Galaxy Wife’s Memes a Hit on Team Twitter

The Washington Galaxy aren’t expecting big things this season.  The odds that they’ll compete for the Vandy, or even for a playoff spot, seem slim at best.  The odds that one or more of the team’s remaining stars will be shipped out seem high.

Fortunately for Galaxy fans, though, the team does seem to have a couple of breakout stars in the making.  Not on the ice, but on social media.  Jillian McNeely, wife of star RW Jefferson McNeely, has attracted attention among fans for her clever Galaxy-related memes, many of which feature the couple’s 7-year-old daughter Michelle.

Jillian’s posts, and their following among fans, attracted the attention of the team’s marketing staff.  They inspired Chief Experience Officer David Maltby to do something unorthodox, at least by SHL standards: offer Jillian control of the Galaxy’s Twitter account for a night.

“It’s obvious that our fans love Jillian and her memes,” said Maltby.  “And for those fans who might not have discovered them yet, this was a great opportunity to showcase her, Michelle, and the whole thing.  It’s a long season, so why not try something a little different?”

Jillian was in charge for Tuesday’s game against the Dakota Jackalopes.  “whats up dc peeps!!!” read her first tweet, posted a few minutes before the opening puck drop.  “it’s ya girl, jillian (mrs. jeff) mcneely, live tweeting the game”.  Shortly thereafter, she added: “they put a girl in charge??? run for your lives!!!”

One fan sarcastically offered Jillian condolences for having to watch the game.  Jillian replied, “don’t worry… mama’s all fueled up,” adding several red wine emojis.

Naturally, fans immediately began clamoring for some memes of Michelle, or “mimi-memes,” as Jillian likes to call them.  “all right… you want em, you got em!” Jillian replied.  She then posted the following meme:

“mimi is ride or die for daddy’s team!!!” Jillian said. In response to a question, she said that the picture came from the team’s end-of-season beach party last year.  She then posted the following meme, featuring Michelle with the children of LWs Casey Thurman and Charlie Brooks:

In the second period, Galaxy goalie Buzz Carson made a tricky save on a shot by Jackalopes LW Ryan Airston that left the netminder in an undignified sprawling position, wrapped around the post.  Jillian then posted this meme:

That one drew a sharp response from Brenda Vale, Carson’s girlfriend, who tweeted: “u making fun of my man???  [knife emoji] better step off…”  Jillian immediately responded, “peace, gurl! nothin but fun… srsly u know i [heart emoji] u and buzz”.

Perhaps as a peace offering, Jillian posted this meme after a particularly nice Carson save on a breakaway by Dakota’s Arkady Golynin late in the second period to keep the game a tie:

“that’s more like it, hun… we can be friends again,” replied Vale.

At the start of the third, the Galaxy played their rally song, “Cosmic Thing,” drawing an enthusiastic response from Jillian.  “I love this song!!! Shake ur hunnybuns, everybody!!!” she tweeted.

The teams traded goals in the third, and the game wound up going to overtime, and that prompted another mimi-meme:

Unfortunately, LW Joe Freelander scored in overtime to give the Jackalopes the win.  Jillian and Michelle were both displeased:

Maltby and the Galaxy, on the other hand, approved of Jillian’s outing.  The team reporting that views and engagement on the Twitter feed were both up over 50% from a typical game.  “Anytime Jillian wants to do this again,” Maltby said, “she’s more than welcome.”

Jillian also seemed positive on the idea of a repeat performance.  “I had fun!” she said.  “It was a little nerve-wracking, ‘cause I had to remember not to curse, but I enjoyed it.  And Mimi loves being a social-media star!  All her school friends asked her about it the next day.”

Jefferson, on the other hand, had more mixed emotions.  “I took some ribbing in the locker room about it,” he told reporters.  “Jillian loved it, and that’s great.  But if Michelle gets any more famous, my agent might drop me and sign her.”

Continue reading “Galaxy Wife’s Memes a Hit on Team Twitter”

Interview of the Week: Jefferson McNeely

This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely.

SHL Digest: This week, we’re here with the star of the Washington Galaxy, Jefferson McNeely.  Jefferson, thanks for talking with us.

Jefferson McNeely

Jefferson McNeely: I never pass up an opportunity to talk!  Let’s do it.

SHLD: The last time we interviewed you was four years ago, when you and the Galaxy were on the verge of clinching your second straight division title.  Needless to say, it’s a different situation now.

JM: You mean that we’ve gone down the toilet?

SHLD: That’s not how we were going to put it.

JM: It’s okay, it’s true.  The only thing we’re competing for now is the #1 draft pick.

SHLD: You’re a competitive guy, by all accounts.  How does it feel to be on a team that’s struggling?

JM: I’m not gonna lie, it’s tough.  Being in a playoff race, playing for those stakes, it gives you that extra juice.  When you don’t have that, the grind starts to wear you down.  It’s a long season, man.

SHLD: You’ve been in Washington since the beginning.  One of your longtime teammates and friends was Casey Thurman, who was dealt to Boston earlier this year after expressing criticism of the crowd and the team’s direction.  How did you feel about the trade?

JM: It was a bummer to see Thurm go, obviously, but I definitely wasn’t surprised.  There’s no point keeping a Ferrari in the garage if all you’re going to do is driving it to the store.  I don’t know if Boston has the horses to compete this year, but they’re moving in the right direction and getting Thurm is a huge plus for them.

SHLD: Did you have any qualms with the things he said?

JM: Absolutely not.  Listen, if anyone around here has the standing to criticize how things are going, it’s him.  He’s in the prime of his career, and he doesn’t have a ring.  He shouldn’t have to spend the rest of his prime on a last-place team.  He did what was right for him, and I have nothing but respect.

