- 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.
- On Monday, the Kansas City Smoke‘s CHL affiliate in Omaha placed D Lowell Sharkey on the injured list. Sharkey suffered a serious lower-body injury during Sunday’s game against Idaho, and is expected to be sidelined for over a month. The loss is a major blow to the organization, as the 20-year-old blueliner is a prized prospect who was off to a strong start, with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) and a +6 rating in 9 games. To fill Sharkey’s spot on the roster, the team signed D Fyodor Agronozov. The 26-year-old Agronozov spent last year in Oshawa, where he recorded 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists) in 62 games.
- Also on Monday, the Dakota Jackalopes‘ CHL affiliate in Idaho placed D Georg Ochre on the injured list. Ochre, who was last season’s CHL Finals MVP, sustained an upper-body injury on Sunday against Omaha. Much like Sharkey, Ochre was playing quite well; he recorded 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 9 games before his injury. Unlike Sharkey, Ochre is expected to miss only 2 to 3 weeks. Ochre’s spot will be taken by D Gerry Michaud, a 25-year-old who recorded 5 assists in 57 games with Maine last season.
- On Friday, the Hamilton Pistols demoted F Michael Jennings to their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and called up C Hilliard Macy from Oshawa. The Pistols were in need of a center after Calvin Frye suffered a lower-body injury in Thursday’s 7-6 win over Hershey. Although Frye is day-to-day, Jennings is a natural winger and the Pistols didn’t want to plug him in at center for any extended length of time. The 20-year-old MAcy has had a solid season in Oshawa, with 7 goals and 3 assists in 11 games.
- Also on Friday, the Hershey Bliss placed LW Russell Nahorniak on the injured list. Nahorniak suffered a major lower-body injury when he was upended by a violent check in Thursday’s game. He is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks. Nahorniak was a key contributor on Hershey’s second line, with 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in 11 games. To fill Nahorniak’s spot, the Bliss called up LW Sergei Tarisov from their affiliate in Milwaukee. Tarisov, 22, had put up 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 11 minor-league games this season. The Bliss also signed F Jerry Cazenovia to a short-term contract to replace Tarisov in Milwaukee.
The Idaho Spuds were an unlikely contender in the CHL. Last season, playing as the Muncie Squirrels, they finished fourth in their division. Their rebuilding parent club, the Dakota Jackalopes, called up several of the best prospects from that squad. The Spuds received a warm reception in their new home, regularly selling out Treasure Valley Arena. But the idea that they’d finish above .500, much less make the playoffs, seemed far-fetched to most observers.
However, coach Gilbert McCoyne wasn’t interested in what most observers thought. “I wasn’t about to put any limits on what we could achieve,” McCoyne said. “I just told my guys, ‘Why not us?’”
McCoyne’s power-of-positive-thinking approach paid dividends. Idaho not only made the playoffs, they dismissed the heavily-favored division-winning Omaha Ashcats in a stunning sweep. Then in the Finals, they dethroned the defending champion Virginia Rhinos in six games to win their first-ever Howard Trophy.
“This season has been one wild ride!” said Spuds C Dale Wilcox. “We never gave up and never stopped believing, and now we’re the champs!”
The series opened in Boise in front of another pair of sellout crowds, and the Spuds gave their fans plenty to cheer about. In Game 1, fueled by the energy of their fans, a fired-up Idaho team outshot the Rhinos 32-20. The Spuds capitalized on their power play opportunities, going 3-for-4 in man-advantage situations, and goalie Kelvin White registered a shutout in a 3-0 Idaho win. In Game 2, the Spuds once again had a huge advantage in shots, outshooting Virginia 43-23, but White wasn’t quite as sharp. Idaho squandered a 4-2 lead in the third period when Rhinos LW Yuri Laronov and LW Errol Garner scored 90 seconds apart, but RW Britt Cadmium came through with what proved to be the game-winning goal in a 5-4 triumph.
The Rhinos regained their footing a bit in the middle three games, which took place on their ice. In Game 3, Virginia got a pair of second-period goals from Laronov and D Gustaf Bergstrom, and goalie Quentin Chislic stopped all 30 Idaho shots for a 2-0 win. In Game 4, Virginia got the early edge, only to see Idaho seize control of the game in the second on the way to a 6-2 blowout that included three third-period goals. Staring at elimination, the Rhinos pushed back in Game 5, building a 3-0 lead through the first forty minutes. The Spuds pushed back in the third, putting up another three-goal frame, but Virginia held on for a 5-3 win. C Trent Harlow scored two goals in a winning effort for the defending champs.
With the action shifting back to Treasure Valley Arena for Game 6, the Spuds were looking for the quick kill, while the Rhinos were looking to prove that they could be competitive away from home. Idaho controlled the play once again, outshooting Virginia 38-26, but Chislic kept the Rhinos in the game. LW Van Dyke Browning scored in the opening minute to give Idaho a quick edge, but Rhinos D Gunther Stephens answered less than four minutes later to tie things up. The Spuds got back in front in the second on a score by D Brett Stolte, and D Georg Ochre made it 3-1 early in the third with a blast from the top of the faceoff circle. Idaho then endangered their lead with a string of minor penalties, and Bergstrom finally converted with just over five minutes remaining to pull Virginia within one. The Spuds managed to stay out of the penalty box after that, though, and the Rhinos couldn’t come up with an equalizer in the time remaining.
Ochre, who led all Idaho scorers with 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists), earned the Finals MVP honors. His teammates mobbed the quiet, rugged defenseman they fondly call “The Ogre.” As Wilcox quipped, “I can’t wait to hear the Ogre’s acceptance speech, ‘cause it’ll be the first time he’s said more than two words in a row.”
For many of the Spuds, their next challenge will come in the SHL, as they’re called up and tasked with reviving the Jackalopes’ sagging fortunes. “Making it in the SHL is a different kind of challenge,” admitted Wilcox. “But we’ve gotten this far by believing in ourselves, so why not keep going?”
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 %)