Sailors Go All In at Deadline

The Seattle Sailors are in a tenuous position in the Western playoff race.  The Anchorage Igloos, widely expected to be a slam-dunk playoff team, have struggled to get much above the .500 mark.  In theory, the second Western playoff spot should be up for grabs.  However, hampered by a dreadful defense, the Sailors have been unable to take advantage, and have been hovering 5 to 7 points behind Anchorage for the last month.

Jay McKay

Given the situation, Seattle essentially had two options: concede the race, or go all in.  “The race has been static for a while now,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “If we stuck with the roster we had, we were going to die fast and quiet.”

Instead, McKay elected to go all in.  The Sailors made a pair of major deals to acquire a couple of big names, at a significant cost in prospects.   “We’re pushing our chips to the middle of the table,” said McKay.  “We think we’ve got the chance to do something special here.”

Lars Karlsson

Seattle’s largest acquisition was the deadline’s top prize.  C Lars Karlsson was the biggest name rumored to be on the block.  The 30-year-old center is a proven star and is having a fantastic year, having scored 19 goals and 25 assists.  But his previous team, the Dakota Jackalopes, are in the midst of a payroll purge, and Karlsson’s contract is up at the end of the season.

The Sailors had a clear need at the center position, and they targeted Karlsson from the start.  But they’d already dealt their first-round pick to Dakota before the season.  In order to rent Karlsson for the stretch run, Seattle had to part with a pair of top prospects – C Dale Wilcox and D Duncan DeShantz – as well as their second-round pick.

“Lars definitely didn’t come cheap,” said McKay.  “But he’s the kind of talent that can really move the needle.  He plugs right into our top line – which was already doing great – and the effect ripples through our entire offense.  He’s a game-changer.”

Hans Mortensen

Of course, Seattle’s offense hasn’t been the issue; it’s their leaky defense that has doomed them.  To address that, the Sailors picked up veteran D Hans Mortensen, 30, from the Kansas City Smoke.  The defender has provided airtight defense in KC and put up 17 assists in 40 games.  To land him, Seattle surrendered another prospect blueliner, T.K. O’Neill.  The 20-year-old O’Neill struggled in his SHL debut, failing to record a point in 22 games before being sent down, but he is regarded as an elite defensive prospect.

“Hans is one of those lockdown D-men that you love to have,” said McKay. “He’s a solid veteran with championship experience, and he can contribute on both ends.  He’s going to really help our playoff push.”

These two moves make Seattle a more formidable opponent, but will it be enough?  And if the Sailors miss the playoffs and Karlsson walks at the end of the season, will they regret their deadline splurge?

“I won’t regret it a bit,” said McKay.  “If you’re not going for it, really going for it, what’s the point?  Maybe this all blows up in my face and I get fired.  That’s okay.  We’d rather take a chance and miss than muddle along and do nothing.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund, who used to coach Dakota, agrees with that assessment: “It’s really nice to be with an organization that goes all out to win, that’s not afraid to spend money and take a shot.  I’m not used to it, but I love it.”

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West Romps to Easy Victory in All-Star Game

Conventional wisdom around the SHL has long held that the West is the stronger of the two divisions.  The West has regularly produced the team with the best record every year, and have generally dominated inter-division play.  The conventional wisdom has been shifting lately, though. The Hershey Bliss won the Vandy in an upset last year.  The Hamilton Pistols are tied for the best record in the league.  And the East has gotten the better end of inter-division play this year, going 40-30-2 so far.  Are we witnessing a changing of the guard?

At the All-Star Game on Sunday night at Cadillac Place in Michigan, The West made a powerful statement that they’re still the division to beat.  They chased Pistols goalie Lasse Koskinen with five goals in the first period, and rolled along from there to a 9-2 rout.  It was a dominant performance that left the fans chanting “West Is Best!” for the last several minutes of the game.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about how the East is catching up, or maybe they’re even the better division,” said Anchorage Igloos C Jake Frost, who scored a goal and had three assists.  “Well, this ought to cool off that talk for a while.”

The fabulous first period was a reflection of the division’s impressive depth, as each goal was scored by a player on a different team.  The game was only 22 seconds old when Dakota Jackalopes C Lars Karlsson went top-shelf to open the scoring.  Just over a minute later, Anchorage’s Jerry Koons redirected a shot from his Igloos teammate Frost to make it 2-0.  Eight minutes into the period, it was D Fritz Kronstein of the Michigan Gray Wolves who blasted a shot from the blue line that dented the twine before Koskinen could get his glove up.  Thirty seconds after that, Seattle Sailors RW Vince Mango took off on a breakaway and slipped a shot between Koskinen’s legs.  Finally, with just under five minutes remaining, Kansas City Smoke LW Pascal Royal fired a slapshot from the faceoff circle that found the back of the next, making it 5-0.

