Offseason Update: Hamilton Shares Vandy With Fans

The Hamilton Pistols won their second straight Vandy this season.  And the team had a very clear idea how they wanted to celebrate: “We want to share this trophy with our fans,” said RW Claude Lafayette.  “And we want to drink as much as we can while doing it.”

So far, the Pistols are living up to Lafayette’s goals.  There’s hardly a bar, nightclub, public park, or civic event this summer that the Pistols haven’t brought the Vandy to.  They’ve drank, danced, sung, and partied their way around the Greater Toronto Area, and the players and fans are thoroughly enjoying themselves so far.

“It’s been one crazy never-ending party so far,” said C Calvin Frye.  “I was worried about some of our guys at first.  But we’re staying hydrated and pacing ourselves just enough so that we can keep it going.  So far, so good!”

The Pistols said their victory party was inspired the NHL’s Washington Capitals, who became famous for their highly public and booze-fueled celebration of their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2018.  “They really redefined the standard for the party game,” said Lafayette of the Caps.  “They were definitely an inspiration to us.  Last year, when we won, we were too tired to really let it loose.  But this time, we knew we wanted to take it to the next level.”

The party began with the championship parade, which drew tens of thousands to downtown Hamilton to cheer on their heroes.  The Pistols stood atop double-decker buses, waving and throwing tchotchkes to the fans.  The parade route ended at Gunpowder Armory, where the fans packed in to listen to the players make giddy speeches and lead cheers.

Steven Alexander

“Winning our first Vandy was an incredible experience,” said LW Steven Alexander, “but it was damn hard work, and we were pretty tired afterward.  But you guys, with your cheers and your total support, you gave us the energy to go out and win it again.  This title is for you!”

Alexander also took a shot at the Pistols’ rival, the New York Night, and longtime antagonist and now-former coach Nick Foster.  “You guys might remember that clown down south of the border, the one who kept talking crap about me, about us,” Alexander shouted, as boos rained down from the fans.  “He kept saying his team was better than ours, their arena was better than ours, their fans were better than ours.  Well, guess what?  We just went back-to-back, and he just got fired.  Scoreboard, Nick!”

The parade was hardly the end of the celebration, however.  Reports began popping up on social media of various Pistols showing up at local restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, often with the Vandy in tow.  One night, Alexander, Frye, Lafayette, and the trophy showed up unannounced at a bar called Skipper Harry’s on the waterfront.  Alexander jumped up on top of the bar and shouted that he was buying a round for everyone in the house.  He then had the bartender fill the bowl in the center of the trophy with beer, which he chugged. After leading the bar in a round of “We Are the Champions,” Frye and Lafayette carried the Vandy around the beer, giving patrons a chance to snap selfies and, in some cases, replicate Alexander’s beer chug.

A couple days later, Ds Hercules Mulligan and Clayton Risch were spotted carrying the Vandy down Locke Street, pausing frequently for selfies and high-fives with fans.  Mulligan also carried a duffel bag filled with Pistols hats and T-shirts, and he tossed one to every person he spotted wearing Toronto Maple Leafs gear, shouting, “How’d you like to cheer for a winner for a change?” (The Maple Leafs have not won a championship since 1967.)

On another occasion, several players were taking a mini-bus to a nightclub when Alexander spied someone on the street wearing a shirt created by a Pistols fan blog.  The shirt featured the Pistols’ gunsight log, with a silhouette of the Vandy replacing the customary “H”.  Beneath the logo, the shirt read “We’ve Got Another Title In Our Sights.”  Alexander told the driver to stop the bus, then rushed out and greeted the surprised fan.  “That shirt is awesome!  Want to trade with me?”  The fan agreed, whereupon Alexander whipped off his shirt, autographed it, and handed it to the fan.  He then posted for a picture before hopping back on the bus.

The sightings continued on a daily basis over the next two or three weeks, as the Pistols kept appearing, flashing their hardware, drinking and dancing and singing with anyone who wanted to join in.

“They basically took the celebration and turned it into a rolling, never-ending street party,” said coach Keith Shields.  “They know how essential the fans are to our success, and they want to share that joy together.  I think it shows how special the bond is between our team and the city.  We’re all going to have memories to last a lifetime.”

