- On Saturday, the Hershey Bliss placed D Steve Cargill on the disabled list. Cargill, who has had a sensational rookie season and played his way onto Hershey’s top pairing, was crunched hard into the boards during the third period of Saturday’s 6-4 win over Boston, and did not return. He was diagnosed with an upper-body injury that is expected to keep him out for 3 to 4 weeks. To replace Cargill on the roster, the Bliss promoted LW Gabriel Swindonburg from their CHL affiliate in Milwaukee. The 20-year-old Swindonburg, who was Hershey’s first-round draft pick this season, has scored 22 goals (tied ofr the CHL lead) with Milwaukee, and earned a trip to the CHL All-Star Game.
- Also on Saturday, the New York Night placed RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek on the disabled list. Trujwirnek suffered a lower-body injury while blocking a shot during the Night’s 7-4 loss against Hamilton. Trujwirnek’s situation is described as “week-to-week.” With Trujwirnek on the shelf, New York recalled RW Mickey Simpson from their farm team in Utah, Its the second stint in New York for Simpson, who was called up during LW Lee Fleming‘s injury back in late January.
- On Saturday, the Hamilton Pistols terminated the contract of LW Diego Garcia. The 26-year-old winger had been playing with Hamilton’s CHL team in Oshawa. After being bench due to a disagreement with Oshawa coach Harvey Williams, Garcia left the team. The Pistols deemed him in breach of contract. More on the story here.
Diego Garcia has a well-earned reputation as a malcontent. The 26-year-old has played in several SHL organizations since the league’s inception, but he’s never seemed happy with his role wherever he’s been.
He started on the third line in Dakota, but quickly lost his starting spot, and complained about it until he was traded to Hamilton. With the Pistols, his lackadaisical work habits and indifferent focus wore out the patience of coaches, and they dealt him to New York the following season.
He played regularly in New York for the rest of the 2016 season, but then Night coach Preston Rivers was fired, and new head man Nick Foster benched Garcia due to his poor defensive work. Garcia griped to the press about the benching, implying that racial discrimination was a factor in the decision. Shortly thereafter, the Night demoted him to their farm team in Utah.
Garcia played well in Utah over the next season and a half, but failed to earn a call-up. This led him to once again demand a trade. The Night accommodated him at last year’s deadline, shipping him up to Boston. He played in the bigs for the final 20-odd games of the season, but the Badgers weren’t impressed enough to re-sign him this season.
Failing to land any major-level offers, Garcia signed with the Oshawa Drive. But his usual issues – lack of hustle and his penchant for bellyaching – landed him in hot water with coach Harvey Williams. The simmering tension between the two boiled over this week, when Williams benched the winger and Garcia responded by leaving the team.
According to team sources, Garcia’s latest frustrations began when he was passed over for the CHL All-Star Game. He made the team last season, and felt that he deserved a return trip. He became even more upset when the Pistols, Oshawa’s parent club, traded for F Cary Estabrook from Boston. In Garcia’s opinion, he is a superior player to Estabrook, and deserved to be called up instead.
“I knew [Estabrook] from Boston,” Garcia fumed to reporters. “They say I don’t hustle? He hustles way less than I do. They say I’m bad at defense? He’s worse. They say I don’t show up for practice? He cares more about what time the bar closes than what time practice is. But he’s the golden boy, the great white hope, so he gets a second chance. And the lazy brown guy rots in the minors. I wish I was surprised.”
Garcia’s rant rubbed Williams the wrong way. The coach told reporters that Garcia “has been a pain in my [butt] all season. He’s always in my office whining about how he ‘deserves’ to be in the majors. And I always tell him the same thing: If you want to make it to the next level, go out there and show me something special. Make it so they can’t deny you a shot. And he doesn’t want to do it. He’s been fine, but nothing special. He’s had five years to make it in the majors, and he hasn’t stuck. He’s got talent, but he doesn’t want to put in the work. So I don’t want to hear about it.”
When informed of his coach’s comments, Garcia shot back: “Oh, so now I’m lazy and uppity, huh? I wonder why I haven’t gotten a fair shake in this organization. All my life, I’ve had to work twice as hard to get half as far. It’s the same old crap.” He then said that – yet again – he wants to be traded.
Williams reacted to the trade demand with derision. “Oh, here we go again: ‘Trade me, trade me.’ Every time someone calls him out on his [crap], he demands a trade. Anything to avoid taking a hard look in the mirror. Well fine, then. I’ll do it for him.”
