- On Wednesday, the Michigan Gray Wolves‘ CHL affiliate in Cleveland placed D Gil Calvert on the injured list. The 21-year-old Calvert showed a surprising scoring upside this season, with 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in 38 games. To fill Calvert’s spot on the roster, Cleveland signed free-agent D Davis McNeely. The blueliner is the younger brother of Washington Galaxy star Jefferson McNeely.
- On Friday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Kevin Buchanan from the injured list. Buchanan has struggled to stay healthy this time around, he missed over a month with an upper-body injury. Injuries have limited the veteran blueliner to just 14 games so far this season. To acccommodate Buchanan’s return to the roster, the Tigres sent D Boris Zhzhynov to their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Zhzhynov appeared in just 5 games for Quebec this season, and did not record a point. In order to make room on Halifax’s roster, the team released D Igor Shovshenkov.
- On Saturday, the Wolves’ Cleveland affiliate activated RW Boris Badenov from the injured list. The winger went down with a lower-body injury before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Badenov on the roster, assistant coach Glenn Reichler, who briefly un-retired to fill Badenov’s roster spot, returned to his bench duties. The 35-year-old Reichler appeared in 8 games for Cleveland, recording two assists.
- Also on Saturday, the Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Victor Addison to their farm team in Idaho. This move was not made due to dissatisfaction with Addison’s performance, but rather due to a blueline shortage on the farm. Idaho is currently missing Ds Rusty Sienna and Clark Blanchard, both day-to-day with injuries. Rather than sign a player to a short-term deal to fill the spot, the cost-conscious Jackalopes sent Addison down to fill the gap. Addison has appeared in 19 games for Dakota so far this season, recording 7 assists.
- On Sunday, the New York Night announced that D Ed Francis, who had been playing for their minor-league affiliate in Utah, will miss the rest of the season. The 30-year-old Francis suffered a severely broken leg during last Saturday’s game against Minnesota, an injury so severe that it required surgery to reconstruct the leg. In the wake of the injury, Francis announced that he would retire from hockey. (Story here.) To replace Francis on the roster, the Night signed D Gustaf Bergstrom for the rest of the season. Bergstrom recently played a 10-game stint in Halifax, where he recorded a goal and six assists.
- On Friday, the Washington Galaxy traded LW Casey Thurman to the Boston Badgers in exchange for LW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, D Kermit Kaufman, and a first-round draft pick. (Story here.) In related moves, Boston demoted LW Norris Young to their CHL affiliate in Hartford and promoted D Jackson Creed from Hartford. They also signed D Gerry Michaud to a minor-league deal.
- On Friday, the Night demoted G Sherman Carter to their CHL affiliate in Utah and promoted G Corey Franklin-Lee from Utah. Carter, expected to be New York’s top starter in the next, has been atrocious so far this season. Despite compiling a 5-5-1 record, he has put up a 5.75 GAA and an .861 save percentage. The 20-year-old Franklin-Lee makes his first appearance on an SHL roster; with Utah this season, he has gone 9-4-2 with a 2.82 GAA and a .905 save percentage.
- On Saturday, the Quebec Tigres placed D Kevin Buchanan on the injured list. The veteran blueliner has been plagued by injuries this season; he missed 10 games with an upper-body injury earlier this season. It is unknown whether this latest setback, suffered in the second period of Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Hershey, is an aggravation of his prior injury or a new one. To replace Buchanan on the roster, Quebec recalled D Hampus Olsson from their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Olsson was sent down two weeks ago when Buchanan returned from his prior IL stint; he spent 9 games in the minors, recording 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). To fill Olsson’s roster spot in Halifax, the Tigres signed veteran D Igor Shovshenkov.
- On Wednesday, the Hershey Bliss‘ CHL affiliate in Milwaukee activated G Hobie Sanford from the injured list. Sanford suffered a bruised collarbone in the first week of the season, and had been on the IL ever since. In order to make room for Sanford on the roster, the organization released G Toby Kemper. Kemper, who had served as Milwaukee’s reserve netminder during Sanford’s injury, went 1-2-0 with a 4.66 GAA and an .869 save percentage during his time with the club.
- On Friday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Kevin Buchanan from the injured list. Buchanan went down with an upper-body injury two and a half weeks ago. In order to allow Buchanan to return, the Tigres demoted D Hampus Olsson to their CHL affiliate in Halifax. This season, Olsson appeared in 15 games with Quebec, recording 3 assists and a -2 rating. To make room for Olsson on the Halifax roster, the team did not renew D Gustaf Bergstrom’s 10-game contract.