Koskinen, who was expected to play the first two periods, was yanked after the first.  After the game, Koskinen hinted that he might have partied a bit too hard before the game.  “My first All-Star Game,” said the Hamilton netminder.  “Lots of parties, lots of fun.  Maybe too much fun for me.”

The competitive portion of the game was essentially over after the opening period, and the East did what it could to salvage a few shreds of dignity.  Hershey Bliss RW Christopher Hart finally broke the shutout 5:43 into the second period, stuffing home a rebound past Michigan goalie Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist.  Lundquist made 36 saves over the first two periods, before leaving to a standing ovation.  Igloos netminder Ty Worthington turned aside 12 shots in the third, although Quebec Tigres D Laurie Workman managed to put one shot past him.

“I got to start The Bear and send in Ty for belief,” said West coach Sam Castor.  “Talk about a dynamic duo.”

There were a number of Western players who were deserving of MVP honors, but in the end the award went to Koons, the only player to score multiple goals in the game.  In addition to the award, Koons received a brand new Kia Stinger sports sedan.

“Picking the MVP from this game is like picking the best noodle of a spaghetti dinner,” said Koons.  “But hey, I got this cool car of it, so I’ll take it!”

Also during the game, the SHL announced the winner of its “For the Love of Hockey” fan video contest.  The winner was 27-year-old Sarah Fennelly of Anchorage.  Sarah’s video featured pictures or herself, her father, and her grandfather, all of whom grew up playing pond hockey in Alaska.  She then included footage of the three of them at an Igloos game, cheering on the home team.  “Hockey is our heritage and our common language,” Sarah said.  “We’re so different in so many ways, but hockey brings us together.”  All three generations of the Fenelly family were in attendance at the All-Star Game, and they received warm applause from the crowd.

“My grandfather hasn’t been in great health lately, and we weren’t sure if he would be able to come,” Sarah said.  “But he insisted.  He never misses a hockey game.”

 

2018 SHL All-Star Game, East All-Stars @ West All-Stars, Cadillac Place

                   1   2   3   OT   F
East All-Stars     0   1   1        2
West All-Stars     5   2   2        9

 
East All-Stars         G   A PTS PIM +/-   West All-Stars         G   A PTS PIM +/-

Thurman         LW     0   0   0   0  -2   Koons           LW     2   0   2   0   2
Milton          D      0   0   0   0  -4   Kronstein       D      1   3   4   0   4
Frye            C      0   0   0   0  -2   Frost           C      1   3   4   0   2
Sanchez         D      0   0   0   2  -4   Madison         D      0   3   3   0   4
McNeely         RW     0   0   0   0  -2   Mango           RW     1   1   2   0   2
Alexander       LW     0   1   1   0  -2   Chamberlain     LW     0   0   0   0   2
Smyth           D      0   0   0   0  -2   Barnes          D      0   4   4   0   2
Valentine       C      0   1   1   0  -2   Karlsson        C      1   0   1   0   2
Buchanan        D      0   0   0   0  -2   Keefe           D      0   0   0   0   2
Hart            RW     1   0   1   0  -2   Ericsson        RW     1   2   3   0   2
Darnholm        LW     0   1   1   0  -1   Royal           LW     1   1   2   0   1
Workman         D      1   0   1   2   1   Cherner         D      0   0   0   0  -1
Ilyushin        C      0   0   0   0  -1   Marlow          C      0   0   0   0   1
Mulligan        D      0   1   1   0   1   Frederick       D      0   0   0   0  -1
Mirac           RW     0   0   0   0  -1   Pepper          RW     1   1   2   2   1
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 2   4   6   4  -5   TOTALS                 9  18  27   2   5

Scratches:
EAS: None 
WAS: None 

 
East All-Stars      SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Koskinen            20    15    5  0.750
Tiktuunen           27    23    4  0.852

West All-Stars      SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Lundquist           37    36    1  0.973
Worthington         13    12    1  0.923

 

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

GOALS:
00:22  WAS  Karlsson (Ericsson, Kronstein)
01:34  WAS  Koons (Frost, Madison)
07:58  WAS  Kronstein (Madison, Ericsson)
08:33  WAS  Mango (Barnes, Frost)
15:03  WAS  Royal (Pepper, Barnes)

