- On Monday, the Kansas City Smoke recalled F David Facinelli from their CHL affiliate in Omaha and returned C Edz Zalmanis to Omaha. The Smoke had a need for a center when Mike Rivera and Nile Bernard suffered injuries, so they promoted Zalmanis just over two weeks ago. He appeared in 9 games during his stint with Kansas City, scoring 2 goals and adding 2 assists.
- Also on Monday, the Michigan Gray Wolves placed RW Boris Badenov on the injured list. Badenov, who was playing for their minor-league affiliate in Cleveland, suffered a lower-body injury in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Omaha, and is expected to be out of action for 4 to 6 weeks. To replace Badenov on the roster, assistant coach Glenn Reichler was activated and added to the roster. (Story here.)
- On Wednesday, the Quebec Tigres activated LW Stellan Fisker from the injured list. Fisker missed 10 games with an upper-body injury suffered two and a half weeks earlier. In order to make room for Fisker’s return to the roster, the Tigres returned LW Carl Bleyer to their affiliate in Halifax. Bleyer appeared in 4 games for the Tigres, recording a goal.
- On Friday, the Hershey Bliss placed minor-league D Seth Dowd on the injured list. The 34-year-old Dowd, who was playing for their affiliate in Milwaukee, was taken off the ice on a stretcher after ramming head-first into the boards. He underwent surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season. To replace Dowd on the Milwaukee roster, the Bliss signed D Knute Skoeglin, who appeared in 10 games for Milwaukee last season.
- On Saturday, the Washington Galaxy activated D Grant Warriner from the injured list. Warriner, the Galaxy’s top young blueliner, missed two and a half weeks with an upper-body injury. In order to accommodate Warriner’s return to the active roster, the Galaxy demoted D Serkan Mratic to their CHL affiliate in Baltimore and released D Nate Cimino. Mratic recorded 2 assists and a -18 rating in 22 games with Washington; the 19-year-old Cimino notched a goal and 2 assists over 13 games with Baltimore.
- On Sunday, the New York Night announced that D Ed Francis, who had been playing for their minor-league affiliate in Utah, will miss the rest of the season. The 30-year-old Francis suffered a severely broken leg during last Saturday’s game against Minnesota, an injury so severe that it required surgery to reconstruct the leg. In the wake of the injury, Francis announced that he would retire from hockey. (Story here.) To replace Francis on the roster, the Night signed D Gustaf Bergstrom for the rest of the season. Bergstrom recently played a 10-game stint in Halifax, where he recorded a goal and six assists.
- On Friday, the Washington Galaxy traded LW Casey Thurman to the Boston Badgers in exchange for LW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, D Kermit Kaufman, and a first-round draft pick. (Story here.) In related moves, Boston demoted LW Norris Young to their CHL affiliate in Hartford and promoted D Jackson Creed from Hartford. They also signed D Gerry Michaud to a minor-league deal.
- On Friday, the Night demoted G Sherman Carter to their CHL affiliate in Utah and promoted G Corey Franklin-Lee from Utah. Carter, expected to be New York’s top starter in the next, has been atrocious so far this season. Despite compiling a 5-5-1 record, he has put up a 5.75 GAA and an .861 save percentage. The 20-year-old Franklin-Lee makes his first appearance on an SHL roster; with Utah this season, he has gone 9-4-2 with a 2.82 GAA and a .905 save percentage.
- On Saturday, the Quebec Tigres placed D Kevin Buchanan on the injured list. The veteran blueliner has been plagued by injuries this season; he missed 10 games with an upper-body injury earlier this season. It is unknown whether this latest setback, suffered in the second period of Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Hershey, is an aggravation of his prior injury or a new one. To replace Buchanan on the roster, Quebec recalled D Hampus Olsson from their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Olsson was sent down two weeks ago when Buchanan returned from his prior IL stint; he spent 9 games in the minors, recording 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). To fill Olsson’s roster spot in Halifax, the Tigres signed veteran D Igor Shovshenkov.
When LW Casey Thurman publicly lamented the direction of the Washington Galaxy franchise in a postgame interview a couple weeks back, it seemed like the star winger’s days with the only SHL team he’d ever played for were numbered. Thurman’s time in the nation’s capital came to an end on Friday, as the Boston Badgers – desperate to spark their flailing offense and climb into contention in the East – acquired him in exchange for a pair of prospects and their first-round pick in the draft.