- On Saturday, the Tigres placed LW Stellan Fisker on the injured list. Fisker exited Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Portland after suffering an upper-body injury late in the second period. The team described him as “week-to-week” with the injury. To replace Fisker on the roster, the Tigres called up LW Carl Bleyer from their affiliate in Halifax. This is the 21-year-old Bleyer’s second stint with Quebec; he was called up for 10 games last season.
- Also on Saturday, the Hamilton Pistols recalled F Michael Jennings from their farm club in Oshawa and reassigned C Hilliard Macy to Oshawa. The team called Macy up last week when C Calvin Frye went down with an injury and appeared in five game, recording a goal and two assists Frye returned to the lineup in mid-week, but LW Steven Alexander was injured in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to Kansas City, and is expected to miss up to a week. With Frye back and Alexander out, the Pistols needed a winger instead of a center, so they brought Jennings back to the SHL.
- Finally, in another Saturday night move, the Kansas City Smoke demoted F David Facinelli to their affiliate in Omaha and called C Edz Zalmanis. Like Hamilton’s move, the transaction was driven be an injury. C Mike Rivera was hurt in Saturday’s tussle with Hamilton, and is expected to miss multiple games. With an opening at center, the Smoke took the opportunity to give a look to Zalmanis, who has been brilliant with Omaha (17 points and a +5 rating in 16 games). The 29-year-old Facinelli has appeared in 7 games with KC this second, registering a single point.
- On Monday, the Quebec Tigres placed D Kevin Buchanan on the injured list and called up D Serge Rimbaud from their CHL affiliate in Halifax. The 31-year-old Buchanan, who the Tigres acquired from Washington in the offseason, suffered an upper-body injury in the third period of Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win over Hershey. He is expected to miss about 3 weeks. The 19-year-old Rimbaud, Quebec’s top prospect, was off to a fine start in Halifax, recording two goals and an assist in the first week of the season. To replace Rimbaud on Halifax’s roster, the Tigres signed veteran blueliner Gustaf Bergstrom to a short-term contract.
The rosters for the Eastern Division in the 2018 SHL All-Star Game, as announced by coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber, were as follows:
LW: Casey Thurman, Washington. Last season, Thurman had to be talked into accepting his All-Star nod, due to the fact that he was having an off season by his standards. 2018 is a different story; he’s off to a tremendous start, and when he was voted in as the East’s starting left winger (by about 800 votes over Hamilton’s Steven Alexander), nobody had to persuade him to accept the honor. Thurman is third in the league in points with 50, and he’s in the top five in goals (21) and assists (29).
D: Reese Milton, Hershey. Although the Bliss’ attempt to defend their surprise 2017 title have been fairly disastrous, it didn’t stop the fans from voting Milton into the starting lineup. The blueliner, a well-known squirrel lover, is a bit off of his usual offensive pace, but he’s still putting up decent numbers (5 goals, 15 assists). In addition, he continues to produce the kind of steady, lock-down defense that has made him one of the league’s top blue-liners.
C: Calvin Frye, Hamilton. With the Pistols tied for the league’s best record at the halfway point of the season, the fans in Hamilton are responding. Attendance at Gunpowder Armory is up 22% this season, and the league has received 27% more All-Star votes from the Hamilton area than they did in 2017. Given the fired-up fan base, it’s no surprise that Frye was voted in as the East’s starting center. The rising star is establishing himself as one of the SHL’s top forwards. He’s second in the league with 51 points, and his 24 goals is good for third place in the SHL. In addition, his +27 rating is tied with his linemates for the tops in the league.
D: Dominic Sanchez, New York. The 28-year-old is arguably the league’s best offensive defenseman, and bolstered by a strong backing from the New York area, he was voted to his second straight starting berth, again narrowly beating out Raymond Smyth of Hamilton. Sanchez has 29 assists on the season, which places him in the SHL’s top five, to go with a team-best +10 rating. His excellent performance earned him Player of the Week honors this season for the first time.
RW: Jefferson McNeely, Washington. The strong voting contingent from Hamilton nearly elevated Claude Lafayette into this spot, but in the end, McNeely’s exceptional season could not be denied, and he won the position for the second straight year by approximately 3,500 votes. The Galaxy winger leads the league with 56 points, and is tied for the league lead in goals with 29. “My home sweet home, DC, I wanna give you a kiss,” said McNeely as he celebrated the honor.