PENALTIES:
03:07  WAS  Pepper 2:00 (Elbowing)

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

GOALS:
01:44  WAS  Frost PP (Mango, Kronstein)
05:43  EAS  Hart (Alexander, Valentine)
17:29  WAS  Pepper (Barnes, Royal)

PENALTIES:
00:33  EAS  Workman 2:00 (Interference)


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

GOALS:
02:53  WAS  Koons PP (Frost, Barnes)
04:30  EAS  Workman (Mulligan, Darnholm)
05:01  WAS  Ericsson (Kronstein, Madison)

PENALTIES:
01:09  EAS  Sanchez 2:00 (Delay of Game)


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
East All-Stars    25  12  13       50
West All-Stars    20  12  15       47

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

East All-Stars   0 for 1
West All-Stars   2 for 2

 
INJURIES
--------

None

2018 Western All-Star Roster

The roster for the Western Division in the 2018 SHL All-Star Game, which will be held at Michigan’s Cadillac Place, was announced today by coach Sam Castor.  The selections were as follows:

First Line

LW: Jerry Koons, AnchorageIt’s the second straight All-Star appearance for the Igloos winger, but it’s his first time being voted into the starting lineup.  In a reverse of last year’s results, Koons was voted in over Dakota’s “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston.  He had a breakout season in 2017, scoring 44 goals and 90 points and winning the MVP award.  He hasn’t been on that same pace this season, but he’s off to a solid point; his 35 points put him in the top 10 in the league.

D: Fritz Kronstein, MichiganThe Wolves remain the top defensive squad in the SHL, and their top defensive pairing was rewarded with their second straight starting appearance.  This season, Kronstein was the top-vote getter among all defensemen, a recognition of his emergence as a two-way force.  He leads the Wolves with 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists), and he is the leader among all blueliners in the league in plus-minus with a +24 rating.

C: Jake Frost, Anchorage.  For the second straight season, Frost was the runaway winner of the starting center spot for the West, garnering almost 60% of the votes at the position.  The tall center has been one of the SHL’s top scorers since his debut, and this season is no exception; his 22 goals are the fourth-highest total in the SHL.  “Having Koonsy and Frosty out there on the top line, that makes you feel good as a coach,” said Castor.  “With the kind of year we’re having, I wasn’t taking that for granted.”

D: “Mad Max” Madison, Michigan.  It wasn’t clear whether Madison was going to be able to make the game, as he has missed the last three weeks with a lower-body injury.  But he has declared that he’s “feeling great and ready to go,” and plans to make his return to the ice in front of his home crowd.  Madison’s numbers have taken a hit due to his injury, but he was off to a solid start before getting hurt, putting up 3 goals and 7 assists in the first 15 games of the season.

RW: Vince Mango, Seattle.  The Sailors sniper has proven to be a polarizing figure around the league, as his theatrical goal celebrations and loquaciousness with the press rub some traditionalist fans the wrong way.  But he’s attracted enough fans to squeak out a narrow victory in fan voting, garnering a few thousand more votes than Michigan’s Gordon Lunsford and Anchorage’s Nicklas Ericsson.  Mango is known for his scoring, and he has 16 tallies on the season, which places him among the Top 10 in the league.  Mango described the results as a “changing of the guard.”

 

Second Line

LW: Troy Chamberlain, SaskatchewanThe Shockers winger makes his second straight All-Star appearance.  Chamberlain continues to be the driving force behind Saskatchewan’s offense, leading the team in both goals (with 13) and points (29).  But he’s also not just a force on offense; he’s known around the league as a diligent and capable two-way player.  Although the Shockers have slipped back in the playoff race recently, Chamberlain’s play has been a key to their push to contend.

D: Wyatt Barnes, Saskatchewan. For the second season in a row, Chamberlain and Barnes represent the Shockers’ only All-Star representatives.  Barnes continues to emerge as one of the SHL’s top blueline talents.  His 21 assists are the most among Saskatchewan players, and he’s also managed to light the lamp four times.  In addition, he’s a rugged and hard-hitting defender who’s been nicknamed “Stonewall” by his teammates due to his ability to deny opposing skaters entry into the offensive zone.  He’s even in plus-minus rating this season, one of only three Saskatchewan players not in the negative.

