- On Wednesday, the Michigan Gray Wolves‘ CHL affiliate in Cleveland placed D Gil Calvert on the injured list. The 21-year-old Calvert showed a surprising scoring upside this season, with 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in 38 games. To fill Calvert’s spot on the roster, Cleveland signed free-agent D Davis McNeely. The blueliner is the younger brother of Washington Galaxy star Jefferson McNeely.
- On Friday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Kevin Buchanan from the injured list. Buchanan has struggled to stay healthy this time around, he missed over a month with an upper-body injury. Injuries have limited the veteran blueliner to just 14 games so far this season. To acccommodate Buchanan’s return to the roster, the Tigres sent D Boris Zhzhynov to their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Zhzhynov appeared in just 5 games for Quebec this season, and did not record a point. In order to make room on Halifax’s roster, the team released D Igor Shovshenkov.
- On Saturday, the Wolves’ Cleveland affiliate activated RW Boris Badenov from the injured list. The winger went down with a lower-body injury before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Badenov on the roster, assistant coach Glenn Reichler, who briefly un-retired to fill Badenov’s roster spot, returned to his bench duties. The 35-year-old Reichler appeared in 8 games for Cleveland, recording two assists.
- Also on Saturday, the Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Victor Addison to their farm team in Idaho. This move was not made due to dissatisfaction with Addison’s performance, but rather due to a blueline shortage on the farm. Idaho is currently missing Ds Rusty Sienna and Clark Blanchard, both day-to-day with injuries. Rather than sign a player to a short-term deal to fill the spot, the cost-conscious Jackalopes sent Addison down to fill the gap. Addison has appeared in 19 games for Dakota so far this season, recording 7 assists.
- 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.
Coming into the first-ever CHL playoffs, no one gave the Utah Owls much of a chance to win. Although they had been hot during the last month of the season, they only finished a few games above the .500 mark. They had few players among the league leaders in any category, and they were better known for their wacky hotel escapades than for anything they did on the ice. The smart money suggested that the Owls would be easily knocked out by the Omaha Ashcats in the Western Division playoff; failing that, they’d be taken down by the high-scoring Virginia Rhinos in the finals.
By the time the playoffs were over, however, the smart money wasn’t looking so smart. Utah stunned Omaha by winning the division finals in four games and making it look easy. Then in the Finals, with barely more drama, the Owls defeated the Rhinos 4 games to 1 to claim the inaugural Howard Trophy as CHL champions.
“Nobody believed in us,” said Owls C Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax. “Everyone was just standing around, waiting for us to fail. But we showed them! We showed everybody that we’re the best there is!”
In Game 1, Utah walked into Waterfront Center and pushed the pace, with the teams combining for 85 shots. The Owls hammered the Rhinos 6-2, with six different players scoring goals for the Owls. “I absolutely did not see that coming,” said Virginia goalie Shawn Stickel. “We’d heard those guys liked to play fast, but we weren’t expecting that kind of crazy speed. It’s like they had rockets in their skates.” Not only did the Rhinos lose the game, they lost winger Nick Krombopoulos for the series with an upper-body injury.
In Game 2, Virginia seemed to restore order, downing Utah 3-1. But both sides wound up losing a defenseman to injury; the Rhinos lost Ivan Ackler, while the Owls saw Boris Badenov go down. The series shifted to Wasatch Arena for Game 3, where the Owls turned the tables with a 3-1 win of their own. In Game 4, Virginia took an early 2-0 lead, only to see Utah tie it up with a pair in the second period. RW Colton Jabril put the Rhinos back up with a tally two minutes into the third period, and it looked like his team was about to tie the series up again. But Owls LW Mickey Simpson banked one in off the crossbar with 12 seconds left to send it to overtime, and then C Remi “Roadrunner” Gallert nabbed the game-winner 2:05 into OT to give Utah a 3-1 series lead.
“After that, we knew we had it,” said Banjax.
The Owls took care of business in Game 5, with F Diego Garcia scoring two goals to lead his team to a 4-1 win. The infamously boisterous team managed not to lay waste to the arena; instead, they formed a dogpile on the ice and soaked in the joy of an unexpected victory.
Utah’s secret? Goalie Sherman Carter. The top prospect started the season with the Owls before earning a quick call-up to the New York Night, before being sent down for the final games of the CHL season. He was the key to the Owls’ postseason success, putting up a 1.99 GAA and a .949 save percentage against the league’s highest-scoring team. Unsurprisingly, Carter was chosen as the Finals MVP.
“Sherm has been nothing short of awesome for us,” said Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie. “The only sad thing is that he’s probably not going to be back here next year. He’s headed to the pros to stick next year, and I know he’s going to be special.”
In the midst of the postgame celebration, Banjax was asked whether he thought his team could repeat next year. “Probably not,” said the Utah center. “But then, no one thought we’d win it this year. So who knows? I can’t wait to find out.”