LW: Steven Alexander, Hamilton. Alexander was offended when he missed out on the starting spot, so much so that he nearly decided to boycott the game entirely. Alexander certainly had a strong case for starting: he’s tied for the league lead in goals with 29, and he’s also tied for the lead in plus-minus at +27. The winger was also upset that his best friend and Pistols teammate, Claude Lafayette, was not selected to the game. But Lafayette convinced Alexander to participate, and the fiery scorer vowed to lift the East to victory. “When our children tell our story,” Alexander vowed, “they’ll tell the story of tonight.”
D: Raymond Smyth, Hamilton. In a repeat of last season, Smuth narrowly missed out on a starting slot. but was immediately named to the squad as the top coach’s choice. “Everybody in the East has had a chance to see Raymond work,” said Barber. “We’ve all been burned by him at some point or another.” Smyth remains one of the league’s best-regarded two-way defensemen. He has 27 assists on the season, second-highest among SHL blueliners, while also providing the rugged, hard-hitting defense that is his trademark.
C: Justin Valentine, Hershey. Last season, Valentine was voted onto the team as a starter. This season, he needed Barber to name him to the Eastern squad. Fortunately, the Bliss coach described Valentine as “a no-brainer choice. We’re not having the kind of year we expected, but Justin’s still an All-Star in my book.” Although the center is having a bit of an underwhelming year, he is tied for the team lead in goals (12) and points (33).
D: Kevin Buchanan, Washington. This wasn’t a popular choice among Bliss fans, as Buchanan has been a frequent target of boos at Chocolate Center for his vicious hits and his habit of taunting the Bliss as “soft” in postgame interviews. Still, Barber didn’t hesitate to select him, noting that “this is the All-Star game, not the Miss Congeniality Awards. Kevin’s one of those games that you hate when he’s on the other team, but you love when he’s on your side.” Buchanan is having a surprisingly strong season on offense (5 goals, 23 assists), but it’s his hard hits and smothering defense that fans love — or love to hate.
RW: Christopher Hart, Hershey. Hart joins his fellow “Love Line” member Valentine on the East’s second line. Alexander was not alone in believing that Lafayette should have received this slot instead, but Barber said that “Chris is still getting the job done, even if the team is struggling right now.” Hart is the Bliss’ assist leader with 23, and he’s tied with Valentine for the highest point total with 33.
LW: Lix Darnholm, Boston. Unsurprisingly, Darnholm is the sole representative for the expansion Badgers on the Eastern roster. The 19-year-old Swedish-born winger is one of the few bright spots for Boston on offense. He has scored 13 goals so far this season, which is tied with Kansas City’s Noel Picard for the second-highest total among expansion players. His 28 points is also the second-highest among expansion clubs; only the Smoke’s Royal, a fellow All-Star, has a higher point total.
D: Laurie Workman, Quebec. The Tigres have the second-best record in the East, so it’s something of a surprise that none of their players can be found on the top two lines. Quebec is nonetheless well represented, with four All-Stars, including three on the bottom line. Barber said this was by design: “I figured teammates would prefer to play together.” The rookie Workman is the only Tigres defender on the team. He is having a strong debut season, with 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) and a +10 rating to go along with stout defense.
C: Mikhail Ilyushin, Quebec. The 28-year-old Ilyushin makes his first All-Star team this season. The Tigres have undergone an offensive renaissance this season, with their top line leading the way. Ilyushin, who centers that top line, has been a key part of that production. He is second on the team with 34 points on the season, including 12 goals and 22 assists, and he is tied for the team lead with a +13 rating.
D: Jack “Hercules” Mulligan, Hamilton. Mulligan celebrates his second season in the SHL with his first trip to the All-Star game. A first-round draft pick in 2017, Mulligan is living up to his advance billing with the Pistols. He’s best known for his fearlessness and his devastating checks, which have become a regular feature of YouTube clips and highlight videos. He contributes on the offensive end as well, having registered 18 assists so far this season to go with a +11 rating.
RW: Stephane Mirac, Quebec. Mirac joins teammates Ilyushin and Workman on the East’s third line. The Tigres star makes his first All-Star appearance. In 2017, Mirac was in the grip of a sophomore slump; this time around, he’s rediscovered the form that caused Quebec fans to nickname him “Stephane Miracle.” He has scored 16 goals this season, which ranks among the SHL’s top ten, and is a steady and diligent presence on defense.
Lasse Koskinen, Hamilton. The strong voting presence from southern Ontario helped Koskinen get over the hump and get the start in his first All-Star appearance. “I am very honored to have this opportunity, and the recognition for all of my hard work.” Koskinen’s excellent work has been a key factor in the Pistols’ early success; his .933 save percentage is the league’s best, and he is tied with Michigan’s Dirk Lundquist for the SHL lead with 18 wins.