2020 SHL Finals – Game 2

HAMILTON PISTOLS 5, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 3

(Hamilton leads series, 2-0)

After dropping the opener of the SHL Finals, the Anchorage Igloos came into today’s Game 2 looking to start strong, cruise to victory, and even the series.  They got the strong start down pat; five minutes into the game, they led 3-1.  But then the spent the remaining 55 minutes watching the Hamilton Pistols slowly but surely tilt the ice in their direction, coming from behind to claim a 5-3 win and a 2-0 series lead.

“This was a tough one for us to take,” said Igloos LW Jerry Koons.  “We felt like we should have had this one, and we let it get away.”

The beginning of this game, just like Game 1, was wide open and full of scoring.  D Olaf Martinsson got Anchorage on the board just seven seconds in, with an awkward knuckling shot that eluded Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen.  At the 42-second mark, C Calvin Frye banked one in off the crossbar to tie it.  And at 1:15, Igloos D Ted Keefe intercepted a pass and found RW Broni Zlotkin, who fired it above Koskinen’s catching glove to take a 2-1 lead.

“I don’t know what it is about these games,” said Frye.  “It’s like no one’s allowed to play D until a couple minutes into it.”

Three and a half minutes after Zhlotkin’s tally, RW Nicklas Ericsson finished an odd-man rush with a beautiful deke that got Koskinen to bite, then deposited the puck in the vacant upper-right corner of the net to give Anchorage a two-goal lead.  With the game getting out of control, Pistols LW Steven Alexander called his team out and urged them to turn the tide.

“Alex was basically screaming at us that we needed to wake up,” said Frye.  “He said, ‘We can just back in this, turn things around and bury these guys.’  And that got us going.”

Fittingly, Alexander got the rally started himself.  D Raymond Smyth hit him with a perfect pass in the neutral zone, and Alexander barreled up the ice at top speed.  He pulled off a gorgeous toe drag to shake D Tony Citrone, crashed in toward the net, and went high for the score.  Alexander then jumped into the boards and signaled to his teammates.

“He pointed and kind of waved us on like, ‘Okay, I got us started, now it’s your turn,'” said Frye.  “Alex did what he needed to light the fire under us.”

After Alexander’s goal, the game shifted in Hamilton’s favor.  For one thing, they tightened up their shoddy defense.  Anchorage had 17 shots in the first period; they had 21 in the next two periods combined.  And as the Igloos found their game stalling, the Pistols found theirs warming up.

In the second period, D Hercules Mulligan tied the game with a blast from the top of the offensive zone.  The goal was originally credited to RW Ben Summers, who was believed to have tipped it, but replays showed that the puck just took a strange bounce off the ice on its way into the net.

In the first minute of the third period, RW Claude Lafayette gave Hamilton its first lead of the game on a slapshot that leaked through Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington‘s pads and trickled over the goal line before he could stop it.  And in the middle of the third period, Alexander put a capper on the night.  He received the puck in the left faceoff circle, his favorite spot, and wound up for his trademark slapper.  Worthington readied himself to block it.  But instead of shooting, Alexander slapped a pass to Lafayette, who put it into the yawning net for an insurance tally.

Igloos coach Sam Castor swatted down a question about whether he would go to backup Curt Freeze in net after Worthington struggled in each of the first two games.  “Not even a consideration; this is Ty’s series unless he gets hurt,” said Castor.  “Has he had a couple of rough games?  Yes.  But is that on him?  No. it’s not.  Our defense has left him out to dry far too often, and that needs to change in a hurry.”

Castor also criticized his team’s power play, which is 0-for-7 so far in the series.  “We had four today, and didn’t do a thing with them,” the coach noted.  “If we convert on even one of those, it’s a different game.”

As the series shifts to Anchorage for the next three games, the Igloos know they need to raise their game if they’re going to get back into it.  “We need to control the flow of the game,” said Koons.  “We did that against Portland, but so far this series, Hamilton has dictated the game.  If we keep playing back on our heels, this is going to be a short series.  We need to be on our toes instead.”

