- 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.
The Michigan Gray Wolves have never been ones for the trade market. While other contenders have frequently used the trade deadline as a chance to patch weaknesses before the stretch run, the Wolves have always passed. In some cases, this has been because they were too far ahead to be caught. But it also seemed to be a matter of philosophy; Michigan tended to trust their own players, even when they struggled, rather than looking to add outsiders.
“The guys in this locker room have been around from the beginning,” said Wolves coach Ron Wright in the run-up to this year’s deadline. “They’ve made the sacrifices and bought in to what we’re trying to do. I’m happy with what we have.”
But with Michigan clinging to a razor-thin lead in the West and with three other teams hot on their heels, GM Tim Carrier decided to break with tradition and make a deal. The Wolves picked up LW Kelvin Starkey and D Scott Hexton from the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for minor-league winger Cleo Rodgers, goalie Gus Parrish, and a 2nd-round draft pick.
“This is obviously not our usual approach at the deadline,” said Carrier. “And this is not in any way a commentary on the players on our current rosters. But with the race as tight as it is, I’d be remiss if I wasn’t looking for ways to improve our team. And this is a deal that makes us better now and in the future.”
While Michigan’s success has always been built on defense and goaltending, their punchless offense and aging roster have been growing concerns. As of the deadline, the Wolves were tied with Boston for dead last in the league with only 88 goals. And of their 15 regular starting skaters, eight of them are over age 30.
Starkey helps the Wolves address both concerns. The winger has been a reliable and steady scorer for Kansas City, with 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists) so far on the season. The 26-year-old is also signed for this year and next at a very reasonable $200,000 annual salary, another plus for the cap-strapped Wolves.
“This is a pretty cool opportunity for me,” said Starkey. “Knowing that a strong team like Michigan was interested in me… that’s a real boost. I can’t wait to get over there!”
The 28-year-old Hexton has struggled with the Smoke this season, recording a lone assist in 16 games as he has shuttled between Kansas City and their Omaha farm club. But he is a veteran with a reliable track record, and he was reportedly highly disenchanted with a Smoke team that he considered directionless and unprofessional. According to team sources, he had asked to be dealt if the opportunity presented itself.
With the Wolves, he’ll replace Igor Shovshenkov, a depth defender who was another member of the over-30 club. To facilitate the trade, the Smoke agreed to retain $150,000 of Hexton’s salary.
For the Smoke, the 21-year-old Rodgers provides the team with a much-needed scoring prospect. He had been considered a likely replacement for one of Michigan’s aging wingers, but despite a solid season with the Wolves’ affiliate in Cleveland (14 goals, 20 assists), his star seemed to have dimmed a bit within the organization. He will report to the Smoke’s farm club in Omaha, but is considered a strong shot to make the big-league roster next season.
The 29-year-old Parrish, meanwhile, will reportedly head straight to Kansas City to aid the Smoke’s woes in the crease. Kansas City is last in the league in GAA (4.13) and save percentage (.880). Parrish was having an exceptional season in Cleveland (8-9-4, 1.97 GAA, .912 save percentage), but was blocked in Michigan by the exceptional tandem of Dirk Lundquist and Art Cowan.
So after his “happy with what we have” comment a couple days earlier, how does Wright feel about the new additions? “I’m all for it,” the coach said. “What, you thought they were going to make this deal without asking me?”
The Cleveland Centurions may not be the CHL’s best team, but they do have one dubious distinction: they play in the league’s oldest arena. Cleveland Arena was built in 1949, and although it has been renovated since then, the facility shows its age in many ways. Centurions players have long since grown accustomed to the arena’s quirks, such as the cramped locker rooms and the inconsistent supply of hot water in the showers.
This week, however, Cleveland Arena’s age – along with some rogue pigeons – caused a game to be postponed, after the lights went out during a game.
On Sunday, the Centurions were hosting their season opener against the Oshawa Drive. With about seven minutes remaining in the third period and Cleveland leading 3-0, the arena suddenly went dark. Parts of the arena have experienced outages previously, but this was the first time that the entire building had gone out.
When it occurred, the fans let out a brief whoop, while the players sighed and rolled their eyes. “I think our first reaction was ‘Here we go again,’” said Centurions RW Cleo Rodgers. “I was thinking someone needed to go up to the attic and put the hamster back on his wheel so we could have power again.”
Team officials quickly verified that the outage with confined to the arena, as nearby buildings were operating just fine. While arena staff scrambled to fix the problem, the crowd clapped and chanted “We want the lights! We want the lights!” In order to try to keep the situation from spiraling out of control, Rodgers and some of the other Cleveland players gathered at center ice and led the crowd in singing along to “Cleveland Rocks,” the team’s entrance music. Meanwhile, vendors distributed food and Centurions team pictures to the crowd by way of apology.
