2019 SHL Week 15 Transactions

  • On Monday, the Quebec Tigres activated LW Stellan Fisker from the disabled list.  The 32-year-old Fisker missed nearly four weeks after suffering an upper-body injury.  It was the second DL stint of the season for the winger, who suffered a lower-body injury in the first week of the season and has missed a total of 25 games so far on the year.  In order to make room for Fisker’s return, the Tigres returned LW Carl Bleyer to their farm club in Maine.  Bleyer has appeared in 10 games with Quebec, and recorded 1 assist during that time.
  • On Wednesday, the Washington Galaxy placed D Ambroz Melicar on the disabled list.  The Galaxy called up the 23-year-old Melicar a couple of weeks ago after a strong season with their affiliate in Baltimore.  He appeared in 10 games with Washington, recording 2 assists, before suffering an upper-body injury on Tuesday that will end his season.  To replace Melicar, the Galaxy promoted D Buster Kratz from Baltimore.  Kratz, 21, was acquired from Hamilton in the Eddie Costello trade at the deadline.
  • Also on Wednesday, the Tigres placed D Ward Jones on the injured list.  Jones suffered a lower-body injury during the third period of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Hamilton, a blow that will likely end Jones’ season.  It’s the second significant injury of the season for the 29-year-old blueliner, who missed over a month with an upper-body injury that happened just before the All-Star break.  It’s rumored that this latest injury has Jones pondering retirement.  To replace Jones, the Tigres called up D Ross Hruschka from Maine.  The 19-year-old Hruschka has had a solid season with Maine, with a goal and 16 assists.
Advertisements

It’s a “Cosmic Thing” for Galaxy Fans

Last season, the Washington Galaxy had a disappointing season on and off the ice.  On ice, the Galaxy finished below .500 for the first time.  In the stands, attendance dwindled as DC hockey fans overwhelmingly opted to watch the NHL’s Capitals make a run to the Stanley Cup instead of the Galaxy’s second-half swan dive.

The team took aggressive steps on both fronts during the offseason.  In hopes of improving their on-ice fortunes, they hired a new coach and shook up the roster.  To address their off-ice woes, GM Ace Adams hired veteran sports marketing executive David Maltby as “Chief Experience Officer.”  According to Adams, Maltby was charged with “making sure that Galaxy games are a great, fun, and family-friendly experience for our fans.”

The on-ice improvements haven’t materialized, as the Galaxy’s record has only gotten worse.  However, in their first season, Maltby and his staff have one success under their belt, thanks to an ‘80s pop song and its over-the-top music video.

One of Maltby’s first projects was to survey Galaxy fans on their opinions of the in-game entertainment.  One key finding: the music played in the arena was a bit stale.  So the team shook up the mix with some more modern, up-tempo tunes.

In addition, Maltby wanted the team to have a signature song, something the fans could adopt as an anthem.  “Fans love to sing along,” said Maltby.  “Like ‘Sweet Caroline’ for the Red Sox or ‘I Love LA’ for the Lakers.  A song like that can really bond a fanbase together.”

Maltby was looking for a track that connected to the city or team.  “There aren’t a lot of songs about DC, though,” he said.  “My first thought was ‘Bustin’ Loose,’ but the Nationals have that one pretty well locked down.”

“Cosmic Thing” album cover

Maltby’s staff went searching on Spotify and YouTube for possible candidates.  Their search hit pay dirt when they encountered the 1989 B-52s hit “Cosmic Thing.”  In particular, they found the official music video for the song, recorded live at a 1990 concert and featuring the band gyrating in eye-catching gold and silver costumes.

“It checked all my boxes,” said Maltby.  “The song was fun, up-tempo, singable and danceable.  It’s got terrific energy.  The late ‘80s are in the nostalgic sweet spot for a lot of our fans.  It’s a little kitschy, but cool.  It had the ‘Cosmic’-Galaxy tie-in.  It was the song for us!”

During the third period of Washington’s home opener, they played the video during a stoppage in play.  Maltby watched to see how the fans would react… and it was better than he’d dreamed.”

As soon as the video came on screen, the fans began cheering and boogying.  “It was almost everyone in the arena levitated at once,” Maltby explained.  “Folks were up out of their seat, laughing and dancing and cheering.  The energy level was through the roof for the rest of the game.  It was perfect!”

