The SHL selected Quebec Tigres G Riki Tiktuunen as its Player of the Week. Tiktuunen came up strong this week when his team needed him the most, going 3-1-0 with a 0.75 GAA and a .971 save percentage, including a pair of shutouts. The Finnish-born netminder finishes the regular season with a 31-20-1 record (he has the third-most wins in the league), a 2.03 GAA (fourth), and a .930 save percentage (second).
On Tuesday, Tiktuunen turned aside all 26 shots as Quebec silenced New York 5-0. On Thursday, he had 23 saves at the Tigres outlasted Hershey 2-1. Finally, with the division title on the line, Tiktuunen stopped all 30 shots in a 3-0 win over Hamilton.
“A great goaltender is the best building block a team can have,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme. “He gives a team security, knowing that the crease is locked down. Riki is a treasure for us.”
In an unprecedented move, the SHL named the entire Michigan Gray Wolves‘ defense as its Players of the Week. “Up until now, we’ve always limited the Player of the Week honor to a single player,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell. “But we felt that Michigan’s defensive work needed to be recognized, and we couldn’t single out any one player for it, so we’re recognizing them all.”
The Wolves’ blueline corps – which includes “Mad Max” Madison, Fritz Kronstein (who won solo Player of the Week honors three weeks ago), Frank Mudrick, Brooks Zabielski, Sam Bergdorf, Bjorn Tollefson, Lyndon Bullock, and Cedric Berlinger – were in top form with the playoffs approaching. Michigan allowed only two goals in their four games this week, thanks in large part to the shot-suppressing ability of their defenders. The Wolves’ opponents averaged less than 16 shots this week. In Sunday’s showdown against Hamilton, a potential Finals opponent, Michigan held the high-flying Pistols to only 19 shots in a 3-0 win. Then in consecutive games against Dakota and Kansas City, the Wolves limited their opponents to 12 shots each, allowing them to edge the Jackalopes 1-0 and stop the Smoke 4-1.
“Our core identity is defense,” said Wolves coach Ron Wright. “And it says a lot about the group we have here that even though I’ve been rotating guys in and out this week, giving the starters a little rest, we haven’t missed a beat.”
The SHL selected Dakota Jackalopes LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston as its Player of the Week. The Jackalopes have dealt away most of their top-shelf talent, but Airston remains with the team and put up a strong week, with 8 points (3 goals and 5 assists) in Dakota’s four games this week. Airston has 27 goals on the season, which puts him in the SHL’s top 10.
The winger was at his best against the East’s top teams in interdivision play this week. On Sunday, Airston scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Jackalopes stunned Hamilton 2-1. Then on Saturday, he had a pair of goals and a pair of assists in Dakota’s 6-0 shutout of Quebec.
“It’s a long season, and when you’re not contending it can be easy to check out a little bit,” said Jackalopes coach Flim Dahlgren. “But Ryan’s still giving it 100%, and that’s a great example to our younger players. He’s a terrific leader for us.”
The SHL selected Quebec Tigres RW Stephane Mirac as its Player of the Week. The Tigres had an exceptional week, going 4-0-1 to move within four points of Hamilton for the division lead. And Mirac was the engine that drove the Tigres’ offensive success, scoring 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists). Mirac now has 29 goals this season, which places him among the league’s top 10 in that category.
Quebec won both ends of a home-and-home with Washington this week, both by 5-2 scores. On Sunday in DC, Mirac had 2 goals and an assists; then on Tuesday at Centre Citadelle, he notched a hat trick and added an assist. Then on Wednesday, Mirac scored twice and assisted four times as the Tigres bombed Boston, 9-0.
“Stephane Miracle is back again,” said Tigres C Mikhail Ilyushin. “He is an offensive force of nature. Sometimes, I think he shoots so hard that he puts it through the goalie.”
The SHL selected Michigan Gray Wolves D Fritz Kronstein as its Player of the Week. Kronstein is one of the league’s rising stars, and his two-way skill was on full display this week as he helped his team to a 4-0-1 record. The 25-year-old blueliner had a 10-point week, including 9 assists, while providing his usual lock-down defense. With Kronstein leading the way, Michigan outscored opponents 24-3 on the week.
On Saturday, Kronstein had a goal and five assists in the Wolves’ 13-0 mauling of Seattle. On Tuesday, he had a pair of assists to key a 5-1 win over Kansas City. On Friday, Kronstein set up the game-tying Hunter Bailes tally as Michigan came from behind to beat Saskatchewan 2-1.
“Strong team defense is the engine that drives this team,” said Wolves coach Ron Wright, “and Fritz is one of the cylinders in that engine. He’s such a hard-working, unselfish player. Whatever he can do to help this team win, he does it.”
The SHL selected Saskatchewan Shockers G Zeke Zagurski as its Player of the Week. Zagurski had a tremendous week in net for the Shockers, going 3-0-1 with a 0.73 GAA and a .976 save percentage. With Zagurski leading the way, the Shockers posted a 3-1-1 record on the week, better than any other team in the West. For the season, Zagurski stands at 12-18-3, with a 2.52 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
On Saturday, Zagurski made 28 saves to outduel Riki Tiktuunen and the Quebec Tigres, 2-1. On Tuesday, he stopped all 37 Washington shots as the Shockers knocked off the Galaxy 1-0. On Friday, Zagurski made 29 stops as Saskatchewan rolled to a 10-1 thrashing of New York.
“One of these days, people are going to realize that Zeke is one of the league’s best netminders,” said Shockers interim coach Caleb Ponder. “He doesn’t get enough credit because we don’t win enough games, but when we finally make it to the playoffs and make some noise, the world will finally recognize Zeke’s greatness.”
The SHL selected Hamilton Pistols C Calvin Frye as its Player of the Week. Frye had a fantastic week for the first-place Pistols, putting up 11 points (8 goals, 3 assists). Frye now has 51 points for the season, second in the league. His 24 goals is third-highest in the SHL. With Frye leading the way, Hamilton remained tied with Michigan for the best record in the league.
Frye had a career-best day on Sunday, scoring four goals as the Pistols smoked Kansas City 5-1. On Tuesday, he had a hand in all of Hamilton’s goals, scoring twice and adding an assist in a 5-3 loss to New York. On Friday, Frye notched a goal and assisted twice, including the pass that allowed LW Steven Alexander to complete his hat trick, as the Pistols whipped Washington 5-2.
“Watching Calvin grow and mature into a superstar is one of the joys of my job,” said coach Keith Shields. “Every game, it seems like he’s finding another gear, another new wrinkle in his game. There’s no ceiling with this kid.”