Continue reading “2020 SHL Finals – Game 2”

2020 SHL Playoff – Game 2

Eastern Division Playoff (Hamilton leads, 2-0)

HAMILTON PISTOLS 5, HERSHEY BLISS 1

When it’s playoff time at Gunpowder Armory, it’s not a good idea to show up late.  For one thing, the games always sell out, and you wouldn’t want to have to fight your way through the raucous crowd to find your seat.  For another, you never know what you might miss.  Fans who showed up even a couple minutes late to today’s Game 2 missed a pair of power plays and three goals, as well as some of the rare competitive moments in a game that became a 5-1 Pistols blowout, bringing the defending champs within one game of a return trip to the Finals.

“We’re playing our best hockey at the perfect time,” said LW Steven Alexander.  “It feels a lot like last year, if you know what I mean.”

The game was just seven seconds old when Pistols D Hercules Mulligan went to the penalty box for interference.  Just ten seconds after that, Bliss LW Lance Sweet found the back of the net on a slapper.  It was the second straight game that Hershey scored first, and that left the home team steaming.

“We weren’t going to wait for Coach Shields to wake us up,” said C Calvin Frye.  “We wanted to take the game back before [the Bliss] started getting comfortable.”

Hamilton did just that fifty seconds into the game, when Hershey committed a costly neutral-zone turnover that led to an odd-man rush.  Frye finished it with a beautiful deke that got Bliss goalie Christien Adamsson out of position, allowing Frye to go five-hole and tie it up.  Just four seconds later, Hershey D Bruce Minnik was sent off for high-sticking.  On the power play that followed, Mulligan redeemed his earlier penalty with a blast from the blue line that beat a screamed Adamsson.

All that in the first 65 seconds.  That early flurry set the tone for a frenetic period that featured a total of 34 shots (23-11 in Hamilton’s favor) and one more goal by D Albie Glasco.

“I loved the way our guys showed up with authority and took control of the game,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields.  “Just an awesome job feeding off the energy of the crowd, tilting the ice and absolutely setting the pace.  I couldn’t have been prouder.”

After the wild first, the second period was almost shockingly silent, with no goals or penalties.  Even the famously rowdy Hamilton crowd seemed to lose its edge, at least until the Pistols scored a pair of third-period goals (from Frye and RW Ben Summers) to put the game away.  As the final minutes ticked away, the fans chanted “Back to back!  Back to back!”, already anticipating the Finals trip that feels close.

As for the Bliss, they seemed eager to put this game in the rear-view mirror and head back for the friendlier confines of Chocolate Center for a win-or-go-home Game 3.

“There’s too much talent in this locker room to count us out,” said D Reese Milton.  “When we get back home, we’ll be ready to turn this series around.”

E Final - Gm 2, Hershey @ Hamilton, Gunpowder Armory

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hershey            1   0   0        1
Hamilton           3   0   2        5

 
Hershey               SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Hamilton              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Milton          D      3   0   1   1   2   0   0   Lafayette       RW     2   0   3   3   0   0  +1
Sweet           LW     4   1   0   1   1   2  -1   Frye            C      4   2   1   3   0   0  +1
Hart            RW     2   0   0   0   2   0  -1   Alexander       LW     7   0   2   2   1   0  +1
Aubin           D      0   0   0   0   0   0   0   Mulligan        D      4   1   0   1   1   2   0
Valentine       C      3   0   1   1   0   2  -1   Risch           D      3   0   0   0   3   0   0
Kirkpatrick     C      2   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Smyth           D      2   0   1   1   1   0  +3
Cargill         D      0   0   0   0   1   2  -3   Summers         RW     5   1   0   1   0   0  +1
Meloche         D      1   0   0   0   0   0  -3   Venezio         C      2   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Swindonburg     LW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Campbell        LW     3   0   0   0   2   0  +1
Montrechere     RW     2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Hampton         D      2   0   0   0   3   0   0
Ketterman       C      1   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Marais          C      2   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Daniels         RW     1   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Glasco          D      2   1   0   1   0   0  +3
Nahorniak       LW     3   0   0   0   0   0  -1   Patterson       RW     5   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Minnik          D      4   0   0   0   3   2   0   Jennings        F      2   0   0   0   1   0  +1
Kulkarov        D      0   0   0   0   0   0   0   Klemmer         D      1   0   0   0   1   0   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                28   1   2   3  11   8  -3   TOTALS                46   5  10  15  13   2   3