After experimenting with using “Cosmic Thing” as a victory song, the Galaxy quickly settled on playing it at the start of the third period to get the crowd going.  The fans love to chant key lyrics, like “Cosmic, wooooooo!”, “Shake your… honeybuns!”, and “Rock the house!”  The view on the Jumbotron switches between the video and shots of fans dancing and singing in the stands.  Some fans have even taken to dressing in costumes like the ones the B-52s wear in the video.

“It’s become an anthem, just like I hoped,” said Maltby.

The video received a new level of attention when New York Night coach Nick Foster took a shot at it after his team’s visit earlier this season.  “Apparently the hot new thing in DC is for the fans to dress up like disco balls and sing about shaking their [butts],” Foster quipped to reporters.  “I don’t know if they’re handing out free cocaine before games or what.  But I guess when your team sucks, you find your entertainment where you can.”

“That only made our fans love the song more,” said Adams.  “So thanks for the help, Nick!”

As a follow-up to this smash success, Maltby said he hopes to get the B-52s to the Constellation Center to perform the song live.  “If we can do that, people will lose their minds,” he said with a smile.  “Stay tuned.”

2019 SHL Week 12 Transactions

  • On Wednesday, the Washington Galaxy activated LW Charlie Brooks from the disabled list.  Brooks missed the last two and a half weeks with a lower-body injury.  Due to his absence, Brooks missed last Friday’s game against Dakota, which recently acquired his younger brother Tanner.  It would have been the first time the brothers faced each other in a professional game.  To make room for Brooks on the roster, Washington demoted F Roman Bandikoff to their CHL affiliate in Baltimore.  With the rebuilding Galaxy looking to provide playing time for their young players, the 36-year-old Bandikoff (5 assists and -3 rating in 24 games) was deemed expendable.
  • On Saturday, the Hamilton Pistols sent down D Russ Klemmer to their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and promoted RW Michael Jennings from Oshawa.  The Pistols found themselves down a forward when RW Claude Lafayette suffered a lower-body injury on Thursday.  Although Lafayette is not expected to miss much time, but the injury left Hamilton without a spare forward and forced C Henry Constantine to play out of position on the wing.  Jennings was with the Pistols at the beginning of the season, but was sent down at the trade deadline.  He put up 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in 21 games for Hamilton.
  • Also on Saturday, the Kansas City Smoke demoted C Owen Griffin to their farm team in Omaha, and called up C Edz Zalmanis from Omaha.  This transaction reverses a move made just after the All-Star break.  In 13 games with the Smoke, the 22-year-old Griffin recorded one assist while putting up a -11 rating.  Zalmanis, meanwhile, lit up the minors, notching 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists) in 15 games.
  • Also on Saturday, the Galaxy demoted D Murphy “Mutt” Metheny to their affiliate in Baltimore, and promoted D Ambroz Melicar from Baltimore.  As Washington continues to offer more opportunities to their young players, the 23-year-old Melicar was an obvious candidate for a call-up.  He was one of the top-scoring defensemen in the CHL, with 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 47 games.  The 29-year-old Metheny, the only SHL player to hail from Arkansas, appeared in only 9 games with DC, failing to record a point.

Interview of the Week: Peter James

This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy coach Peter James.

SHL Digest: We’re here today with the first-year coach of the Galaxy, Peter James.  Coach James, thanks for speaking with us.

Peter James

Peter James: Certainly.  Speaking to the press is part of my job.

SHLD: When the Galaxy fired Rodney Reagle after last season, the Galaxy front office seemed to think a new coach would be able to lift the team back into playoff contention.  Obviously, things haven’t unfolded that way.  Do you consider this season a disappointment?

PJ: Well, there are a lot of assumptions in your question.  Let me state for the record that when I was interviewed for this job, I was never told that I was expected to get this team back to the playoffs.  Obviously, the organization would like to contend, but they understand that it’s a time of transition.  Particularly when [G] Roger [Orion] chose not to resign, the goal has been to manage the transition to a younger roster.

SHLD: Well, how would you say that transition is going?

PJ: We’re still in the early stages, but I have a positive feeling about it.  We’re looking for opportunities to give our young players more exposure.  For instance, when Brooksy [LW Charlie Brooks] went down, we took the chance to promote Alan Youngman and see what he could do at this level.  As we go, we’ll look for more such opportunities.