“I don’t really have words for it, to be honest,” said Thurman. “And you know how much I love talking, so that’s saying something. I thought I was going to be here for my whole career. But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Once word got out about Thurman’s dissatisfaction with the Galaxy, GM Wilson Shuster found himself flooded with offers from other teams. But Boston was one of the only teams that could fit Thurman’s $4 million salary under the cap without sending salary in return, which reportedly appealed to Galaxy owner Perry Dodge.
In Thurman, the Badgers acquire one of the league’s biggest stars and biggest characters. The 31-year-old went to the SHL Finals twice with Washington, in 2015 and 2016. He’s often among the league’s top scorers, and he holds his own on the defensive end as well. Although he was not producing at his usual offensive pace this season, Thurman was second on the Galaxy in points with 21 (7 goals, 14 assists) at the time of the trade.
“It’s rare to find a player of Casey’s caliber available in midseason,” said Badgers GM Jody Melchiorre. “And when he became available, we went after him aggressively, because he fits the perfect mold of the player we look for. He’s a star who can generate a ton of offense, but he thinks like a grinder. He plays hard the whole 200 feet, and he’s going to be a great leader and mentor for our younger guys.”
To acquire Thurman, the Badgers had to let go of a pair of prized young players. One of them, LW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, returns to the team that first drafted him. Pescatelli was an 18-year-old rookie when the Galaxy shipped him up to Boston in a deal for LW Charlie Brooks and D Scott Hexton. He blossomed in the Badgers’ system, and was named to the CHL All-Star Game last season. The 20-year-old has struggled to stay healthy this season, but he’s produced when he’s played, with 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in 13 games.
“We’re really excited to get Fish back in our organization,” said Shuster. “He’s quick-wristed with a cannon for a shot, and we think that he can grow into the kind of brilliant two-way scorer that Thurm has been for us.”
In addition to Pescatelli, the Galaxy also acquired 22-year-old defenseman Kermit Kaufman. Kaufman is a rugged stay-home defenseman who knows how to sacrifice his body to disrupt opponents’ offensive flow. In 23 games with Boston this season, he recorded no goals and 2 assists, but he had 38 blocks, the third-highest total on the team.
“Kermit has really grown into an elite defenseman,” said Shuster. “He’s got a body like a battering ram; some of our guys have found that out the hard way, when he’s thrown some rough checks at us. We’re building a hard-hitting young defensive corps, and Kermit’s going to fit right in there.”
There’s no question that adding Thurman will boost Boston’s lackluster attack. But will that be enough? At the time of the deal, Boston was tied with Washington for the league’s worst record at 7-14-2, and they were last in the league in goals scored with 54. If Thurman can recover his traditional scoring touch in Badgers green, he should provide a boost. But other players will need to step up as well, most notably goalie Roger Orion and the team’s league-worst penalty-killing unit.
Of course, Melchiorre might not be done dealing. “We’ve still got plenty of cap room to play with, and if we see a chance to improve, I’m not going to hesitate,” the Badgers GM said. “We’re not waiting around.”
- On Wednesday, the Washington Galaxy placed D Grant Warriner on the injured list. Warriner suffered an upper-body injury late in the second period of Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Michigan and did not return. He is expected to be sidelined for about 3 weeks. The team did not make a corresponding move at the time.
- On Friday, the Dakota Jackalopes placed RW Arkady Golynin on the injured list. During Thursday’s game against New York, Golynin crumpled to the ice after a late-game knee-on-knee collision with Night D Dominic Sanchez, a hit that resulted in a one-game suspension for Sanchez. Golynin will miss at least a couple of weeks with the injury. This could be a serious blow to the Jackalopes, as the winger led the team in points with 18 and was second in goals with 6 at the time the injury occurred. To fill Golynin’s roster spot, the Jackalopes promoted RW Dylan Alizarin from their CHL affiliate in Idaho.
- Also on Friday, the Jackalopes’ affiliate in Idaho activated D Georg Ochre from the injured list. Ochre was sidelined for almost 3 weeks with an upper-body injury. To accommodate Ochre’s returned to the roster, Idaho released D Gerry Michaud from his temporary deal with the organization. Michaud appeared in 4 games for Idaho and did not record a point, although he did have 5 blocks.