C: Lars Karlsson, Dakota.  Karlsson is one of two Jackalopes players appearing in this year’s All-Star Game, although it’s hard to know how much longer he will remain in a Dakota uniform.  Karlsson’s contract is up at the end of the season, and he figures to be one of the most sought-after rentals, as the rebuilding ‘Lopes seem unlikely to resign him.  The veteran center has done a good job blocking out the distractions and is putting up a fine season, leading the team in both goals (15) and points (31).

D: Ted Keefe, Anchorage. The top two defensive pairings for the West look the same this year as last, as Castor turned to his veteran puck-moving stalwart to fill out the second pair.  Keefe turns 33 this season, but is playing like a man a decade younger.  He’s got the best offensive numbers among the Igloos’ defensive corps, with 8 goals and 19 assists on the season.  He’s a hard-checking defenseman who likes to scrap, and he’s one of the league’s best at steals and forcing turnovers as well.

RW: Nicklas Ericsson, Anchorage. As mentioned above, Ericsson narrowly missed being voted into a starting slot on the Western squad, and Castor had no hesitation about picking his own player to complete the second line. Despite having what for him is a bit of a down season (7 goals, 20 assists), Ericsson continues to be regarded as one of the league’s elite passers.  “He could fit a puck through the eye of a needle if he had to,” said Castor.

 

Third Line

LW: Pascal Royal, Kansas CityThe SHL requires that every team be represented on the All-Star teams, and Royal is the Smoke’s lone representative.  The 27-year-old winger has had something of a career resurgence in KC, and he leads the team in points (31) and assists (19).  The All-Star Game is something of a showcase for Royal, who seems a likely possibility to be moved at the trading deadline.

D: Matt Cherner, Dakota.  Cherner makes his first-ever All-Star appearance.  Like his Jackalopes teammate Karlsson, he’s likely to attract attention from teams around the trading deadline, although given that his contract doesn’t expire until 2020, he’s less likely to be moved.  Cherner is one of the league’s best offensive-minded defensemen, and he’s putting up a strong season, scoring 7 goals and 23 assists to date.

CWarren Marlow, Michigan. Marlow was not originally chosen as an All-Star last season, but he wound up going as a replacement after teammate Hunter Bailes suffered an injury in the days before the game.  He is the only Wolves player selected by Castor… a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed at Cadillac Place. Marlow has actually recorded more points than Bailes so far this season (27 to 26), although Bailes has scored more goals (18 to 13).  He also has the unusual distinction of being one of four regular starters in the SHL who has yet to record a penalty this season.

D: Dave Frederick, Anchorage. In a selection considered debatable by some, Castor tabbed the 31-year-old Frederick to make his All-Star debut in the West’s bottom pairing.  Wolves fans argued for the selection of Brooks Zabielski or Frank Mudrick over Frederick, while Sailors supporters protested that Doron Lidjya was unfairly snubbed.  In fairness to Frederick, he has some points in his favor: he’s second among Western defenders in plus-minus at +19, and he’s produced on offense, putting up 4 goals and 11 assists so far this season.

RW: Elliott Pepper, Seattle. The Sailors get their second representative in Pepper, who’s making his first All-Star appearance.  The winger got off to a strong start that earned him Player of the Week honors in the season’s first week.  He’s cooled off some since, but he remains one of the league’s better offensive performers, with 16 goals (tied with fellow All-Star Mango for the Seattle team lead) and 13 assists so far on the year.

 

Goaltenders

Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist, Michigan.  Although the SHL’s best-bearded goalie isn’t quite as dominant this season as he has been in years past, he still won the starting nod handily, according to the fan vote.  Lundquist’s numbers are certainly nothing to sneeze at, either: his 18 wins are tied for the league lead, while his 1.91 GAA is second-best and his .926 save percentage is good for third overall.

Ty Worthington, Anchorage. The Igloos netminder will be the Western backup once again this time around. Although Worthington got off to something of a slow start this season, he’s rebounded nicely in recent weeks, helping Anchorage firm up their hold on second place in the West.  Overall, his numbers remain quite respectable: 13-11-0, 2.41 GAA, .923 save percentage  — good enough to get the nod over Saskatchewan’s Zeke Zagurski.

West Wide Open

Looking at the Western Division standings about one-third of the way through the 2018 SHL season, one thing is clear: the Michigan Gray Wolves are the overwhelming favorites to win the division title.  They’re already 12 points clear of their nearest competitor and are outscoring their opponents by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio.  Goaltender Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist and the defense remain as stingy as ever; even a serious injury to top blueline “Mad Max” Madison has barely slowed the Wolves down.  Michigan seems well on its way to nailing down that top spot.