SHLD: For a locker room that was accustomed to the jokey, free-wheeling attitude of Reagle, it must have been an adjustment for them to have a more straitlaced coach like you.  How has that transition gone?

PJ: Overall, I’ve been pleased.  Obviously, it took some time for both sides to get familiar with each other, for me to understand them and for them to understand me and my expectations.  I tried to ease in a bit, knowing that this is a room full of established professionals.  But I made it clear that certain hijinks that might have been tolerated under the old regime wouldn’t be tolerated under me.

SHLD: Can you give an example of something that you don’t tolerate that might have been tolerated before?

PJ: One obvious example had to do with behavior on the road.  Without naming names, some guys take that time as a license to run wild, to stay out all night in bars and clubs.  Some of that is fine – again, these are grown men – but if you’re staying out late enough that it’s affecting you the next day, that’s a problem.  I found that some well-timed morning skates helped get that under control, without having to call anyone out.

SHLD: And has the adjustment gone both ways?  Have you learned things from your players?

PJ: Absolutely.  I’ve definitely learned to be a little less strict than I had been in the minors.  At that level, you’re primarily guiding and developing players.  In the pros, you’re helping established players be their best.  It’s a more collaborative relationship.

SHLD: Obviously, you aren’t going to make the postseason this year.  So what are your goals for the rest of this season, and looking ahead to next year?

PJ: Well, for the rest of this season, we’re going to continue to look for chances to spotlight and evaluate our younger players, as I mentioned.  In the offseason, we’ll probably be looking to move some of our veteran guys, to facilitate that transition to young players.  We’re focused more on a reload than a rebuild, with an eye toward contending in the next couple of seasons.

SHLD: One more question.  Last season, you made headlines around the league when you physically broke up a fight by throwing an opposing player off your bench.  Any chance we’ll see a replay of that incident in DC?

PJ: (chuckles) I certainly hope not.  I don’t go Incredible Hulk very often.  But it doesn’t hurt for other people to know that I can do that if I need to.  You won’t like me when I’m angry.

SHLD: Good to know!  Well, that wraps it up for this interview.  Thanks again, and good luck with the rest of the season!

PJ: You bet!  I appreciate it.

Sailors Surrender Six in Third, Miss Sole Division Lead

The Seattle Sailors had a golden opportunity to seize the lead in the tumultuous Western division on Saturday.  With the Michigan Gray Wolves and Anchorage Igloos both suffering losses, the Sailors only needed a win over the struggling Washington Galaxy to claim sole possession of first place.

Through the game’s first two periods, Seattle appeared to be on a glide path to victory, claiming a 6-1 lead.  But then came a nightmarish third period in which the Sailors collapsed, lost their lead, and had to settle for a tie and a share of the lead with Michigan.  It felt like a golden opportunity wasted for the team in green.

“A game like this, it’s just a total shot in the gut,” said Sailors LW Rod Argent.  “It’s just devastating.”

When the puck dropped for the start of the third period, the Sailors were appropriately confident.  They’d rocked Galaxy netminder Darrell Bondurant for a half-dozen goals already.  The primary question seemed to be whether they’d keep pushing to run up a signature win, or if they’d ease up and focus on grinding the clock.

Just 30 seconds into the period, Seattle RW Elliott Pepper was sent to the penalty box for elbowing.  Eight seconds into the ensuing power play, Galaxy winger Jefferson McNeely fired home a slapper on the short side.  No big deal; it was still a 6-2 game.

Three minutes later, though, Galaxy LW Casey Thurman scored on an odd-man rush to make it 6-3.  A bit of a nervous rumble passed through the crowd; was Washington going to make this a game?  Sailors star Vince Mango quickly calmed the fans’ nerves, marching down the ice from the following faceoff and beat Bondurant top shelf to make it 7-3.  Back to cruising time again.

But the plucky Galaxy refused to give up, and they slowly chipped away at Seattle’s lead.  At just past the seven-minute mark, C Harvey Bellmore deflected a shot over the blocker of Sailors goalie “Jersey Mike” Ross to cut the deficit back to three.  Then just before the mid-point of the period, Sailors D Woody Fairwood coughed up the puck in the neutral zone.  Washington stormed down the ice, and C Tucker Barnhill – centering a line of SHL rookies – tucked it home between Ross’s legs.  Suddenly it was a 7-5 game, and the crowd became deeply uneasy.  So did the Sailors bench.