If there’s a player who’s been the face of the Washington Galaxy, it’s LW Casey Thurman. From the early days of the franchise, Thurman has been a leader in the clubhouse, whether talking to reporters after tough losses or teaming up with teammates to imitate Hershey’s singing cows. When Washington went to back-to-back SHL Finals, it was Thurman who led them there. He balances a love of locker-room lunacy with a commitment to playing hard and giving it his all, no matter what the scoreboard or the standings say.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a Galaxy team without Thurman on it. But it became easier to imagine this week, when Thurman sounded a rare downbeat note in a postgame interview and suggested for the first time that he might be open to a trade.
Thurman spoke to reporters after Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Hershey Bliss. After the typical back-and-forth about the game, a reporter asked about the sparse attendance at the game. As the Galaxy’s on-ice results have declined the last couple of seasons, so too has turnout.
Thurman paused a bit before responding. “I’ve got to say, I miss the atmosphere in the old days,” he said. “When the house was packed and the fans were living and dying with every goal, it gave you that extra boost when you needed it. Now, the crowds are smaller and quieter. They get going when “Cosmic Thing” comes on, but then the song ends and it’s quiet again.
“Don’t get me wrong,” the winger added. “Our crowds are very nice. They don’t boo us, even when we deserve it. They don’t yell obscene chants at the other team, and they don’t fight in the stands. They’re good people, and I’m glad they come. But I miss the energy from the old days a little bit.”
Another reporter asked about trade rumors. Thurman has a no-trade clause in his contract, but GM Wilson Shuster has made clear that the team is in rebuilding mode, and no player is untouchable. Multiple teams have reportedly inquired about Thurman, who is signed through the 2022 season.
Thurman stated that Shuster had not approached him about any possible deals, and that he wasn’t in a hurry to leave. “This is my home,” said Thurman. “My family’s here. We’ve got a good young team, and I love being a mentor to those guys and helping them develop their game.”
Then, after a pause, he went on: “On the other hand, I definitely know I’m an old man in this locker room. Most of my old friends are gone: Coz [C Eddie Costello] is gone, and Bucky [D Kevin Buchanan, and [F] Gene [Kennedy], and Big O [G Roger Orion], and Lenny [D Leonard Wright], they’re all gone. And I still don’t have a ring. So if the right situation came along, where I could get that ring? I’d have to consider it.”
Thurman was then asked if there were specific teams he’d like to go to, at which point he ended the interview. But his remarks triggered speculation around the league.
Shuster said that the team was in no hurry to trade Thurman. “Obviously, Thurm has been the heart and soul of this team for a long time,” Shuster told reporters. “It would take a big return for us to move him. That said, he would be a valuable piece for a lot of contenders, and we’re looking long-term.”
Thurman tried to walk back his remarks the next day, saying that he’d “had a bad day” and was “feeling bummed out” by the loss. But any contender with the interest and the cap space to acquire Thurman will likely be calling Shuster in the coming days. Depending on how those talks turn out, we may have to get used to the idea of the face of the Galaxy suiting up for someone else.
At the quarter pole of the 2020 SHL season, the Western Division is starting to shake itself out as expected. The Portland Bluebacks are off to a hot start, eager to prove that their 2019 division crown was no fluke. The Anchorage Igloos have resuscitated from their dreadful opening weeks and are back in the thick of the race, with the Saskatchewan Shockers and Michigan Gray Wolves also in the mix.
The East, meanwhile, is a totally different story. There are only six points separating the first- and last-place teams. No one is running away with the division, and no one is entirely out of it (at least not yet). Each of the contenders has a key flaw that may derail its postseason aspirations. Here’s a look at the state of play:
The Hamilton Pistols are the defending SHL champions, and they’re determined to become the league’s first back-to-back title-winners. And offensively, they’re poised to do so: they lead the league in goals (71) and shots per game (39). And it’s not just the usual suspects who are producing. The second line of LW Magnus Gunnarson (7 goals, 15 assists), C Marco Venezio (6 goals, 5 assists), and RW Ben Summers (8 goals, 8 assists) has clicked brilliantly, and blueliners such as Clayton Risch (6 goals, 8 assists) and Hercules Mulligan (5 goals, 8 assists) have been activated on offense as well.