The coach announced that he would bench Garcia indefinitely. “Everywhere else, people got sick of him and they punted so they don’t have to deal with him. Well, I’m gonna deal with him.” Williams said he would play Garcia again “when he finally owns up that he has no one to blame but himself. Given his track record, he might be sitting awhile.”
Garcia responded by leaving the team and returning to his offseason home in Vancouver. He said he would not return to the ice until the Drive traded him. “Obviously, I’m never going to get a fair shot with this organization, so let’s move on.”
Three days later, the Drive terminated his contract. “If Diego is not going to provide his services to our team, then he is in breach of contract,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire. “He said that he wants a fresh start; he is now free to pursue that with any team he wishes.”
This may be the end of the line for Garcia in the SHL; he has worn out his welcome with multiple organizations, and he does not put up the kind of numbers that would compel a team to sign him in spite of the headaches.
“If some desperate team takes a chance on him, I wish ‘em the best of luck,” said Williams. “He’s a legend in his own mind, and guys like that – there’s just no reasoning with ‘em.”
Amid the flurry of activity at the trading deadline, with contenders making both small and large moves to load up for a playoff push, one deal wasn’t like the others. It was a trade between two non-contending teams that involved no big-name players. Arguably, there was only one reason that the deal was made: to satisfy Diego Garcia’s trade demand.
Garcia, a 26-year-old winger, has had a productive season with the New York Night’s minor-league affiliate in Utah; his 41 points this season led the team. But when it became clear that the Night had no intention of promoting him to the big club, Garcia grew disenchanted and demanded to be traded.
Three weeks later, New York accommodated Garcia’s demand, sending him to the Boston Badgers, an expansion club that is thirsty for offense.
“We took Diego’s demand seriously,” said Night coach Nick Foster. “I’ve always been straight with my guys about my plans for them.” After Garcia made his demand, Foster said that he called the disgruntled winger to talk about his place in the organization. “I told him my thinking and how I saw our forward situation, and what I thought he’d need to do to crack the lineup here,” the coach told reporters. “After we talked, Diego felt like he’d prefer to go somewhere that he would have an opportunity right away, and we looked for a chance to make that happen.”
In Garcia, Boston acquires an undeniably talented player, but one whose lackluster work habits and prickly personality have caused him to wear out his welcome in multiple cities. He posted 9 goals and 22 assists over pieces of three SHL seasons with Dakota, Hamilton, and New York. He has a reputation as a player who can contribute on offense, especially as a passer. However, he is considered weak on defense, which makes him an odd fit for a Badgers team that is supposedly built around defense and hard work.
On the other hand, Boston’s need for offense is so acute – they are last in the league in goals scored by a considerable margin – that they may be willing to explore unorthodox choices. Head coach Cam Prince was an assistant in New York during Garcia’s time there, and he likes what the winger brings to the table. “Diego is a talented guy who has the explosiveness to make things happen,” said Prince. “We could use a little extra pace and a spark on offense, and I think he can give us that.”
In exchange for Garcia and 19-year-old defenseman Horst Hasenkamp, the Badgers sent the Night a pair of players. The prime return for New York is 29-year-old defenseman Shane Gladchuk, who put up 2 goals and 10 assists in 40 games with Boston. Gladchuk, who is in his second tour of duty with New York, is expected to join Andy Ruger on the Night’s bottom defensive pairing.
In addition, the Night acquired Alvin Fawn, a 19-year-old prospect who scored 7 points over 36 games in the minors this season.
“Shane is one of those guys who doesn’t grab the headlines, but he does a good steady job,” said Foster. “We’re looking to tighten up in our own end, and Shane’s just the guy we need to help with that. If everything works out the way I think it will, I hope we’ll be able to lock him up long-term.”
This year, the SHL’s minor league will also be holding an All-Star Game. The game will take place at Waterfront Center, home of the Virginia Rhinos. The rosters for the game, along with each player’s current stats, are below.