“We’d already taken the W in our heads, and suddenly it was a game again,” said Sailors C Napoleon Beasley.  “We knew we had to respond.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund called time out to calm his anxious team, but he appeared not to make any major strategic changes.  He did not remove Ross from the game, and he largely appeared to settle on playing defensive hockey and grinding the clock.

However, defensive hockey has never been Seattle’s strong suit.  And a couple minutes later, a failed clear by Mango turned into another Washington opportunity, and McNeely snuck one just inside the right post to make it a 7-6 contest.

The Sailors then made a belated bid to turn it back on and add to their lead, but couldn’t find the switch.  And with three minutes left in the game, the Galaxy’s rookie third line struck again.  Newly acquired RW Mickey Simpson went bar-down to tie it up and sink Century 21 Arena into a shell-shocked funk.

After the game, Engellund took a somewhat philosophical tack.  “Is this an embarrassing one?  Heck yes,” the coach said in his postgame press conference.  “If we miss the playoffs by a point, are we going to look back and regret this?  You bet.  But we can’t let ourselves dwell on this.  We’ve got to keep moving forward and play like we know how.”

Mango, meanwhile, seemed to shrug it off.  “This was one of those crazy fluke games, you know?” the Sailors star said.  “Like an asteroid strike.  It’s one in a million.  But it doesn’t wipe out all the great wins we’ve had this year.  Just forget it and go to the next one.”

Can the Sailors forget this loss, or will the memory haunt them?  Whether they can make their first-ever playoff trip in their last season in Seattle may depend on the answer.

Continue reading “Sailors Surrender Six in Third, Miss Sole Division Lead”

2019 SHL Week 11 Transactions

  • On Monday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Ward Jones from the disabled list.  Jones had missed more than a month with an upper-body that he suffered before the All-Star break.  To make room for Jones on the active roster, the Tigres reassigned D Serge Rimbaud to their farm team in Maine.  The 18-year-old Rimbaud appeared in 13 games with Quebec, recording 8 assists and a +1 rating.
  • Also on Monday, the Hamilton Pistols placed goaltender Lasse Koskinen on the disabled list.  Koskinen suffered an upper-body injury during Sunday’s 7-4 win over New York.  He is expected to miss 2 to 3 weeks, a serious blow for a Pistols team that is trying to snatch a playoff spot in the East.  To replace Koskinen, the Pistols called up Hector Orinoco from their affiliate in Oshawa.  The 23-year-old Orinoco has gone 13-11-0 with a 2.69 GAA and a .902 save percentage with Oshawa this season.
  • On Tuesday, the Tigres placed LW Stellan Fisker on the disabled list.  Fisker suffered an upper-body injury during the Tigres’ 3-0 win over Hershey.  He is expected to miss 3 to 4 weeks.  To replace Fisker on the roster, the Tigres called up LW Carl Bleyer from their farm team in Maine.  Bleyer has put up 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists) with the Moose on the year.
  • Wednesday was the trading deadline. The following trades were consummated at the deadline:
    • The New York Night traded RW Mickey Simpson, D Andy Ruger, and a 3rd-round draft pick to the Washington Galaxy for RW Nori Takoyaki.  (More details here.)  After making the trade, the Night promoted D Craig Werner from their farm team in Utah and signed D Sheldon Harville to a minor-league contract.
    • The Galaxy traded Ruger to the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for a 3rd-round pick.
    • The Michigan Gray Wolves traded RW Cleo Rodgers, G Gus Parrish, and a 2nd-round pick to the Smoke in exchange for LW Kevin Starkey and D Scott Hexton.  (More details here.) After the trade, Kansas City called up Parrish and LW Veikko Sikanen from their CHL affiliate in Omaha, and demoted G Jim Fleetwood to Omaha. They also released G Toby Kemper.  Meanwhile, Michigan released D Igor Shovshenkov, demoted F Yann Eberlein to their affiliate in Cleveland, and signed Kemper to a minor-league deal.
    • The Saskatchewan Shockers traded C Tanner Brooks to the Dakota Jackalopes in exchange for D Rusty Anderson. (More details here.) After the trade, the Shockers demoted D Valeri Nistrumov to their farm team in Virginia.  They also released D Knute Skoeglin and signed F Marvin Cascio to a minor-league deal.
    • The Hamilton Pistols traded C Pat Collistone, D Buster Kratz, and a 1st-round pick to the Galaxy in exchange for C Eddie Costello.  (More details here.) After the trade, the Pistols called up D Russ Klemmer from their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and demoted RW Michael Jennings to Oshawa.  They also signed D Gresham Sourwine to a minor-league contract.  The Galaxy demoted Kratz to their affiliate in Baltimore and promoted C Tucker Barnhill from Baltimore.  They also released D Sheldon Harville.
    • The Quebec Tigres traded D Kirby Hanlon, C Jacob Cunniff, and a 1st-round pick to the Jackalopes in exchange for D Matt Cherner.  (More details here.) After the trade, Dakota released RW Omar Zdurchek; Quebec then signed him to a minor-league deal.
    • Finally, the Seattle Sailors traded D Serkan Mratic to the Galaxy for D Stan Gallagher.  (More details here.)
  • On Saturday, the Jackalopes activated D Rodney Black from the injured list.  Black, who was sidelined in only his second SHL game, missed two and a half weeks with an upper-body injury. Since Dakota was one player short of the roster limit, they did not make a corresponding move.
  • Also on Saturday, the Hershey Bliss placed LW Lance Sweet on long-term injured reserve.  Sweet was carried off the ice on a stretcher after being crunched into the boards late in the second period during Saturday’s 6-3 win over Saskatchewan.  Sweet underwent surgery on his right leg, and is expected to be out for the rest of the season.  To fill Sweet’s roster spot, Hershey called up D Seth Dowd from their CHL affiliate in Milwaukee.  The 33-year-old Dowd, who last played in the SHL in 2016, recorded 27 points with Milwaukee this season.