Coach: Chip Barber                                 Coach: Keith Shields                            

Scratches:
HSY:  Kilborn, Snelling, Lapointe
HAM:  Bodett (INJ), Pedersen, Winston (INJ), Gunnarson (DL)

 
Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Adamsson            46    41    5  0.891

Hamilton            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            28    27    1  0.964

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
00:17  HSY  Sweet PP (Valentine, Milton)
00:50  HAM  Frye (Alexander, Lafayette)
01:05  HAM  Mulligan PP (Lafayette, Frye)
04:24  HAM  Glasco (Marais, Patterson)

PENALTIES:
00:07  HAM  Mulligan 2:00 (Interference)
00:54  HSY  Minnik 2:00 (High-sticking)
18:32  HSY  Valentine 2:00 (Holding the Stick)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
None


Third Period
------------

GOALS:
02:23  HAM  Frye PP (Alexander, Lafayette)
15:06  HAM  Summers (Venezio, Smyth)

PENALTIES:
00:24  HSY  Sweet 2:00 (High-sticking)
15:35  HSY  Cargill 2:00 (Slashing)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Hershey           11   8   9       28
Hamilton          23  11  12       46

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Hershey          1 for 1
Hamilton         2 for 4

 
INJURIES
--------

None

 

Western Division Playoff (Anchorage leads, 2-0)

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 6, PORTLAND BLUEBACKS 5

After it was all over, in the quiet and sorrowful locker room, Portland Bluebacks LW Rod “Money” Argent tried to explain what had happened.  How the Bluebacks had allowed a game that they seemed set to win slip away.  How they had managed to give up four goals in a wild third period that saw them lose their lead, then regain it, only to lose it again.  How a team that had been so strong in the regular season – especially at Willamette River Arena – could drop the first two games of this best-of-five Western final at home.  How a team that swore they’d learned the lesson of last season – a team that was dead set on winning the Vandy – could be on the verge of being eliminated in a humiliating sweep for the second straight season.

Argent stared at the floor for a good long time, then looked up at the circle of reporters around him and said, “Honestly, I can’t explain what happened.  It was so fast and so stunning.  All I know is that we can’t let it happen again.  We’ve got to fix it, now.”

Coming into the fateful third period, Portland seemed to be comfortably in control.  They’d built a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Argent and D Doron Lidjya.  Anchorage had rallied in the second, with C Jake Frost and LW Les Collins getting on the board, but Argent had a power play tally in between to keep the Bluebacks in front.  The home team was outshooting the Igloos 27-17.  Goalie Ty Worthington was doing his part to keep Anchorage in the game, but he was not as unbeatable as he seemed in his Game 1 shutout.  Portland seemed to be on its way to evening the series.

But the Igloos weren’t content to take the loss and rest secure at the thought of Games 3 and 4 taking place at home.  Instead, they came out aggressively, pressing the Bluebacks and forcing them into turnovers.  Seventy seconds into the third period, Frost stormed into the slot and fired a shot past Jesse Clarkson‘s blocker to tie the score.  Less than a minute after that, RW Broni Zhlotkin tipped a shot from Collins and deflected it into the upper left corner of the net, giving Anchorage its first lead of the game.

The Bluebacks and the crowd were left stunned.  Coach Harold Engellund called timeout to stabilize his reeling team.

“I told them to let it go and focus on getting that lead back,” Engellund explained after the game.  “There was plenty of time left.”

The Bluebacks seemed to head Engellund’s message.  Less than 30 seconds after Zhlotkin’s tally, RW Vince Mango got loose on a breakaway and beat Worthington on the glove side to equalize it again.  Five minutes later, C Cliff Derringer rumbled in from the wing and collected a loose puck in front of the crease, jamming it home to give Portland a 5-4 edge.  After their brief scare, the Bluebacks seemed to have regained control.

