strong and aggressive play.”  And he is good for his word.  As we have played better, he has given us minutes.  It makes us a more balanced and stronger team.

SHLD: When you signed with the Night in free agency before last season [3 years, $2.7 million], a lot of critics said that you weren’t worth that kind of money.  Do you feel pressure to live up to your contract?

MP: Pressure, yes, but good pressure.  It gives me fire, to say, “They are paying me a lot of money, so I must work hard to earn it.”  And I do.

SHLD: If you can keep up this pace, you’ll be a bargain!  Before signing with New York, you spent two seasons with Anchorage, where you won a title in 2015.  How different was it with the Igloos as opposed to with the Night?

MP: Very different!  Anchorage is cold and small and far away, almost felt like I was still in Russia. (laughs)  New York is much bigger, more entertaining, tougher.  All the songs are true.  If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.  I had a good time in Anchorage, and I liked my teammates.  But I also have much fun here.

SHLD: What’s your favorite thing in the Big Apple?

MP: I love the Bronx Zoo!  Other guys like the theater or the clubs or the restaurants, but I am very fond of animals.  Almost any time when I am in New York and not at practice or a game, I go to the zoo.

SHLD: Really?  What’s your favorite animal?

MP: I like the giraffe.  It is such a crazy-looking animal with such a long neck.  If my neck were this long, I would fall over.  But the giraffe is graceful and beautiful.  It is amazing!

SHLD: Well, thank you for a very interesting interview, Misha.  Best of luck the rest of the season!

MP: Thank you.  It is fun to be interviewed!


East Full of Surprises Early

Through roughly one-quarter of the SHL season, the race in the Eastern Division has defied expectations.  As Washington Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely put it, “If anybody correctly predicted the standings so far, you ought to get to Vegas and start playing the tables, because you must have ESP or something.”

The most shocking storyline by far has been the collapse of the defending champion Hershey Bliss.  Widely favored to capture a second straight division title, the Bliss instead fell toward the division basement and have remained there since.  Their incredibly slow start hasn’t been the result of injuries (they haven’t suffered any) or key departures from last season (their roster returned largely intact).  In fact, the exact cause of their struggles has been a mystery.

After Hershey lost 3-0 in Saskatchewan on Friday to run their losing streak to five, coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber called out his club, saying that the championship had gone to their heads.  “When you win a title, that’s a real sugar high,” Barber said.  “But after the high comes the crash.  We made the mistake of believing our own press.  We’ve gone as soft as a bag of Kisses in a hot car on a summer day.”  C Justin Valentine, on the other hand, thinks the problem is “mostly bad puck luck, honestly.  You look at the underlying numbers, they’re pretty similar to last year.  We’re getting the looks and the shots, doing our work on the defensive end, but we’re not getting the breaks.”

One obvious trouble spot for the Bliss is a perennial problem in Chocolate City: goaltending.  After Brandon Colt came out of nowhere to win the Finals MVP last season, the hockey world was eager to see if he could repeat the feat.  So far, he hasn’t.  Colt’s GAA has ballooned nearly a full goal since last season (from 2.77 to 3.68), while his save percentage has plummeted from .909 to .872.  Meanwhile Milo Stafford, the ageless backup who defied the skeptics by producing strong numbers year after year, suddenly looks as though he might be washed up at age 36.  “It’s a hard time for Milo and me,” said Colt.  “We feel like we’re letting the whole team down.”

With Hershey down and out, a couple of surprising teams have jumped up to grab the spotlight.  The Hamilton Pistols looked to be a young team on the rise, finishing just below the .500 mark last season.  But now it appears they’ve arrived ahead of schedule.  After going 3-1-1 on a tough run through the West this week, culminating in a 3-3 tie with mighty Michigan at Cadillac Place, the Pistols ran their record to 11-3-1 and are five points clear in the division.