Riki Tiktuunen, Quebec. Tiktuunen was selected to attend the All-Star Game last season, but he had to bow out due to an injury. This time, the Finnish netminder is healthy and able to appear in the game. Tiktuunen has the second-best save percentage in the league, stopping pucks at a .930 clip; only Koskinen has a better percentage. Tiktuunen’s 17-7-0 record and 1.99 GAA testify to his tremendous work in the crease and the success that the Tigres are having this season.
The roster for the Eastern Division in the SHL’s first All-Star Game, as announced by coach Rodney Reagle, are as follows:
LW: Steven Alexander, Hamilton. The young, scrappy, and hungry winger has been one of the SHL’s top scorers since the beginning. This year, Alexander is tied for the league lead in goals with 23. “I am not throwing away my shot,” Alexander told reporters, confirming that he will play.
D: Reese Milton, Hershey. The 25-year-old blueliner is one of the SHL’s best two-way threats, contributing solidly on offense (7 goals, 24 assists) and providing lock-down defense that has helped propel the Bliss to the top of the division. “For once, Reese will be on my side, instead of kicking my butt,” said Reagle.
C: Justin Valentine, Hershey. Valentine was the top overall vote-getter among Eastern All-Stars. He needed them all, as this was one of the most competitive positions. Valentine withstood a determined charge from New York’s Brock Manning, Hamilton’s Calvin Frye, and Washington’s Eddie Costello. Valentine is tied for the league lead in goals (23) and is in the top five in points (39).
D: Dominic Sanchez, New York. Sanchez was the beneficiary of a late surge in voting from the New York area, allowing him to surpass Hamilton’s Raymond Smyth to claim a starting spot. Sanchez is one of the league’s top offensive defenseman, and he has put up 30 points (6 goals, 24 assists) for the Night so far this season.
RW: Jefferson McNeely, Washington. McNeely withstood a late charge from New York’s Rick “The Stick” Nelson to win this starting spot by less than 5,000 votes. The winger is having a bit of a down season, but he is still among Washington’s top scorers with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists). When reporters called McNeely to get his reaction to being selected, they discovered that he had not yet learned he had been chosen. “What’d I miss?” McNeely said.
LW: Lance Sweet, Hershey. Sweet is a member of Hershey’s well-known “Love Line,” among the top-scoring lines in the SHL. Sweet has more than held up his end of the bargain, putting up 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) on the season so far. He is just outside the league’s top 10 in both points and assists.
D: Raymond Smyth, Hamilton. Smyth lost out on a starting spot to Dominic Sanchez in the final days of voting, but Reagle wasted no time tapping him as a reserve. Smyth has the numbers to back up his case: he has the most points (38) of any defenseman in the league, and he has an excellent defensive reputation as well.
C: Brock Manning, New York. Manning fell short to Valentine in the voting for the hotly-contested center position, but he was selected by Reagle as a reserve. Manning has long been one of the SHL’s top scorers, and this season is no exception; his 21 goals puts him in the league’s top five. As the Night have improved in recent weeks, Manning has led the way, scoring 10 goals in the last two weeks.
D: Kevin Buchanan, Washington. Buchanan was one of three Galaxy players that Reagle named to the Eastern squad. He is the top point-scorer among Washington’s defensive corps with 18, but he is known primarily as a stay-home defender. “I was afraid of what Kevin would do to me if I didn’t pick him,” said Reagle.
RW: Christopher Hart, Hershey. Hart joins his linemate Sweet among the Eastern reserves. He is among the top 10 in the league in points with 36 (10 goals, 26 assists). “Glad to see the Love Line representing!” Hart said. “We’re going to tear it up out there.”
LW: Casey Thurman, Washington. Thurman is having a bit of a down year by his standards, but he remains the Galaxy’s leader in goals scored (with 14), which is good enough to put him in the top 10 in the league. “I had to talk Casey into it a little,” said Reagle. “He didn’t think he deserved it, but I convinced him that he did.”
D: Ward Jones, Quebec. Jones will be the Tigres’ only All-Star representative, as Riki Tiktuunen will miss the game due to injury. Jones is one of the key contributors to the Tigres’ largely anonymous but second-ranked defense. He has been a stalwart on Quebec’s top line, producing 3 goals and 3 assists while providing rugged defense.
C: Calvin Frye, Hamilton. Frye was not voted in as a starter despite being in the top ten in the league in both goals (14) and assists (28). Frye was named SHL Rookie of the Year last season, and he shows no signs of dropping off in his sophomore campaign, on pace for a 25-point improvement from his rookie point total.