But the Igloos weren’t done.  LW Tadeusz Adamczyk parked himself in front of the Portland net during a lengthy offensive shift, and flipped a rebound just under the crossbar to even things against at the 9:28 mark.  Half a minute later, Mango made a lazy pass that Frost picked off at center ice, flicking it to D Sebastian Pomfret.  Pomfret found RW Nicklas Ericsson, who turned on the afterburners to elude Bluebacks D Woody Fairwood and fire a low liner between Clarkson’s legs to make it 6-5.

“I thought maybe I was too old to go that fast still,” joked Ericsson.  “But in the playoffs, you find the energy.”

Portland still had half the third period to catch up.  And they tried, firing shot after shot at Worthington.  They even pulled Clarkson with two and a half minutes remaining, hoping the 6-on-5 edge would deliver the tying goal.  But even though they loosed 20 official shots in the third period (along with several more that went wide or were blocked), they couldn’t best the Anchorage netminder again.

Now the Bluebacks face a daunting task: they must win three in a row – including the next two at Arctic Circle Arena – in order to make it to the Finals.

Engellund believes his team is up to the task.  “We’ve left ourselves with no room for error,” the coach told reporters.  “But sometimes, it’s when your back is up against the wall that you find the real strength inside.  I think that’s what will happen.”

As for the Igloos, they’re hoping for a fast finish.  “I think we should go for the sweep,” said Frost.  “Us old guys could use a little rest before the Finals.”

W Final - Game 2, Anchorage @ Portland, Willamette River Arena

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          0   2   4        6
Portland           2   1   2        5

 
Anchorage             SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-   Portland              SH   G   A PTS BLK PIM +/-

Keefe           D      1   0   1   1   1   0   0   Costello        C      4   0   2   2   0   0  -2
Ericsson        RW     5   1   2   3   1   0  +2   Mango           RW     7   1   0   1   0   0  -2
Koons           LW     1   0   2   2   1   0  +2   Fairwood        D      3   0   1   1   2   0   0
Frost           C      7   2   1   3   2   0  +2   Lidjya          D      4   1   0   1   0   0   0
Pomfret         D      4   0   2   2   1   0   0   Gaspard         LW     3   0   1   1   1   0  -1
Kerasov         D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Argent          LW     4   2   1   3   2   0  -2
Hoffman         C      2   0   1   1   2   0  +1   Lambert         D      4   0   1   1   0   0  +1
Collins         LW     2   1   1   2   0   2  +1   Beasley         C      4   0   0   0   0   0  -1
Citrone         D      1   0   0   0   1   0  -1   Pepper          RW     3   0   2   2   0   0  -1
Zhlotkin        F      1   1   0   1   0   2  +1   Gallagher       D      0   0   0   0   2   0  +1
Martinsson      D      1   0   2   2   2   0  +4   Gatecliff       D      2   0   0   0   1   0  -4
Adamczyk        LW     1   1   0   1   1   0   0   Durien          RW     5   0   1   1   0   0   0
Calligan        D      0   0   0   0   2   0  +4   Mortensen       D      1   0   0   0   4   0  -4
Bunyakin        C      1   0   0   0   0   0   0   Derringer       C      3   1   0   1   0   0   0
Fleury          RW     0   0   0   0   1   2   0   McElvern        F      0   0   0   0   0   0   0
------------------------------------------------   ------------------------------------------------
TOTALS                29   6  12  18  16   6   3   TOTALS                47   5   9  14  12   0  -3

Coach: Sam Castor                                  Coach: Harold Engellund                         

Scratches:
ANC:  Kennedy, Dyomin, LaNeige, Miranda (DL)
POR:  Bannon, Hexton, Gauss

 
Anchorage           SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Worthington         47    42    5  0.894

Portland            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Clarkson            29    23    6  0.793

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
04:21  POR  Argent PP (Fairwood, Pepper)
07:34  POR  Lidjya (Pepper, Gaspard)

PENALTIES:
03:19  ANC  Collins 2:00 (Clipping)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
00:43  ANC  Frost (Koons, Ericsson)
03:34  POR  Argent PP (Costello)
06:05  ANC  Collins (Martinsson, Hoffman)

PENALTIES:
01:59  ANC  Zhlotkin 2:00 (Delay of Game)
08:33  ANC  Fleury 2:00 (Tripping)

