2021 SHL Finals – Game 4

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2, HAMILTON PISTOLS 1 (OT)

(Series tied, 2-2)

Hamilton Pistols coach Keith Shields is a happy soul, a devout Christian whose naturally upbeat personality shines in every press conference.  He rarely if ever flashes anger, on the bench or with the media.  But after his team lost Game 4 of the SHL Finals to the Anchorage Igloos in overtime on what he felt was an unreasonable penalty, he seemed… well, not quite angry, but not his usual jovial self.

“That’s a really tough way to lose,” said Shields of the penalty assessed to Pistols D Burt Hampton at the start of OT.  “This was such a great, evenly matched game.  A game like that, you hope the players can decide it.  For it to come down to a whistle, one that’s not part of live action… that’s not right.”

The Pistols players were freer with their anger than their coach.  “The refs decided this one,” said LW Steven Alexander in one of his few printable postgame remarks.

The whistle occurred as the players were lining up for the opening puck drop of the extra session.  Hampton, lined up against Igloos D Thor Dalmgaard, was jostling aggressively for position.  Both teams had been engaged in fierce tussles on faceoffs throughout the game, with Hampton one of the worst offenders.  Referee Dean Rodgers paused the puck drop twice and warned Hampton to ease up.  When the defenseman wrestled Dalmgaard to the ground on the third attempted drop, Rodgers had enough and sent Hampton off.

The ensuing power play lasted just seven seconds, as Igloos C Jake Frost received a pass from RW Nicklas Ericsson right in front of the net and fired a wrister past Hamilton goalie Lasse Koskinen to end it.

Even Igloos coach Sam Castor seemed surprised by the penalty.  “Normally in OT, the refs swallow their whistles, and you basically have to maim someone to get a call,” said Castor.  “But I absolutely thought it was the right call.  Hampton was mugging our guys on faceoffs all night, and it was about time he got called on it.”

The SHL did not make Rodgers or any of the other officials available for comment after the game.

The penalty flap brought an unfortunate end to what had been a tense and exciting game.  In many ways, it was the mirror image of Game 3.  This time, it was the Pistols who drove much of the play, outshooting Anchorage 44-31.  (They were especially dominant in the last two periods of regulations, winning the shot battle 32-17 over that stretch.)  But Igloos goalie Ty Worthington was fantastic, keeping the pucks out of the net.  He didn’t make as many dramatic-looking save as Koskinen did in yesterday’s contest, but he stood firm in the net and calmly swallowed up one Hamilton bid after another.

“That’s a perfect example of what a great goalie Ty is,” said Castor.  “He’s such a competitor that he’s always looking for opportunities to raise his game.  So when Koskinen stood on his head and stole a win for them yesterday, Ty looked at that and said, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’  And that’s what he did.”

Worthington was so strong in net that for much of the game, it looked like he would fashion a shutout, allowing LW Les Collins’ first-period power-play strike to stand up as the winning goal.  But the Pistols’ third-line, surprisingly, managed to get one past him in the middle of the third period.  During an extended offensive-zone shift, D Albie Glasco fed it to C Hilliard Macy just above the goal line.  Macy wasted no time firing the severe-angle shot, and the puck deflected off Worthington’s shoulder and in before he could seal the post.

“That was a heartbreaker, because I really wanted the shutout,” said Worthington.  “It was a great shot, but it was one I could have stopped.  I was just a hair slow getting over, and it cost me.”

The Igloos’ win ties the series and sets up a pivotal Game 5 tomorrow at Arctic Circle Arena.  Whatever the ultimate outcome, both sides agree that it’s been a thrilling series so far.

“It’s been a really evenly matched series so far, and either team could win it,” said Shields.  “The fans are really getting their money’s worth.  I really hope there won’t be any more controversial calls, because this Finals should be remembered for what happens on the ice.”

Continue reading “2021 SHL Finals – Game 4”

2021 SHL Finals – Game 3

HAMILTON PISTOLS 2, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 1

(Hamilton leads series, 2-1)

Lasse Koskinen told us this was coming.  In Game 2, the Hamilton Pistols goalie returned from an injury he suffered during the divisional playoff against Boston but struggled badly after the first period, surrendering five goals.

After the game, reporters asked him if he was still dealing with lingering effects from the injury.  Koskinen denied it, saying that he’d just had a bad game.  “If I play better next game, perhaps then you will believe it,” he said.

In tonight’s Game 3, the Finnish-born netminder played one of the best games of his career.  He showed no signs of injury, moving comfortably all around the crease and making 39 saves, including several acrobatic stops.  Thanks to Koskinen’s brilliance in net, the Pistols stole a game on the road, 2-1, against an Anchorage Igloos team that clearly outplayed them for most of the contest.

“Seeing the game happen live, I couldn’t understand how we lost,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “Then I looked at the stat sheet, and I still couldn’t understand it.  But when you’ve got a hot goalie, anything is possible.  And Koskinen was on fire tonight.  I have to tip my hat to him.”