But there are two playoff spots in each division this season.  And if first place appears all but sewn up, second place is up for grabs.  No team is out of the running, and no team seems to have much of an edge at this stage.

“It’s just a wide-open brawl, is what it is,” said Saskatchewan Shockers D Wyatt Barnes.  “A total pig pile.  No one knows what’s going to happen.”

At the start of the season, the Anchorage Igloos were heavily favored to make it to the playoffs.  Indeed, they’ve held down second place for much of the year.  But the defending division champs haven’t been playing up to their usual standards; in fact, they’ve struggled to get much above the .500 mark, and they haven’t won more than two in a row since the first week of the season.  “We’ve really struggled to find our rhythm,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “We show flashes of our true form, especially against tough opponents, but then we sleepwalk against lesser teams.  We’re going to get more consistent if we’re going to make the playoffs.”

This week’s games demonstrated Castor’s point.  Anchorage put up a huge statement win on Sunday, stomping mighty Michigan 5-0.  But they followed up that effort with a pair of embarrassing losses, falling 3-1 to Dakota and 7-5 to Kansas City.  “I know the feeling in the clubhouse is that we’re the superior team,” said the Anchorage coach, “but we’ve got to prove that on the ice.”

Two points behind Anchorage are the Saskatchewan Shockers, who look ready to shake their hapless reputation.  They had a shot to take over sole possession of second place on Friday, but dropped a 5-2 decision to the Igloos.  The key to the Shockers’ success this season has been their defense.  Coach Myron Beasley has made a point of tightening up his team’s play in its own end, and his efforts are paying dividends.  Saskatchewan is limiting opponents to 29.3 shots per game, the fourth-best total in the league.  The improved defense has been a blessing for goalie Zeke Zagurski, who has historically faced a barrage of enemy shots on a nightly basis.  This season, he’s lowered his GAA to 2.52 while stopping shots at a .919 clip.  Backup Shawn Stickel has been even better in limited action, compiling a stingy 1.33 GAA and .929 save percentage.

Unfortunately, the Shockers’ defensive efforts seem to be taking a toll on their offense.  Saskatchewan has averaged 32.8 shots per game, solidly in the middle of the pack, but they’ve only scored 53 goals, third-worst total in the league.  “We’re not putting ourselves in position to get top-quality shots,” said LW Troy Chamberlain.  “We’re not getting the net-front presence we need to create chaos.  We need some more of those greasy goals that a team like Michigan is so good at.”

Saskatchewan is one point up on the Seattle Sailors, who are the Shockers’ mirror image.  The Sailors have a potent attack, having scored 75 goals already this season, led by RWs Elliott Pepper (13 goals) and Vince Mango (11).  However, their fast tempo and aggressive approach has led to a vulnerability on defense.  Seattle has given up 82 goals, the highest total in the league.  Part of the issue is their tendency to allow odd-man rushes (they’re allowing 37 shots per game).  They’re not getting much help between the pipes, either.  The Sailors have rotated between Rocky Goldmire (6-7-0, 4.12 GAA, .893 save percentage) and “Jersey Mike” Ross (3-3-1, 4.00, .883); neither has done enough to nail down the starting job.

“We need to spend a little less time on the fun stuff and a little more on the lunch-pail, building-block stuff,” said Sailors coach Harold Engellund.

One point back of the Sailors are the Dakota Jackalopes, having a bit of a surprising season under new coach Flim Dahlgren.  The Jackalopes had a good deal of success during the inter-divison round last week, winning five in a row against the East.  They’ve come back to earth this week, dropping three of their last four.  But for a team that’s widely assumed to be in a rebuilding mode, Dakota has been surprisingly competitive.  They’re getting a boost from two of the only remaining veterans on the team: C Lars Karlsson (tied for the team lead with 11 goals) and D Matt Cherner (whose 19 assists).  Karlsson and Cherner are widely assumed to be top targets at the trading deadline; if the Jackalopes remain in contention, GM Paul Mindegaard may have some difficult decisions to make.

Even the expansion Kansas City Smoke are only seven points out of second place.  To be fair, their relative success to this point has been driven largely by an unsustainble shot-conversion percentage (they’re scoring on almost 14% of their shots, by far the highest rate in the league).  That said, they’re seeing strong seasons from LW Pascal Royal (12 goals, 28 points), C Mike Rivera (13 goals), and rookie Zachary Merula (8 goals, 18 points).  “We’re definitely not expecting a playoff spot this year,” said coach Randy Bergner.  “But I’m really liking what I’m seeing out of the boys so far.”