D: Grant Warriner, Washington. The Galaxy’s second-year blueliner is proving his worth as a two-way contributor. He has thrived beside free-agent signing Patrick Banks in Washington’s second pairing, putting up 17 points to go with a +10 rating. “I didn’t want to pick too many of my own guys,” said Reagle, “but I look at the numbers until my eyes crossed, and I didn’t see anyone who was more deserving.”
RW: Ivan Trujwirnek, New York. The second-year winger known affectionately as “Trainwreck” has been a consistent contributor on a struggling Night team. His rugged, hard-working play quickly earned the notice of coach Nick Foster, who wound up promoting him from the third line up to the top line. He has continued to produce even with the promotion, putting up 8 goals and 11 assists.
Roger Orion, Washington. The Galaxy have been a defense-first team this season, and Orion has been a key piece of the equation. He is among the top 5 in the league in wins (9), GAA (2.50), and save percentage (.922). He was voted the starter by over 10,000 votes more than his closest competitor.
Dennis Wampler, Hamilton. Orion originally named Quebec’s Riki Tiktuunen as the backup netminder, but the sophomore star was injured in Friday’s loss to Dakota. Pistols rookie Lasse Koskinen was another possibility, but he was also injured this week and therefore unavailable. So Reagle turned to Koskinen’s backup, Wampler. The second-year man has been strong, going 6-3-1 with a 2.47 GAA and a .913 save percentage.
MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 4, WASHINGTON GALAXY 0
Despite his team coming into the SHL Finals as a strong favorite, Michigan Gray Wolves coach Ron Wright stressed the importance of starting the series strong. “In a short series, it’s all about momentum,” said Wright. “Fall into a hole, no matter how strong you are, and it can be impossible to get out. I want to see us make a statement right away.”
In Game 1, the Wolves did exactly what their coach wanted. They made about as strong a statement as possible, seizing control of the game in the first period and cruising from there. Behind the brilliant play of G Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist (31 saves), Michigan put up a 4-0 shutout that left the visiting Washington Galaxy dazed and confused.
“Man, they really came to play,” said Washington LW Casey Thurman. “We’re really going to have to step it up in the next game, or we’re just going to get run over.”
The Galaxy came into the game determined not to let Michigan push them around. “We know the Wolves play a physical game,” said Galaxy D Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom. “We wanted to show them that we’re not scared.”
As a result, Washington started the game in a feisty mood, throwing elbows and hips at the Wolves. Less than eight minutes into the game, Galaxy LW Walt Camernitz took exception to a hard check into the boards by Wolves D Bjorn Tollefson and came up swinging. Both players wound up getting majors.
Washington’s aggressive play wound up getting them into trouble later in the period. Rookie D Grant Warriner was whistled for high-sticking with about six minutes left in the first period. The Galaxy managed to kill off that penalty, but no sooner had they done so than D Kevin Buchanan was hit with a double minor for spearing Michigan C Hunter Bailes. The crowd at Cadillac Place booed Buchanan lustily, but the boos turned to cheers a couple minutes later when Michigan D Fritz Kronstein went top-shelf on Washington netminder Roger Orion to put the home team on the board.
“I saw a little daylight and I took advantage,” said Kronstein, who was Michigan’s first-round pick in this year’s draft.
Less than a minute later, the Wolves doubled their advantage as LW Jorma Seppa, filling in on the top line due to Vladimir Beruschko‘s injury, scored on a wraparound.
“That second goal really threw us off,” said Hogaboom. “We’d been holding our own all period, then boom-boom, we’re in a hole.”
The Galaxy hoped just to survive the rest of the first and head into the locker room down 2-0, but Michigan RW Oskar Denison scored on a slapper in the waning seconds of the period for a three-goal advantage.
“At that point, we knew we were basically done for,” said Camernitz.
The rest of the game was somewhat anticlimactic, highlighted by one more goal (by Wolves C Warren Marlow in the third period) and one more fight (between Hogaboom and Michigan D “Mad Max” Madison). The real star of the day, though, was Lundquist. The goalie flashed his athletic prowess making some brilliant saves to keep the shutout intact. In the second, Lundquist made several brilliant saves to help Michigan kill off back-to-back penalties. In the third, he made a tremendous glove save to stone Washington C Eddie Costello on a breakaway attempt.
“The Bear’s motor is really incredible,” said Wright. “Even after the outcome of the game wasn’t in doubt, he was still in top form, still hustling. If he keeps up this level of play, it’s going to be a real short series.”
After the game, Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle sought to put the game behind him. “I’m not going to watch the film of this game,” said Reagle. “I think I’m going to burn the film, in fact. If I want to watch something, I’ll watch Die Hard instead. At least that one has a happy ending.”