Anchorage looked like a team possessed throughout this contest.  They were buzzing on offense, outshooting Hamilton 40 to 27.  They were just as engaged on defense, blocking an amazing 21 shots compared to just 9 for the Pistols.  But in spite of their dominance, they kept running into a roadblock in the form of Koskinen.

“The way [Koskinen] was stretching out his arms and legs to makes saves, he looked like Inspector Gadget,” said Igloos C Jake Frost, who was held scoreless despite taking 10 shots in the game.  “I couldn’t get it under, over, around, or through him.  It was one of the best performances I’d ever seen.”

The home team came out of the locker room ready to tilt the ice.  They absolutely blitzed the Pistols in the first period, outshooting them 14-5.  And yet somehow when the period was over, Anchorage trailed 1-0 thanks to a fluky goal by Pistols RW Brad Stevens that redirected a couple times before going in.

“After the way we played in the first, we should have had 2 or 3 goals for sure,” said LW Jerry Koons.  “But we just couldn’t solve Koskinen.”

Koskinen made several impressive saves during that first-period barrage, but two in particular stood out.  One came about the midway point of the period, when Igloos C Tom Hoffman got loose on a breakaway and fired a shot ticketed for the upper-right corner of the net, only to be foiled by a great glove save from Koskinen.  A few minutes later, during an extended offensive zone shift, Frost got the puck on his stick with a wide-open net.  But Koskinen managed to flick his right pad out just in time to smother Frost’s bid.

“I already had my arms halfway in the air because I was sure it was in,” said Frost.  “When I realized it wasn’t, I couldn’t believe it.”

In the second period, the Igloos’ frustration mounted as Koskinen continued to stonewall them.  Meanwhile, at the 4:15 mark of the period, LW Magnus Gunnarson scored on a nifty curl and drag to make it a 2-0 game.  Gunnarson’s shot was just the second for Hamilton in the period and their seventh for the game.

Later in the period, the Igloos went on the power play when Pistols D Elvis Bodett was whistled for interference.  In the opening seconds of the man advantage, Frost saw an opening on the short side and whistled a shot toward it.  But Koskinen launched himself over to seal the post and stop the shot, leaving the Anchorage center shaking his head in frustration.

The Igloos finally got on the board with 1:11 left in the second, after Hamilton LW Kelvin Starkey committed a hooking penalty in the neutral zone.  Koons launched a rocket of a shot the Koskinen got a piece of, but couldn’t keep out of the net.

“That was a hallelujah moment for us,” said Koons.  “It was like, ‘Okay, we can actually get it past him!’”  But that was the only puck they would put behind him.

The game took a turn for the physical in the latter stages.  Pistols D Hercules Mulligan and Igloos LW Veikko Sikanen fought late in the second after Mulligan objected to a rough hit that Sikanen put on Stevens in the corner.  In the third, a scrum in front of the Anchorage net turned violent, as poking and jostling turned into face washes and flying fists.  Igloos D Tony Citrone and Pistols C Hilliard Macy received fighting majors as a result of that fracas.

The Igloos and Pistols have gotten in four fights in the last two games, and Hamilton coach Keith Shields indicated that he would ask his team to tone it down.  “We know this is a heavyweight series, but there’s a difference between being physical and being reckless,” said Shields.  “Our guys have stayed on the right side of that line so far, but the last thing I want is for us to see someone important get hurt or suspended because something boils over.  Let’s win this with goals, not fists.”

But even when the game got chippy, Koskinen’s excellence remained the major story.  Anchorage valiantly killed off some third-period penalties, including a 5-on-3 situation that lasted a minute and a half, but they couldn’t come up with the tying goal.  Koskinen wasn’t called upon to make many acrobatic saves down the stretch; instead, he stood tall in net, calmly turning the Anchorage pucks aside.

Game 4 is essentially a must-win for Anchorage.  But they can’t help but ask themselves: given how well they played in this game only to come up short, what do they need to do to get a win?

“If we play tomorrow the way we played today, we should get the win,” said Castor.  “Koskinen can’t stop them all, can he?”

Continue reading “2021 SHL Finals – Game 3”