So why aren’t the Pistols dominating? For one thing, they’ve had issues with injuries. C Calvin Frye recently missed three games, all of which Hamilton lost. No sooner did he return than LW Steven Alexander went down; he will likely miss several games as well.
The Pistols are struggling in net as well. #1 starter Lasse Koskinen has rebounded from a poor start, but his numbers (3.39 GAA, .902 save percentage) are not up to his career norms. And backup Ron Mason (0-3-1, 5.14 GAA, .851 save %) has been atrocious; it’s possible the 36-year-old is washed up. The goaltending struggles aren’t helped by Hamilton’s awful penalty kill; their 73.7% kill rate is second-worst in the SHL. If Koskinen continues to improve and the stars stay on the ice, they should be fine, but neither of those things are guaranteed.
The Hershey Bliss are currently tied with Hamilton for first place. They’re probably the most balanced team in the East. They’re tied for third in goals (59), and they’re in third in shots allowed per game (31.5). The “Love Line” (LW Lance Sweet, C Justin Valentine, RW Christopher Hart) is clicking along as always.
So why isn’t Hershey much above .500? They primary culprits appear to be special teams and goaltending. Their power play, usually a strength, has been merely average so far (20% conversion rate, sixth in the league). And their penalty kill has struggled; they’re only snuffing 80.4% of power-play chances, ahead of just three other teams. Neither number is atrocious, but they aren’t helping.
In the net, free-agent signee Christien Adamsson (6-5-1, 2.87, .904) and rookie Nash Gould (2-1-1, 3.18, .906) are putting up quite similar numbers. Coach Chip Barber has maintained that Adamsson is still the starter, but he may have to explore a more even distribution of minutes if this continues. And surely, they can’t help noticing that last year’s starter, Brandon Colt (2-0-2, 2.40, .916), is outplaying them both in Michigan.
The Quebec Tigres are two points behind Hamilton and Hershey. They’re practicing their usual rugged, hard-nosed defense (allowing a league-low 29.1 shots per game and blocking a league-high 16 shots per game), and they’re performing well on special teams.
Part of Quebec’s struggles are typical – their offense is limited, both in quantity (31.3 shots per game, tenth in the league) and quality (8.8% shooting percentage). But the more surprising issue is the struggles of goalie Riki Tiktuunen (5-5-1, 3.18, .897). If Tiktuunen cannot resume his usual elite level of play, it’s unlikely that the Tigres will reach the postseason.
The New York Night looked to be out of it last week; there were even rumors that coach Nick Foster was about to be fired. But they’ve bounced back to the .500 mark, tied with Quebec. In many ways, they’re the inverse of the Tigres. They’ve scored 67 goals, second only to the Pistols, powered by a leg-eleading 11.4% shooting percentage. They are one of two SHL teams with a pair of double-digit goal scorers already in Cs Brock Manning and Rod Remington.
On the defensive end, however, New York is a disaster. They’re allowing a league-worst 4.08 goals-against average, fueled by a poor defense that yields an eye-popping 41 points per game. Projected starting netminder Sherman Carter (4-2-1, 5.44, .863) appears to have lost his job to veteran “Jersey Mike” Ross (3-5-1, 3.18, .923), but no goaltender can be expected to stop the barrage of shots that the Night allow.
The Boston Badgers trail Quebec and New York by two points. Like the Tigres, they’re built around a stout team defense and slow pace (yielding only 29.6 shots per game). Also like the Tigres, they’re being undermined by a weak offense (having scored a mere 42 on a league-worst 27 shots per game) and a big-name goalie who’s struggling (Roger Orion: 5-6-1, 2.96, .897). Unlike the Tigres, they are struggling mightily on the penalty kill, with a last-place 70.4% kill rate.
The Washington Galaxy are the one team that seems certain not to contend, although given the traffic jam at the top, they’re still technically within striking distance. Unlike the other Eastern clubs, however, they’re not strong in any area of the game. They’re in the bottom third of the league in goals (44), shots per game (32), shots allowed per game (38.8) and GAA (3.67). They may have an impact on the playoff chase, however, if they decide to move some of their stars, such as LW Casey Thurman.
There’s plenty of time for the division to sort itself out, and for a couple of strong contenders to emerge. For the time being, however, it looks like it’s (almost) anybody’s game.