- 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.
According to New York Night GM Jay McKay, letting LW Misha Petronov leave in free agency was his biggest mistake. Petronov spent three seasons in New York, but after a mildly disappointing 2019 season, the Night allowed him to walk away and sign a 2-year, $2 million contract with the Michigan Gray Wolves. But Petronov rebounded toward his career norms in Michigan, while New York has badly missed his production on the wing. So McKay reversed his mistake on Wednesday, re-acquiring Petronov from the Wolves, along with F Cary Estabrook and D Brandon Arrowood, in exchange for LW Flynn Danner, F Henry Constantine, and D Anson Brank.
‘We knew we wanted some help on the second line,” said McKay. “And we talked about a number of guys, but in the end I kept coming back to Misha. He’s a guy we know and he’s a good fit for our team, so why not bring him back? Then it was just a matter of making the salaries work.”
In 42 games with the Wolves, Petronov put up 31 points (9 goals, 22 assists) and a team-leading +12 rating. He has generally been less involved on the defensive end and along the boards, which made him a somewhat awkward fit in Michigan’s style of play, but suits New York’s run-and-gun approach perfectly.
McKay said that the winger will slot right back into his old slot on the second line, beside C Rod Remington and RW Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek. “I am glad to be back with my old friends,” said Petronov. “It will be just like my former times again.”
Along with Petronov, the Night acquired a couple young players with potential upside. The 25-year-old Estabrook was the first player signed by the Boston Badgers. He has struggled to convert on his potential in the SHL, due both to the lingering effects of a knee injury he suffered in college and his struggles with alcohol and conditioning. He signed with Michigan in the offseason, and clashed with then-coach Ron Wright virtually from the beginning. He appeared in only 10 games with the Wolves, failing to record a point, and then he was banished to the minors. McKay said that Estabrook would be assigned to New York’s farm team in Utah initially, but he would be called up before the end of the season.
“We believe that Cary has a lot to offer this club,” McKay told reporters, “And I’m a big believer in second chances, and Cary deserves one.”
Arrowood, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old offensive-minded defenseman. He has shown a consistent scoring touch in the minors, but his deficiencies on the defensive end have prevented him from earning a call-up to the majors.
In exchange, New York gave up a pair of prospects that should aid the Wolves as they move into a rebuilding phase. Danner is a 24-year-old winger who has produced regular 50-point seasons in the minors. He made his SHL debut this season and produced promising results, with 13 points (7 goals, 6 assists) and a +6 rating in 28 games with New York. He showed some upside on defense as well, with 23 blocks.
“Flynn checks a lot of the boxes we’re looking for,” said Michigan GM Tim Carrier. “He’s a strong 200-foot skater, he can create his own shot, and he puts in good effort on defense.”
Brank, meanwhile, is a 20-year-old blueliner who was drafted by the Night two years ago. He lost a position battle in training camp, but he produced strong numbers in Utah, putting up 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 41 games.
Michigan also adds Constantine, a veteran on an expiring contract who can play any forward position. He should be able to fill in an provide some short-term offensive help for the Wolves.
While the Wolves are looking to the long term, the Night are focused on the present. McKay came up with a typically creative trade to bolster their offense. Given the crowded playoff picture in the East, however, the GM will need to hope that neither Danner nor Brank gives him a reason to regret this deal down the road.
The SHL has had its share of close division races over the years. Some of them have even gone all the way to final day of the regular season, such as 2016’s epic Washington-Hershey contest or last season’s showdown between Hamilton and Quebec. But never before has the identity of both division winners been decided during the regular-season finale. This season, however, the battles in both the East and West went the distance, setting up an epic slate of games on Saturday.
Out West, the defending champion Anchorage Igloos entered the last day one point ahead of the upstart Seattle Sailors. The Sailors finished their season on the road against the Saskatchewan Shockers, while the Igloos hosted the Kansas City Smoke for their finale. The Sailors, who had already clinched their first-ever playoff berth, expressed confidence heading into the game. “We know what we need to do,” said RW Vince Mango, “now we just need to go out and do it.”
The Sailors got off to a fast start. Shockers D Rusty Anderson went to penalty box just seven seconds into the game, and Sailors LW Rod “Money” Argent cashed in on the ensuing power play to give Seattle the early lead. Later in the period, D Bud Gatecliff banged home a short from the point to make it 2-0. The score remained that way throughout the rest of that period and the next, and it appeared the Sailors were set to get the victory they needed.