2020 SHL Week 11 Transactions

  • On Monday, the Dakota Jackalopes activated C Tanner Brooks from the injured list.  Shortly before the All-Star break, Brooks suffered an upper-body injury.  Although the injury initially did not seem that serious, Brooks wound up missing over three weeks.  As the Jackalopes had an available roster spot, they did not need to make a compensating move to activate Brooks.
  • Also on Monday, the Hershey Bliss‘ CHL affiliate in Milwaukee placed LW Karl Gjovik on the injured list.  Gjovik exited in the first period of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Cleveland after being upended on a devastating check, and did not return.  He is expected to miss at least two weeks.  To replace Gjovik, Milwaukee signed F Jerry Cazenovia to a short-term contract.
  • On Wednesday, the Hamilton Pistols activated C Marco Venezio from the injured list.  The veteran center missed 10 games with a lower=body injury suffered just before the All-Star break.  In order to make room for Venezio, the Pistols reassigned C Hilliard Macy to their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and released F Bobby Warner from Oshawa.
  • Wednesday was the trading deadline. The following trades were consummated at the deadline:
    • The Michigan Gray Wolves traded RW Gordon Lunsford to the Boston Badgers for RW Rory Socarra. (More details here.) After the trade, Boston demoted RW Felix Delorme to their CHL affiliate in Hartford, and recalled F Jacques Bacon from Hartford.
    • The Gray Wolves traded LW Misha Petronov, F Cary Estabrook, and D Brandon Arrowood to the New York Night for LW Flynn Danner, F Henry Constantine, and D Anson Brank.  (More details here.) After the trade, Michigan demoted LW Fendrick Scanlan to their CHL affiliate in Cleveland, and New York promoted RW Harris Wondolowski from their affiliate in Utah.
    • The Dakota Jackalopes traded D Victor Addison to Boston in exchange for D Jackson Creed.  After the trade, the Badgers demoted D Bjorn Tollefson to their minor-league affiliate in Hartford.
    • Michigan traded C Warren Marlow to the Quebec Tigres in exchange for C Phil Miller, LW Carl Bleyer, and a 1st-round draft pick. (More details here.) After the trade, the Gray Wolves released F Caleb Moulton.  The Tigres demoted C Dwight Flynn to their CHL affiliate in Halifax, and signed F Tim Daisey to a minor-league deal.
  • On Saturday, the Anchorage Igloos recalled RW Jean Pierre Fleury from their CHL affiliate in Minnesota. The Igloos demoted Fleury to Minnesota during the All-Star break, and he played brilliantly there, recording 19 points in 12 games, including the CHL’s first-ever five-goal game.  To make room for Fleury, the Igloos reassigned RW Lionel LaNeige to Minnesota.

2020 SHL Week 8 Transactions

  • On Monday, the Kansas City Smoke‘s CHL affiliate in Omaha activated D Lowell Sharkey from the injured list.  Sharkey, who is a highly-regarded prospect in the Kansas City organization, missed five weeks with a lower-body injury.  In order to make room for Sharkey on the roster, the team released D Kjell Hanson.  The 24-year-old Hanson appeared in 15 games for Omaha, recording 2 assists and a -4 rating.
  • On Friday, the Dakota Jackalopes placed C Tanner Brooks on the injured list.  The 23-year-old Brooks suffered an upper-body injury during Thursday’s 4-1 win over Quebec, and is expected to miss at least three weeks.  To fill in during Brooks’ absence, the Jackalopes promoted C Jacob Cunniff from their CHL affiliate in Idaho.  Cunniff is Idaho’s leading scorer, with 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) so far on the season.
  • Also on Friday, the Hershey Bliss activated LW Russell Nahorniak from the injured list.  Nahorniak missed five weeks with a lower-body injury.  In order to accommodate Nahorniak’s return, the Bliss sent LW Sergei Tarisov back to their affiliate in Milwaukee.  Tarisov appeared in 13 games during Nahorniak’s absence, recording 3 goals and a +3 rating.  To make room for Tarisov on Milwaukee’s roster, the team released F Jerry Casenovia.
  • In one more Friday move, the Saskatchewan Shockers placed D Chris “Lightning” Oflyng on the injured list.  Oflyng had to be helped off the ice after being slammed head-first into the boards on Thursday, and is expected to miss up to six weeks.  The loss is devastating to the surging Shockers, as Oflyng led the team in points with 30 (8 goals, 22 assists).  To fill Oflyng’s roster spot, Saskatchewan called up D Pierre Chappelle from their CHL affiliate in Virginia.  The 31-year-old Chappelle was tied for the Virginia team lead in goals (with 15) and points (with 29).
  • On Saturday, the Hamilton Pistols placed C Marco Venezio on the injured list.  Venezio suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s game against Saskatchewan, and is expected to miss three to four weeks.  Venezio has been a stalwart on Hamilton’s second line, putting up 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists) on the season.  To fill Venezio’s spot on the roster, Hamilton called up C Hilliard Macy from their affiliate in Oshawa.  It’s the second SHL stint for the 20-year-old Macy, who appeared in 5 games for Hamilton earlier in the season. The Pistols also signed F Bobby Warner to a minor-league contract.
  • Also on Saturday, the Shockers placed C Cyril Perignon on the injured list.  Perignon suffered a lower-body injury against Hamilton on Saturday; he is expected to miss at least a month.  Perignon has recorded 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) and a +1 rating on the season for Saskatchewan.  To replace Perignon, the Shockers called up C Trent Harlow from Virginia.  At the time of his callup, Harlow led the Rhinos with 30 points.