There’s plenty of time left in the season, and things could shake out in the coming weeks.  Anchorage could take control of the race; Dakota and Kansas City could fall off the pace; Saskatchewan or Seattle could get more balanced and go on a run.  But for the time being, the race remains a muddle.  “It’s up for grabs,” said Seattle’s Mango.  “Anybody could swoop in and take this.  This is a chance to show what we’re made of.”

West Stages Comeback For Ages In All-Star Game

When the SHL decided to hold its first-ever All-Star Game this year, they were hoping for an opportunity to showcase the league’s best players and provide a fun midseason diversion.  The results of the game itself were strictly secondary.

As it turned out, the action on the ice surpassed everyone’s expectations, with a thrilling finish.  Trailing 3-0 after two periods, the Western team scored five goals in the last period – including three in the final five minutes – to hand the East a stunning 5-4 defeat at Constellation Center in Washington.

“Can you get fired from coaching All-Star Games?” said Eastern coach Rodney Reagle.  “That kind of collapse can get you walking the breadline.”

Prior to the West’s final-period rally, it appeared that they were going to pay the price for coach Ron Wright‘s controversial roster choices.  Wright constructed his roster with an emphasis on defense, including several members of his own Michigan Gray Wolves team.  He came under fire for omitting top scorers such as Seattle’s Vince Mango, Dakota’s Arkady Golynin, and Saskatchewan’s Napoleon Beasley from his squad.

Wright’s strategy appeared to backfire when his team was shut out over the first two periods.  Making matters worse, the East scored three goals in the first period against Wolves netminder Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist, who later admitted that he “wasn’t totally focused.”  The first-place Hershey Bliss played a key role in the assault, with Justin Valentine and Christopher Hart both scoring on Lundquist.

“I stand by the choices I made,” said Wright.  “But I know that if we’d put up a zero, I would never have heard the end of it.”

Fortunately for Wright, the West’s offense came to life in the third after Reagle sat starting goalie Roger Orion in favor of backup Dennis Wampler.  “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston of the Dakota Jackalopes broke the shutout with a slapshot from the left faceoff circle four and a half minutes into the period.  The West gained additional momentum after killing off overlapping minor penalties.  Just over a minute after the successful penalty kill, Airston’s Dakota teammate Lars Karlsson deflected a shot past Wampler to make it 3-2.

Valentine restored the East’s two-game edge a couple minutes later by going top shelf against the West’s backup goalie, Ty Worthington of the Anchorage Igloos.  But in the closing minutes, the West staged an incredibly rally, led not by members of Wright’s Wolves, but by a pair of teammates from the Saskatchewan Shockers.

With just over five minutes remaining, the West managed a three-on-two breakaway that ended with Shockers winger Troy Chamberlain drilling it home between Wampler’s pads.  Two and a half minutes later, Shockers defenseman Wyatt Barnes tied it up with a blast from the blue line that eluded the screened Wampler.

It looked as though the inaugural All-Star Game was headed for overtime, but with 10 seconds remaining, Chamberlain released a sharp-angle shot that snuck just inside the pole for the winning goal.  Chamberlain’s late-game heroics earned him the MVP honor, with came along with a new Kia Optima sedan.

“This one’s for the fans back in Saskatchewan!” said Chamberlain as he accepted the award.  “The Shockers might not win the championship this year, but we’re a team on the rise.  Watch out for us!”  Chamberlain’s speech was interrupted by Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz, who grabbed the MVP trophy and ran around the ice shouting, “Behold, baby!  We finally won something!”

Per the terms of the bet between the coaches, Reagle now owes Wright six cans of Senate bean soup.  “I hope Ron likes the soup,” said Reagle.  “That was soup well earned.”

2017 SHL All-Star Game, West All-Stars @ East All-Stars, Constellation Center

                  1   2   3   OT   F
West All-Stars    0   0   5        5
East All-Stars    3   0   1        4

 
West All-Stars        G   A PTS PIM +/-   East All-Stars        G   A PTS PIM +/-