In the third period, however, Saskatchewan got their game in gear. In the opening minutes of the period, LW Troy Chamberlain emerged from a scrum in front of the net and tucked a shot under the crossbar to put Saskatchewan on the board. Just 24 seconds after that, C Cyril Perignon deflected a slapper past the glove of Seattle goalie “Jersey Mike” Ross to tie the score. A half-minute later, the Sailors reclaimed the lead on a short-side blast by D Hans Mortensen. But Saskatchewan wasn’t finished; less than three minutes after Mortensen’s tally, Anderson tied things back up with a blast from the slot that got between Ross’s pads. Both teams kept the pressure on, combining for 26 shots in the period, but the tie persisted through the end of regulation.
Going into overtime, Seattle had a choice: play defensively to preserve the tie, or go for the win? For the Sailors, it was no choice at all: “We wanted the W,” said Mango. In the first minute of the extra session, Mango nearly won as he ripped slapshot that dribbled through the legs of Shockers goalie Shawn Stickel, but the puck stopped on the goal line and Stickel fell on it before anyone could jam it home. Finally, just over two minutes in, Chamberlain got loose on a breakaway and went top shelf to beat Ross and win the game.
“Missed it by that much,” said Mango, holding his thumb and forefinger just slightly apart.
With nothing to play for, the Igloos lost 3-2 to Kansas City, but still won the division. The celebration was fairly subdued, as Anchorage is focused on winning its second straight Vandy. “Everyone in this room isn’t going to be satisfied unless we go all the way,” said Igloos C Jake Frost. “Winning the division is nice, but it’s not enough.”
Meanwhile, in the East, the Hershey Bliss entered the finale a point up on the red-hot Hamilton Pistols. The Bliss expected to have the division clinched already, as they’d entered the final week with a five-point lead. But they proceeded to drop two of their three games on the week, while the Pistols won all three of theirs. Still, all Hershey needed to do to ensure that the division would be theirs was to win or tie against the last-place Boston Badgers.
Unfortunately for the Bliss, even though they outshot the Badgers 40-26, they were unable to take the victory. Hershey was stymied by a brilliant goaltending performance from Boston backup Carson Wagner. Then, with just over five minutes left in a tie game, Bliss RW Noah Daniels was called for a controversial interference penalty on Boston’s Pascal Royal, one that left coach Chip Barber and the Bliss bench hollering in frustration; they contended that Royal should have been penalized for embellishment instead. Their anger only grew more acute when Badgers LW Lix Darnholm scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
“I only hope that the division doesn’t wind up turning on that call,” said Barber after the game. “You’d hate to see that. It would be like biting into a Hershey’s Kiss and finding out someone hid a Lemonhead in the middle: a sour ending to what should be sweet.”
Hershey’s loss opened the door for the Pistols. Standing in their way were their bitter rivals, the New York Night. Nick Foster‘s club was officially eliminated from contention earlier in the week, but they relished the opportunity to deny the Pistols the title.
“If you can’t make it to the promised land, the next best thing is stopping your enemy from getting there,” Foster said. “That’s the hockey version of the Golden Rule.”
The game unfolded at a furious pace: both teams combined for an astounding 43 shots in the first period alone, with Hamilton taking 26 of them. But New York goalie Sherman Carter was in top form, turning aside all those shots except one, a slapper from Pistols C Henry Constantine that hit the crossbar and went in. Night C Tom Hoffman answered with a bouncing shot that hopped over Hamilton netminder Ron Mason‘s pad, creating a 1-1 tie that would last the rest of the period.
LW Misha Petronov gave New York its first lead just five seconds into the second period, bringing the crowd at Neon Sky Center to its feet, razzing Mason with sing-song chants. Those chants didn’t last long, however, as Pistols D Albie Glasco tied it up a mere 16 seconds later with a shot from just inside the blueline that got past a screened Carter. Just under two minutes after that, LW Steven Alexander fired home a slapper from his favorite spot between the faceoff circles to put Hamilton back on top.
In the third period, it took Night C Rod Remington just 30 seconds to rip a shot just above Mason’s blocker to tie things up again. The New York fans resumed their sing-song taunts of Mason, later adding Alexander to their chants as he shanked shots or fired them just wide. The Pistols thought they had taken the lead when C Calvin Frye scored on a power play at the midpoint of the period, but Foster challenged and sit turned out that Hamilton had entered the offensive zone offside. When the tally came off the board, the fans roared with delight. Hamilton had a few grade-A chances later in the period, but Carter kept stonewalling them, and the score remained deadlocked at the end of regulation.