SHLD: A lot of the things you just said about your former teammate also apply to you.  You’re a couple years older than him.  Are you trying to hint that you’d wish you’d been moved at the deadline?

JM: No, not me.  You forget, I was a free agent before the season and I chose to stay in DC.  If I wanted out, I’d have gone somewhere else then.

SHLD: So what’s the difference between you and Thurman?  How is it that you’re happy to stick around, while he had to go chase a title?

JM: I’m accustomed to DC.  I like the city, and I like the fans.  And, honestly, I’m used to being the star, and I like that too.  Thurm is the kind of guy who would go be a bottom-line grinder somewhere if he could help that team win a title.  I like to win, but I’m not a bottom-six guy, either.  Different personalities.

SHLD: So if you get to the point where your skills start to slide and you’re not getting top-line minutes anymore, would you retire?

JM: Yeah, probably.  Of course, easy for me to say that now.  Let’s see what happens.  I’ll probably be 39, 40 and still trying to hang on by my fingernails.

SHLD: So, what is it like working with a young Galaxy roster?  Are you trying to serve as a mentor to the younger forwards?

JM: Yeah, absolutely.  I think we’ve got a lot of good talent, and I’m trying to make sure they develop their skills and stay out of trouble.  The coaches are focused on their on-ice skills, and I’m trying to work with them on the off-ice stuff.  Where to go after the game, how to keep from going crazy on the road, the types of people to stay away from, things like that.

SHLD: Do you think you might be a coach someday?

JM: Might be.  Who knows?  Right now, I’m focused on playing, and I think I’ve got a few years left at least.

SHLD: Fair enough!  That does it for this week’s interview.  Thanks again, Jefferson, and good luck the rest of the season!

JM: Hopefully the next time I talk to you, it’s because we’re going to the Finals again.

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.

Sailors Surrender Six in Third, Miss Sole Division Lead

The Seattle Sailors had a golden opportunity to seize the lead in the tumultuous Western division on Saturday.  With the Michigan Gray Wolves and Anchorage Igloos both suffering losses, the Sailors only needed a win over the struggling Washington Galaxy to claim sole possession of first place.

Through the game’s first two periods, Seattle appeared to be on a glide path to victory, claiming a 6-1 lead.  But then came a nightmarish third period in which the Sailors collapsed, lost their lead, and had to settle for a tie and a share of the lead with Michigan.  It felt like a golden opportunity wasted for the team in green.

“A game like this, it’s just a total shot in the gut,” said Sailors LW Rod Argent.  “It’s just devastating.”

When the puck dropped for the start of the third period, the Sailors were appropriately confident.  They’d rocked Galaxy netminder Darrell Bondurant for a half-dozen goals already.  The primary question seemed to be whether they’d keep pushing to run up a signature win, or if they’d ease up and focus on grinding the clock.

Just 30 seconds into the period, Seattle RW Elliott Pepper was sent to the penalty box for elbowing.  Eight seconds into the ensuing power play, Galaxy winger Jefferson McNeely fired home a slapper on the short side.  No big deal; it was still a 6-2 game.

Three minutes later, though, Galaxy LW Casey Thurman scored on an odd-man rush to make it 6-3.  A bit of a nervous rumble passed through the crowd; was Washington going to make this a game?  Sailors star Vince Mango quickly calmed the fans’ nerves, marching down the ice from the following faceoff and beat Bondurant top shelf to make it 7-3.  Back to cruising time again.

But the plucky Galaxy refused to give up, and they slowly chipped away at Seattle’s lead.  At just past the seven-minute mark, C Harvey Bellmore deflected a shot over the blocker of Sailors goalie “Jersey Mike” Ross to cut the deficit back to three.  Then just before the mid-point of the period, Sailors D Woody Fairwood coughed up the puck in the neutral zone.  Washington stormed down the ice, and C Tucker Barnhill – centering a line of SHL rookies – tucked it home between Ross’s legs.  Suddenly it was a 7-5 game, and the crowd became deeply uneasy.  So did the Sailors bench.

“We’d already taken the W in our heads, and suddenly it was a game again,” said Sailors C Napoleon Beasley.  “We knew we had to respond.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund called time out to calm his anxious team, but he appeared not to make any major strategic changes.  He did not remove Ross from the game, and he largely appeared to settle on playing defensive hockey and grinding the clock.

However, defensive hockey has never been Seattle’s strong suit.  And a couple minutes later, a failed clear by Mango turned into another Washington opportunity, and McNeely snuck one just inside the right post to make it a 7-6 contest.

The Sailors then made a belated bid to turn it back on and add to their lead, but couldn’t find the switch.  And with three minutes left in the game, the Galaxy’s rookie third line struck again.  Newly acquired RW Mickey Simpson went bar-down to tie it up and sink Century 21 Arena into a shell-shocked funk.

After the game, Engellund took a somewhat philosophical tack.  “Is this an embarrassing one?  Heck yes,” the coach said in his postgame press conference.  “If we miss the playoffs by a point, are we going to look back and regret this?  You bet.  But we can’t let ourselves dwell on this.  We’ve got to keep moving forward and play like we know how.”

Mango, meanwhile, seemed to shrug it off.  “This was one of those crazy fluke games, you know?” the Sailors star said.  “Like an asteroid strike.  It’s one in a million.  But it doesn’t wipe out all the great wins we’ve had this year.  Just forget it and go to the next one.”

Can the Sailors forget this loss, or will the memory haunt them?  Whether they can make their first-ever playoff trip in their last season in Seattle may depend on the answer.

Continue reading “Sailors Surrender Six in Third, Miss Sole Division Lead”