Pistols Make Big Splash in Landing Costello from DC

Last season, the Hamilton Pistols were headed for their first-ever playoff appearance, and they faced a choice: dip into their store of top prospects and make a big win-now deal, or make a smaller depth deal and hold on to their young talent.  They chose the latter path, and wound up being bounced in the first round by Quebec.

This year, in the midst of an intense race in the East, the Pistols decided to go for a big-splash deal.  They acquired C Eddie Costello from the Washington Galaxy in exchange for C Pat Collistone, D Buster Kratz, and their first-round pick.

“To be honest, I’m surprised to be here announcing this deal,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire.  “When we began to discuss it, it was almost as a joke.  But the longer we talked, the more serious it became.  Finally I said, ‘Let’s take the dare and do it.’”

The trade is a big swing designed to address Hamilton’s biggest weakness, which is scoring beyond their top line.  The 28-year-old Costello led the Galaxy in points with 45 and in assists with 33.  He will slot into the second-line center position in Hamilton, between LW Magnus Gunnarson and RW Kenny Patterson.  In order to fit under Hamilton’s salary cap, the Galaxy will retain $1 million of Costello’s salary.

“Eddie is a dynamite player, and he gives us an immediate boost on offense,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.  “I’ve watched him beat us enough times over the years; I know what he can offer us.”

For Washington, the trade brings an end of the tenure of one of their most popular players.  Costello was a key contributor to the Galaxy teams that made back-to-back SHL finals appearances, and was also a colorful character on the ice and in the locker room.  Many young Galaxy fans copied his signature fauxhawk haircut.

“It’s pretty tough for me to leave DC, since I’ve had so many good times here,” Costello said.  “But I’m excited to join the playoff hunt again, and I’ll keep in touch with all my boys back here.”

The rental of Costello (who will be a free agent at the end of the season) didn’t come cheaply.  Collistone has been a longtime favorite in the Pistols organization.  The 23-year-old known affectionately as “Stoner” was strongly considered for the third-line center role in Hamilton this season; the Pistols wound up signing veteran J.C. Marais instead.  He was a 2018 CHL All-Star, and though his numbers are down a bit this season (13 goals, 17 assists with Oshawa), he remains a well-regarded prospect.

The 21-year-old Kratz is another homegrown Hamilton prospect.  He’s been a depth defenseman for the Pistols this season, appearing in only 12 games and failing to record a point.

“I never thought [LaClaire] would make Stoner available,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “He and Kratz both help us restock our prospect pool, which is great as we look to the next chapter for our team.  We wish Eddie all the best.  I hope he brings home the Vandy.”