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
01:11  ANC  Frost (Ericsson, Koons)
01:53  ANC  Zhlotkin (Collins, Martinsson)
02:19  POR  Mango (Argent, Costello)
07:12  POR  Derringer (Lambert, Durien)
09:28  ANC  Adamczyk (Keefe, Pomfret)
10:01  ANC  Ericsson (Pomfret, Frost)

PENALTIES:
None



 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Anchorage          7  10  12       29
Portland          16  11  20       47

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Anchorage        0 for 0
Portland         2 for 3

 
INJURIES
--------

None

2020 SHL Eastern All-Star Roster

The roster for the 2020 Eastern Division All-Stars, as announced by coach Keith Shields, was as follows:

First Line:

LW: Steven Alexander, Hamilton.  Last year, the voting in the East was dominated by fans of the Pistols and New York Night, the latter of which hosted the game.  Without the draw of hosting and with the Night’s lackluster record this year, votes from the New York metro area dipped considerably, while backers of defending champion Hamilton came out in force to support their heroes.  Alexander was the league’s top vote-getter, earning his fourth straight trip to the game and his third appearance in the starting lineup.  Although the feisty winger’s numbers are not quite up to his career norms, he is tied for the league lead in goals with 21.

D: Clayton “Crusher” Risch, Hamilton.  Backed by the voting power of the Greater Toronto Area, Risch was the top vote-getter among Eastern defenseman, making his second All-Star appearance and his first start.  The 24-year-old is on track for a career season; he’s already scored more goals in the first half (8) than he ever has in an entire year.  He isn’t just an offensive force, either; he continues to deliver strong play in his own end.  His 73 blocks is the second-most among Eastern players.

C: Justin Valentine, Hershey.  In something of an upset, Valentine managed to hold off Hamilton’s Calvin Frye to make his first All-Star start since 2017.  Valentine is the leading man in Hershey’s famous “Love Line,” and he’s producing in line with his top season.  He’s currently in third place in goals with 20 and tied for third in points with 42.  He’s also among the top ten in plus-minus at +14, a distinction he shares with his fellow Love Liners.

D: Matt Cherner, Boston.  In another upset, Cherner surged into second place, ahead of Hershey’s Reese Milton and New York’s Dominic Sanchez, who have been the East’s starting defensemen in each previous All-Star Game.  Cherner reportedly benefited from a strong crossover vote, as fans from his previous teams in Dakota and Quebec cast ballots for him in significant numbers.  It’s his second All-Star appearance, and his debut representing the East; he showed up on the West’s roster back in 2018.  Like his fellow top-pairing blueliner Risch, Cherner has 8 goals and 28 points so far this season.

RW: Claude Lafayette, Hamilton.  The Pistols’ rabid voting base lifted Lafayette to his first ever All-Star start (and only his second overall start), appearing alongside his longtime teammate and friend Alexander.  Lafayette won his spot by less than 5,000 votes over Hershey’s Christopher Hart and New York’s Rick Nelson.  Lafayette is one of the league’s elite passers, and it’s no surprise that he leads the SHL in assists with 35.  His 42 points overall ties him with Valentine for the league’s third-highest total.

 

Second Line:

LW: Lance Sweet, Hershey.  Shields mentioned during the lineup announcement that he has a great deal of respect for the Bliss, Hamilton’s fiercest rival.  His admiration came through in his picks, as he tapped three Bliss players (in addition to starter Valentine) to the lineup.  It’s the second All-Star selection for Sweet, who also appeared in the SHL’s inaugural midseason contest in 2017.  Sweet is a highly deserving choice; he leads the league in points with 44, and is in the top 10 in both goals (16) and assists (28).

D: Raymond Smyth, Hamilton.  Shields’ respect for Hershey was topped only by his affection for his own squad; the coach selected four players from his Vandy-winning, division-leading Pistols.  The veteran Smyth, though, is no homer pick; his 30 points are tied for the highest total among SHL defensemen, and his 26 assists are tied for fifth in the league overall.  He also leads the league in plus-minus rating with +17.  It’s Smyth’s third trip to the All-Star Game, making a reappearance in the lineup after a one-year absence.