Coach: Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh (Virginia)
LW: Norris “Beaver” Young, Oshawa (15 G, 27 A, 42 Pts, 10 PIM, +19)
D: Gary Hermine, Oshawa (11 G, 28 A, 39 Pts, 16 PIM, +20)
C: Pat “Stoner” Collistone, Oshawa (17 G, 26 A, 43 Pts, 8 PIM, +19)
D: Rennie Cox, Virginia (15 G, 20 A, 35 Pts, 4 PIM, +7)
RW: Anders Pedersen, Oshawa (12 G, 25 A, 37 Pts, 23 PIM, +19)
LW: Yuri Laronov, Virginia (17 G, 19 A, 36 Pts, 16 PIM, -2)
D: Blake Blacklett, Virginia (14 G, 19 A, 33 Pts, 26 PIM, +7)
C: Cyril Perignon, Virginia (17 G, 24 A, 41 Pts, 0 PIM, +2)
D: Ambroz Melicar, Baltimore (12 G, 21 A, 33 Pts, 8 PIM, +3)
RW: Chris Quake, Virginia (6 G, 24 A, 30 Pts, 20 PIM, -2)
LW: Rex Batten, Baltimore (11 G, 21 A, 32 Pts, 31 PIM, Even)
D: Kirby Hanlon, Maine (6 G, 12 A, 18 Pts, 20 PIM, +1)
C: Phoenix Cage, Cleveland (7 G, 17 A, 24 Pts, 6 PIM, -9)
D: Hampus Olsson, Maine (6 G, 8 A, 14 Pts, 6 PIM, +1)
RW: Felix Delorme, Hartford (11 G, 12 A, 23 Pts, 6 PIM, -12)
Jonathan Crane, Maine (10-8-3, 2.06 GAA, .917 save %)
Hector Orinoco, Oshawa (15-6-0, 2.75 GAA, .896 save %)
Coach: Wiley Kiyotie (Utah)
LW: Diego Garcia, Utah (8 G, 23 A, 31 Pts, 10 PIM, -1)
D: Steve Cargill, Milwaukee (7 G, 23 A, 30 Pts, 48 PIM, +8)
C: Dale Wilcox, Colorado Springs (12 G, 19 A, 31 Pts, 29 PIM, +13)
D: Georg Ochre, Muncie (5 G, 21 A, 26 Pts, 49 PIM, +12)
RW: Philippe Durien, Colorado Springs (24 G, 22 A, 46 Pts, 22 PIM, +13)
LW: Veikko Sikanen, Omaha (15 G, 15 A, 30 Pts, 23 PIM, +5)
D: Brian Coldivar, Minnesota (12 G, 14 A, 26 Pts, 18 PIM, +6)
C: Tanner Everest, Minnesota (7 G, 24 A, 31 Pts, 18 PIM, +7)
D: Rudolf Kerasov, Minnesota (8 G, 17 A, 25 Pts, 22 PIM, +6)
RW: James Clay, Milwaukee (8 G, 22 A, 30 Pts, 16 PIM, +3)
LW: Jean Pierre Fleury, Minnesota (14 G, 11 A, 25 Pts, 14 PIM, +8)
D: Trevor Lockwood, Omaha (7G, 17 A, 24 Pts, 53 PIM, -1)
C: Vance Ketterman, Milwaukee (11 G, 15 A, 26 Pts, 12 PIM, +3)
D: Duncan DeShantz, Colorado Springs (4 G, 18 A, 22 Pts, 45 PIM, +17)
RW: Mark Winters, Minnesota (7 G, 20 A, 27 Pts, 24 PIM, +7)
Sonny Kashiuk, Colorado Springs (20-3-1, 1.57 GAA, .943 save %)
Kelvin White, Muncie (12-10-0, 1.85 GAA, .937 save %)
Utah Owls LW Diego Garcia is having a very strong season. The 26-year-old winger is in his second season with the Owls, having been demoted by the New York Night early in the 2017 season. Garcia had a surprisingly solid season with Utah last year, posting 11 goals and 22 assists in 45 games. This season, he’s done even better; he leads the team in points, posting __ goals and __ assists already this season.
You might think that with these kinds of numbers, Garcia would be a prime candidate for a mid-season callup. But no promotion has been forthcoming, at least so far. And that’s left Garcia wanting out.
“When they sent me down, they told me they wanted to see more consistent effort and performance,” Garcia said. “So I go down and do a great job, and I’m still rotting away? That’s crap. If New York’s not going to use me, they should send me somewhere that will.”
Garcia has a rather checkered reputation in the SHL. He’s considered a decent offensive talent, a good skater with a nice passing touch. But he’s always been lackadaisical on defense, is not known as a hard worker, and is well known as a malcontent when things aren’t going his way.