Airston        LW     1   0   1   0  -1   Alexander      LW     0   1   1   0   1
Kronstein      D      0   1   1   2  -1   Milton         D      0   1   1   0   1
Frost          C      0   0   0   0  -1   Valentine      C      2   0   2   0   1
Madison        D      0   1   1   0  -1   Sanchez        D      0   2   2   2   1
Ericsson       RW     0   0   0   0  -1   McNeely        RW     0   0   0   0   1
Koons          LW     0   1   1   2   1   Sweet          LW     0   1   1   0  -1
Barnes         D      1   1   2   0   1   Smyth          D      0   1   1   0  -1
Karlsson       C      1   1   2   0   1   Manning        C      1   0   1   0  -1
Keefe          D      0   0   0   0   1   Buchanan       D      0   1   1   0  -1
Lunsford       RW     0   1   1   2   1   Hart           RW     1   1   2   0  -1
Chamberlain    LW     2   0   2   2   2   Thurman        LW     0   0   0   0  -2
Mudrick        D      0   1   1   2   2   Jones          D      0   0   0   0  -2
Marlow         C      0   1   1   0   2   Frye           C      0   0   0   0  -2
Lambert        D      0   1   1   0   2   Warriner       D      0   0   0   0  -2
Poulin         RW     0   1   1   0   2   Trujwirnek     RW     0   0   0   0  -2
---------------------------------------   ---------------------------------------
TOTALS                5  10  15  10   2   TOTALS                4   8  12   2  -2



 
West All-Stars     SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Lundquist          25    22    3  0.880
Worthington	   20    19    1  0.950


East All-Stars     SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Orion              25    25    0  1.000
Wampler            16    11    5  0.688
 

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

GOALS:
07:20  ASE  Hart PP (Smyth, Sweet)
16:54  ASE  Manning (Buchanan, Hart)
18:30  ASE  Valentine (Sanchez, Alexander)

PENALTIES:
06:20  ASW  Kronstein 2:00 (Cross-checking)

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

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
08:00  ASW  Koons 2:00 (Interference)
12:41  ASE  Sanchez 2:00 (Tripping)

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

GOALS:
04:32  ASW  Airston (Kronstein, Madison)
09:28  ASW  Karlsson (Koons, Barnes)
11:41  ASE  Valentine (Sanchez, Milton)
14:53  ASW  Chamberlain (Poulin, Lambert)
17:29  ASW  Barnes (Karlsson, Lunsford)
19:50  ASW  Chamberlain (Mudrick, Marlow)

PENALTIES:
05:30  ASW  Lunsford 2:00 (Roughing)
06:25  ASW  Chamberlain 2:00 (Delay of Game)
11:54  ASW  Mudrick 2:00 (Interference)


 
SHOTS
------
                  1   2   3   OT   F
West All-Stars   12  13  16       41
East All-Stars   14  11  20       45

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

West All-Stars 0 for 1
East All-Stars 1 for 5

 
INJURIES
--------

None

Western All-Star Rosters

The rosters for the Western Division in the SHL’s first All-Star Game, as announced by Michigan coach Ron Wright, are as follows:

First Line

LW: “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, DakotaAirston prevailed in the closest competition in All-Star voting, edging out Anchorage’s Jerry Koons by less than 1,500 votes.  The noted bunny enthusiast is one of the league’s top scorers, turning in 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) so far on the season.

D: “Mad Max” Madison, MichiganThe Gray Wolves are the SHL’s #1 defensive squad by a healthy margin, so it’s no surprise that Michigan’s defenders dominated the voting.  Madison is the best-known and most colorful of the bunch; as a result, he was the West’s top vote-getter at the position.  He’s contributed on both ends, with 15 points and a +16 rating.  He is also tied for the SHL lead in penalty minutes, with 60.

C: Jake Frost, AnchorageUnlike the East, voting for center in the West wasn’t close in the least; Frost garnered nearly twice as many votes as his nearest competitor.  His commanding margin is a testament to his excellent play; Frost’s 23 goals is tied for the SHL lead.  He is also among the league leaders in plus-minus rating, at +18.

D: Fritz Kronstein, Michigan. Kronstein is the less colorful half of the Wolves’ top defensive pairing, but he’s an even more impressive two-way player. The German-born blueliner has put up 24 points so far this season to go with his +17 rating. Unlike Madison, he plays a heavy defense without racking up heavy penalty minutes (only 19 on the season).

RW: Nicklas Ericsson, Anchorage. There are a number of high-scoring right wingers in the West, but Ericsson earned the nod for his exceptional passing skills.  He has put up 40 assists on the season, eight more than anyone else in the league to date.  “There’s only going to be one puck on the ice,” said Wright, “so I’m glad my top line isn’t stacked with shooters.

 

Second Line

LW: Jerry Koons, Anchorage. Koons narrowly lost the popular vote to Airston, but his statistics suggest that he is the superior choice.  He’s tied for the league lead in goals (23) and is the sole leader in points (44).  He is also in the top five league-wide in plus-minus rating (+18).