Last season, Hamilton’s strong top line was dragged down by a lack of depth and experience.  GM Marcel LaClaire made some modest but shrewd moves this offseason. He acquired a pair of seasoned veteran leaders in C Henry Constantine and D Craig Werner, and called up a bunch of prospects (wingers Jamie Campbell and Michael Jennings and defensemen Albie Glasco and Buster Kratz) to fix their dismal bottom line.  The result has been a high-octane offense that’s scored 62 goals and compiled a +27 rating so far, along with a solid defense in front of Lasse Koskinen, who appears to be the league’s next great netminder.

“Everyone talked about how this wasn’t our year, but we were really going to be something a couple seasons down the road,” said coach Keith Shields.  “I told our guys, why the heck shouldn’t it be our year?  Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young or too green to compete.  And they sure haven’t!  What we’re doing night in and night out is an inspiration.”

Slotted in behind high-flying Hamilton is the Quebec Tigres.  Ever since the Tigres joined the league in 2016, they’ve been built on a hard-nosed defense and a great goalie in Riki Tiktuunen.  The question was whether they could ever develop a functional offense that would allow them to compete.  In their third season, they’ve finally done it.  Quebec made a splash in free agency, signing ex-Washington winger Walt Camernitz to a 4-year, $20 million deal.  Skeptics wondered whether Camernitz was really worth that much money.  The early returns have been extremely encouraging; not only is Camernitz producing at a point-a-game pace so far (7 goals, 9 assists), he’s also sparked his linemates, C Mikhail Ilyushin (6 goals, 13 assists) and RW Stephane Mirac (6 goals, 7 assists).  They’ve also added a new top pairing of strong two-way defenders, top draft pick Laurie Workman (4 goals, 6 assists) and minor-league callup Richard McKinley (3 goals, 5 assists).  They’ve almost doubled their goal output from the same point last season (from 26 to 44).  Their newfound offensive prowess has allowed them to post a 9-6-0 record despite Tiktuunen looking a notch less dominant than usual.

“Before, everyone said the only way we could win was to make the game a bloodbath and win a 1-0 rock fight,” said coach Martin Delorme.  “But now we show that you can be a tough, hard-working team and also score the goalies.  Perhaps our new uniforms have made us more stylish.”

Lurking close behind Hamilton and Quebec are a pair of familiar foes.  The Washington Galaxy were expected to take a step back this season after losing Camernitz and D Patrick Banks.  But they’ve shown unexpected resilience, surviving an early injury to C J.C. Marais and posting a solid 8-7-0 record.  Their success has been fueled by a resurgence of their top line, led by McNeely.  The D.C. star leads the league in points (28) and is tied for the lead in goals (13) with Hamilton’s Steven Alexander.  “People rushed to bury us, but we’ve got the experience and the bloodline.”

Meanwhile, the New York Night may be best known for coach Nick Foster‘s attempt to start a feud with Hamilton, but they’ve looked decent so far with a 7-7-1 record.  They’ve rediscovered the firepower that went missing last season; after hanging a 10-spot on Seattle Friday, they now lead the league with 63 goals.  While their defense remains a mess, much-maligned goalie Jesse Clarkson has quietly provided a steady performance (5-4-0, 3.11 GAA, .913 sv%) that has kept them in games.

“There’s a lot of hockey still to be played,” said Foster.  “This division’s still wide open.  Stay tuned, ’cause anything can happen.”


SHL Player of the Week – Week 2

Dominic Sanchez

The SHL selected New York Night D Dominic Sanchez as its Player of the Week.  Sanchez had an impressive week on offense, scoring 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists).  On Sunday, Sanchez notched 3 assists in a 6-4 loss to Hamilton.  On Tuesday, he scored twice and added a pair of assists as the Night thrashed Washington 9-4.  The next night, he had 3 apples as New York claimed a wild 7-5 win over Hershey.

Thanks to his productive week, Sanchez is now the league leader in assists with 17.  His 19 total points is second in the SHL, behind only Washington’s Jefferson McNeely.

“People don’t talk about Dom when they talk about the best D-men in the league, but they should,” said Night coach Nick Foster.  “There aren’t a lot of blueliners with the nose for offense that he has.  He’s got great speed, and he knows how to set guys up for scores.  He’s an underrated weapon.”