He broke in with the then-Dakota Rapids as a third-line winger. He lost his starting spot to Vonnie McLearen, however, and became deeply disenchanted with coach Harold Engellund and the organization. After upsetting the coaching staff with his unwillingness to practice, he was traded to the Hamilton Pistols at the trading deadline in 2015.
Garcia played more regularly in Hamilton, recording 8 points in 33 games during the 2016 season. But the Pistols coaches soured on him, noting that he didn’t seem engaged when the game wasn’t close and, again, he showed inconsistent effort during practices. As a result, he was sent to New York as part of the Rod Remington deal. He seemed to click with the Night; their uptempo, offense-oriented style suited his approach, and then-coach Preston Rivers didn’t care much about practice. Garcia recorded 2 goals and 13 assists in 21 games, and seemed to be on track for more opportunities in 2017.
Garcia was outraged, therefore, when he found himself exiled to the bench under new coach Nick Foster in 2017. “I earned my shot with the way I played,” Garcia fumed to reporters. “But bring in a new coach, and all that goes right in the garbage and it’s like I’m a rookie trying out all over again. I’m not here for that [expletive].” Garcia also alleged that he was being discriminated against because of his Hispanic origins. “The Lazy Mexican is the oldest stereotype in the book,” the winger told reporters. “Because I don’t look like your typical hockey player, I’ve got to work ten times as hard to get credit. I’m sick of it.”
For his part, Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie is a Garcia fan. “I know the stories about him,” the coach said, “but I’ve never seen it. He’s always worked hard and played great for me. Diego’s always done whatever’s been asked of him, and he’s been a great player for me. He has a great nose for offensive, and he shows explosive bursts of speed. I’m glad he’s on the team.”
Garcia stressed that he has no issue with Kiyotie or the Owls. Rather, he’s anxious to get another crack at the big time. “I don’t want to spend the rest of my career stuck in the minors,” he said. “I know that I’m capable of doing a better job than some of those guys that have SHL jobs. But it’s obvious that New York has given up on me. So let me go before I get too old and lose my shot.”
Foster, for his part, claims not to have any animus against Garcia. “I’ll admit, Diego didn’t make much of an impression when he was here,” the Night boss said. “I’m always open to second-chance stories, though. But where’s the opening? He’s proven that he doesn’t want to be a reserve who only gets in a handful of games. But all of our starting forward slots are basically locked down. I’m not going to argue that he doesn’t deserve another chance, but I don’t have anywhere to put him.”
Night GM Royce McCormick declined to state whether he would accommodate Garcia’s trade demand. “We’re always looking for deals to make our team better,” McCormick said. “And if we see a way to improve that allows Diego to go somewhere, I’ll pursue that. But we’re not just going to deal him for the sake of moving him. We’re not in the charity business.”
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.”
The SHL trading deadline this week passed fairly quietly, with no blockbusters. There were only two deadline deals this time around.
The first deal, struck approximately two hours before the deadline, involved the Dakota Rapids and the Hamilton Pistols. The Rapids shipped C Jens Bunyakin and F Diego Garcia to the Pistols in exchange for C Florian Theroux, F Jacques Bacon, and a 3rd-round pick.
For the Pistols, seeking a little offensive pop on their lower lines, Bunyakin (10 goals, 23 points) was just what the doctor ordered.
“We’ve been interested in Jens ever since the beginning,” said Hamilton GM Marcel LaClaire. “I feel like he was born to play for us. He’s a strong two-way player, and he can create his own shot or make a great pass to set up an opportunity.”
Meanwhile, the Rapids had depth at the center position (also featuring Harvey Bellmore and Lars Karlsson), and pounced on the opportunity to collect an extra pick. “We know that it’s a pretty long shot for us to make the playoffs, so we were looking for a chance to stockpile some assets,” said Dakota GM Paul Mindegaard. “We feel good about how this deal sets us up for the future.”
In Theroux (3 goals, 18 points), the Rapids acquired a player with a reputation for passing and speed. Dakota also took the opportunity to offload Garcia, who lost his starting spot to Vonnie McLearen early in the season and had been disgruntled ever since. He appeared in only 7 games for Dakota, collecting only an assist in that time. Bacon (6 games, no points) played a similarly bit part for Hamilton.