In the overtime period, the Night focused on grinding the clock as much as possible, and the game ended in a 3-3 tie. Hamilton and Hershey wound up with the same number of points, but Hershey had more total wins, so they won the title. (The same thing happened to the Pistols last season, as they ended up in a tie with Quebec on points, but the Tigres had more victories.)
True to form, the Night celebrated as though they’d won the division. As the game ended, the New York players dogpiled at center ice. In the locker room, they sprayed each other with champagne and blasted victory music. “It’s a thing of beauty, it really is,” said Foster, wiping the bubbly out of his eyes. “For us to prevent the Nutcracker and his gang of clowns from winning the division, it warms my heart. It really does. If they wind up having to play Game 7 on enemy ice and they wind up losing to those Hershey softies, I hope they’ll think of me.”
The Pistols, naturally, didn’t appreciate New York’s attitude. “I thought the way they played in overtime and then their little post-game party was totally lacking in class and sportsmanship,” said coach Keith Shields. “But then, that’s typically of the way they operate. Fortunately, we’ve got enough talent that we can win in the playoffs with or without home-ice advantage. And since [the Night] will be watching the playoffs on TV once again, they might see if they can learn something.”
Alexander was more blunt than his coach. “I believe in karma,” he told reporters, “and that’s why I’m confident that Foster and his boys will never win anything. They’ve got a loser’s mentality; any team that celebrates like that for a game they didn’t even win, for a playoff spot that they didn’t get, is just pathetic. Enjoy the golf course, you [jerks].”
SHL Digest: Today we’re talking to a player who’s on his way to a breakout season, Misha Petronov of the New York Night. Misha, thanks for speaking with us.
Misha Petronov: Thank you. I must be having a good season if you are speaking to me.
SHLD: You certainly are! You’ve always been a steady and solid performer, but you’ve never scored more than 14 goals in a season. But here we are, only a quarter of the way into the season, and you’ve already scored 11! How have you reinvented yourself at age 27?
MP: Reinvented? That is a big word! I think is better to say I got better. I spent the offseason getting my best shape.
SHLD: You worked on getting in shape?
MP: Yes, right. I felt that if I got in my best shape, I could be a better player. So that’s what I did.
SHLD: What sort of exercise program did you follow?
MP: This might sound silly. But in my family, we have many ballet dancers. So I practiced ballet!
SHLD: Ballet! That’s a pretty unusual fitness regimen for a hockey player.
MP: When my teammates heard that, they made much fun of me. But it really makes sense. To be good at ballet, you must be both strong and flexible. Both of those things are good for hockey. So I work like a ballerina!
SHLD: Interesting! So, other than your ballet training, are there any other factors that have contributed to your success?
MP: I must give thanks to Coach [Nick] Foster also. He believes that too often, we have waited for our top line to deliver the goals, and he wants the rest of us involved. So he went to guys like me, Trainwreck [Ivan Trujwirnek], and Cat [Sylvester Catarino], and told us: “I want you to be aggressive. I want to give you more minutes, but you must earn them with strong and aggressive play.” And he is good for his word. As we have played better, he has given us minutes. It makes us a more balanced and stronger team.
SHLD: When you signed with the Night in free agency before last season [3 years, $2.7 million], a lot of critics said that you weren’t worth that kind of money. Do you feel pressure to live up to your contract?
MP: Pressure, yes, but good pressure. It gives me fire, to say, “They are paying me a lot of money, so I must work hard to earn it.” And I do.
SHLD: If you can keep up this pace, you’ll be a bargain! Before signing with New York, you spent two seasons with Anchorage, where you won a title in 2015. How different was it with the Igloos as opposed to with the Night?
MP: Very different! Anchorage is cold and small and far away, almost felt like I was still in Russia. (laughs) New York is much bigger, more entertaining, tougher. All the songs are true. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. I had a good time in Anchorage, and I liked my teammates. But I also have much fun here.
SHLD: What’s your favorite thing in the Big Apple?
MP: I love the Bronx Zoo! Other guys like the theater or the clubs or the restaurants, but I am very fond of animals. Almost any time when I am in New York and not at practice or a game, I go to the zoo.
SHLD: Really? What’s your favorite animal?
MP: I like the giraffe. It is such a crazy-looking animal with such a long neck. If my neck were this long, I would fall over. But the giraffe is graceful and beautiful. It is amazing!
SHLD: Well, thank you for a very interesting interview, Misha. Best of luck the rest of the season!
MP: Thank you. It is fun to be interviewed!