After 25 minutes passed and there were no signs of the power being restored, the team announced that the game was postponed and ordered fans to evacuate the arena.
Electricians and arena maintenance workers worked frantically over the next several hours to diagnose the issue. Eventually, they located the culprit: a flock of pigeons that roosted in the upper reaches of the arena. They had apparently taken up residence during the offseason, picking away pieces of insulation to build their nests. Apparently, a combination of the nests and the pigeon droppings had caused a short circuit which knocked out power throughout the building. Once the area was thoroughly cleaned and the pigeons evicted, crews were able to restore power by the following morning. The game resumed the next day, and Cleveland closed out the win without further incident.
Centurions owner Brad Pelwicki said that the outage underscored the shortcomings of Cleveland Arena.
“Look, we all know that this building isn’t exactly state of the art,” said Pelwicki. “We knew that when we moved in. But there’s a difference between a charming old barn and a deathtrap. If the city’s not going to sink the money into keeping this place up, we’re going to have to look at our options.” Pelwicki said that these options included relocation. “I’m a Cleveland boy through and through, and I don’t want to leave and disappoint our fans. But we can’t have things like this happening.”
CHL Commissioner Denny McNerny echoed Pelwicki’s concerns. “We have to think about the health and safety of our players and fans,” McNerny said in a statement. “If the Centurions are going to keep playing in this arena, we need to make sure that incidents like this don’t happen again.” McNerny added that he will work with the owner and city officials to explore possible options.
The fans, meanwhile didn’t seem to mind. “I thought it was kind of cool,” said 27-year-old Samuel Glenn of Rocky River. “A lot of fun things happen in the dark.”
It’s been a rough season for the CHL’s Cleveland Centurions. The Michigan affiliate has been firmly anchored to the bottom of the Eastern division all season long. There is reportedly friction between the players and new coach Erik Pavlovitch, as well as between factions of players on the team. This week, that tension boiled over in public fashion as goalie Guillaume Levan melted down and attacked a teammate at the end of yet another loss.
During Tuesday’s game against the Baltimore Blue Crabs, the score was tied 2-2 in overtime. Just over a minute into the extra session, the Blue Crabs set up in the Cleveland zone on the power play. D Gil Calvert, stationed in front of the net, attempted to deny position to the Crabs forwards. But then he got turned around and fell backward into the crease, where he became tangled up with Levan. This caused the goalie to go down, leaving a wide-open net for Baltimore C Tucker Barnhill, who buried the game-winning goal, sealing Cleveland’s thirteenth straight loss.
A frustrated Levan smashed his stick against the post, then quickly turned his anger on Calvert. Levan grabbed the defender by the throat and wrestled him to the ground. Teammates eventually came and separated the two, although observers noted that some players seemed slow to come to Calvert’s aid.
“I think some of the guys were kind of rooting for Guillaume a little there,” said an anonymous Cleveland player. “Myself included, to be honest. It kind of seemed like we were overdue for somebody to choke somebody.”
Pavolvitch quickly suspended Levan for two games, and ripped his team’s lack of cohesion in his post-game press conference. “This kind of behavior is totally unacceptable,” the Centurions coach told reporters. “We’re supposed to be a team, working together to battle the other guys. It looks like we’re more interested in fighting each other instead. What happened today was an embarrassment, but the real problem is that we’re not thinking like a team. We’re not unified.”
Levan left quickly after the game and did not speak to reporters after the incident. It has been a frustrating season for the veteran netminder. After a dismal year in Quebec last season, the Tigres made no attempt to re-sign Levan. He wound up inking a minor-league pact with Michigan shortly before training camp.
Levan claims that he was promised the Centurions’ starting goalie job, which was a key factor in his decision to sign; Pavlovitch denies that such a promise was made. Either way, the bulk of the goaltending minutes have gone to rookie Eugene Looney, which has left Levan stewing. (This argument has shades of last year’s Cleveland controversy, when goalie Art Cowan accused the coaches of favoring prospect Jonas Schemko despite Cowan’s superior stats. Neither one is with the Centurions this season; Cowan was promoted to the Wolves, while Schemko was claimed by Boston in the expansion draft.)
“At this level, we’re about player development,” said Pavlovitch. “That means grooming young guys like Gene, not feeding the ego of an old goalie on his way out of the league.”
Team sources say that the Gray Wolves organization is looking to move Levan, although the market for a 34-year-old goalie with a reputation as a poor teammate is unclear. It’s also not clear whether Pavlovitch will survive the season if the losses continue to mount and the locker-room feuds continue to fester.
As grim as things seem in Cleveland right now, Centurions RW Cleo Rodgers has an optimistic outlook. “Are we going through some choppy waters? Yeah,” Rodgers admitted. “But that’s how it goes in a family sometimes. Families fight, but they love each other underneath it. We’re a family, and we know that in the end. If we start winning a few games, that ought to help smooth things over.”