C: Calvin Frye, Hamilton.  After Frye was beaten out by Valentine for the starting center spot, there was no doubt that Shields was going to tab his star for a spot.  Frye is only of only four Eastern players to have appeared in every All-Star contest to date.  Frye is tied with his teammate Alexander for the league lead in goals with 21, and his 43 points is the second highest total in the SHL.  “I’ll bet this is the last time for a long time that Calvin isn’t the starter,” said Shields.  “If he keeps producing the way he has been, he’s going to make it impossible for the fans to ignore.  He’s just a special, special player.”

D: Hercules Mulligan, Hamilton. It’s the third straight All-Star appearance for the 22-year-old Mulligan and the third appearance for a Hamilton defenseman in this lineup.  It’s the first time since 2017 that a single team landed a trio of blueliners on the roster; Michigan was the last team to accomplish the feat. The hard-hitting Mulligan brings an extra edge of the Eastern roster; his 68 blocks is sixth in the SHL and second on the Pistols to his linemate Risch.

RW: Christopher Hart, Hershey.  Hart joins his linemates Sweet and Valentine on the East roster.  Surprisingly, Hart is the only one of the trio who has appeared in every All-Star contest, though he has never started.  Like his fellow Love Liners, Hart is in the top ten in the league in points (39), assists (26), and plus-minus (+14).  “Last year, I had to carry the Love Line banner all by myself at the game,” said Hart.  “This time, I’ll be there with both my brothers, and that’s the way it ought to be.”

 

Third Line:

LW: Magnus Gunnarson, Hamilton.  At a loaded position, Shields tapping his own player again generated some controversy around the league.  Many felt that New York’s Chase Winchester or Boston’s Casey Thurman would be a more fitting choice.  But Gunnarson is having a strong season in his own right.  He has produced 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) at the halfway point.  And when Alexander missed several games with an injury in the first half, Gunnarson stepped in and kept the Pistols from missing a beat.  It all adds up to an All-Star debut for the 24-year-old winger.

D: Reese Milton, Hershey.  It’s the first time that Milton won’t be starting in an All-Star Game, but the Bliss blueliner keeps his string of appearances alive.  Milton’s offensive numbers (8 goals, 17 assists) are a tick below his career norms, but he remains as defensively strong as ever; his 77 blocks are the most in the East, and he maintains a solid +8 rating.

C: Alain Beauchesne, Boston.  The 22-year-old Beauchesne receives his second straight All-Star nod; his selection marks the first time that the Badgers have had more than one honoree.  This was another somewhat controversial choice: Night fans argued that Brock Manning should have gotten the call, while DC fans clamored for Harvey Bellmore.   But Shields went with the youngster, who leads Boston with 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists).

D: Richard McKinley, Quebec.  The 21-year-old blueliner is the Tigres’ lone representative this year, and he makes his debut in the All-Star game.  Quebec is suffering through considerable offensive struggles this season, but McKinley is a relatively bright spot, having recorded 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists).  He also is tied for the team lead in blocks with 65.

RW: Jefferson McNeely, Washington.  Like the Tigres, the Galaxy have only one All-Star representative.  This season, the honors go to McNeely, who will make his third appearance in the game.  He is second on the Washington roster in goals (with 11) and points (with 27).  “Honestly, I would have given it to Harvey,” said McNeely.  “But it they want me to go again, sure, I’ll go.”

 

Goalies:

Lasse Koskinen, Hamilton.  In a season when many of the East’s traditional top goalies are having down seasons, Koskinen’s solid performance and Hamilton’s strong voting base combined to earn the Pistols netminder his third straight All-Star trip and his second start.  Koskinen struggled in the opening weeks of the season, but he has improved as the season has gone along.  His 15 wins are second-most in the SHL; that achievement appears to have overshadowed his somewhat-subpar 3.14 GAA and .915 save percentage.

“Jersey Mike” Ross, New York.  With Shields in charge of choosing the East’s roster, is it a surprise that Ross is the lone Night player to make the All-Star squad?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  But the veteran goaltender, who is another first-time All-Star, has had a surprisingly strong season.  Believe it or not, Ross has the highest save percentage (.923) among starting goalies in the East.  After planned starter Sherman Carter imploded, Ross stepped in as the primary starter and has helped keep the Night afloat in the playoff race.