D: Wyatt Barnes, SaskatchewanIn a tough season for the Shockers, Barnes has been a standout.  Advanced metrics suggest point to him as one of the West’s best defenders, and he’s been one of Saskatchewan’s offensive leaders as well, amassing 30 points through the first half of the season.

C: Lars Karlsson, Dakota. Karlsson does not have a strong defensive reputation, which would ordinarily make him anathema to Wright.  But at a weak position in the division, his offensive stats are too compelling too ignore.  His 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) is good for fourth in the SHL.

D: Ted Keefe, Anchorage. Wright has described Keefe as “the opposing player I’d most like to have,” so it’s hardly shocking that he wound up on the Western squad.  Keefe is a two-fisted defenseman who’s not afraid to throw a hard check or win puck battles along the boards, and he pulls his own weight on offense (32 points) as well.

RW: Gordon Lunsford, Michigan. Wright tapped a familiar face to finish out his second line.  Lunsford is a balanced contributor on offense, putting up 12 goals and 12 assists in the first half.  His +16 rating speaks to his comfort on both ends of the ice.

 

Third Line

LW: Troy Chamberlain, Saskatchewan. Chamberlain joins Barnes as the only representatives of the Shockers on the All-Star team.  The sharp-shooting winger is Saskatchewan’s top point producer on the season, with 32 (13 goals, 19 assists).  He also has a reputation for heads-up play on defense, making him an attractive choice for Wright.

D: Frank Mudrick, Michigan. “I would have taken all of our D-men if I could have,” said Wright.  But in the end, Mudrick got the call over rookie Brooks Zabielski as part of the third pairing.  Mudrick may be the most physical of the Wolves’ blue-line corps, but he also provides some firepower on offense as well, with 13 points on the season.

C: Warren Marlow, Michigan. Wright’s initial nod went to Hunter Bailes, but with the Wolves’ captain out with an injury, Wright turned to the man who has replaced him on the top line.  Marlow’s selection was somewhat controversial, as his offensive numbers (9 goals, 9 assists) are less impressive than others such as Anchorage’s Nile Bernard and Derek Humplik, Dakota’s Mike Rivera, and Saskatchewan’s Napoleon Beasley. But Marlow has a stronger defensive reputation than any of the others, and that factored into Wright’s considerations.

D: Benny Lambert, SeattleThe sophomore blueliner is the Sailors’ lone representative in the All-Star Game.  Lambert is well-known around the league as a tenacious and hard-hitting defender, and he’s also strong in setting up goals, with 17 assists so far this season. “He’s a guy I would have taken regardless of whether or not I had to pick a Seattle player,” said Wright.

RW: Benoit Poulin, Michigan. Wright tapped another of his own players in another controversial choice, leaving such quality scorers as Seattle’s Vince Mango and Dakota’s Arkady Golynin off the squad.  Poulin is a decent scorer, having tallied 11 goals on the season, but again it was the defensive skills that Wright was after.  “Big goal totals are sexy,” the coach said, “but that’s not how we got to be SHL champions.  I want to recognize those underrated skills as well.”

 

Goaltenders

Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist, Michigan. Lundquist was the clear choice to start in net for the West, and the vote reflected that; he received over 65% of the votes at the position.  He was the top overall vote-getter at any position.  The lusciously-bearded goalie dominates every statistical category: wins (16), goals against average (1.19), save percentage (.961).

Ty Worthington, Anchorage. Wright said that the backup netminder position was a tough call between Worthington and Saskatchewan’s Zeke Zagurski.  In the end, the Wolves coach tabbed his Igloos rival.  Worthington has struggled with injuries this season, but when he has played, he’s been excellent: 10-4-4, 2.23 GAA, .927 save percentage.

SHL Player of the Week – Week 4

Lars Karlsson

The SHL selected Dakota Jackalopes C Lars Karlsson as its Player of the Week.  Karlsson had a strong week, putting up 5 goals and 9 points.  His performance helped vault him into the league’s top 10 in both categories.

Karlsson’s most impressive performance came on Wednesday, when he had a hat trick and added two assists in the Jackalopes’ 7-3 win over Hershey.  Karlsson and teammate Matt Cherner (1 goal, 4 assists) became the first two players to record five-point games this season.

“Lars has been one of our cornerstones since the beginning,” said Jackalopes coach Harold Engellund.  “He’s got a terrific motor, and he’s not afraid to do the dirty work on both ends of the ice. “