- On Monday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Ward Jones from the disabled list. Jones had missed more than a month with an upper-body that he suffered before the All-Star break. To make room for Jones on the active roster, the Tigres reassigned D Serge Rimbaud to their farm team in Maine. The 18-year-old Rimbaud appeared in 13 games with Quebec, recording 8 assists and a +1 rating.
- Also on Monday, the Hamilton Pistols placed goaltender Lasse Koskinen on the disabled list. Koskinen suffered an upper-body injury during Sunday’s 7-4 win over New York. He is expected to miss 2 to 3 weeks, a serious blow for a Pistols team that is trying to snatch a playoff spot in the East. To replace Koskinen, the Pistols called up Hector Orinoco from their affiliate in Oshawa. The 23-year-old Orinoco has gone 13-11-0 with a 2.69 GAA and a .902 save percentage with Oshawa this season.
- On Tuesday, the Tigres placed LW Stellan Fisker on the disabled list. Fisker suffered an upper-body injury during the Tigres’ 3-0 win over Hershey. He is expected to miss 3 to 4 weeks. To replace Fisker on the roster, the Tigres called up LW Carl Bleyer from their farm team in Maine. Bleyer has put up 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists) with the Moose on the year.
- Wednesday was the trading deadline. The following trades were consummated at the deadline:
- The New York Night traded RW Mickey Simpson, D Andy Ruger, and a 3rd-round draft pick to the Washington Galaxy for RW Nori Takoyaki. (More details here.) After making the trade, the Night promoted D Craig Werner from their farm team in Utah and signed D Sheldon Harville to a minor-league contract.
- The Galaxy traded Ruger to the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for a 3rd-round pick.
- The Michigan Gray Wolves traded RW Cleo Rodgers, G Gus Parrish, and a 2nd-round pick to the Smoke in exchange for LW Kevin Starkey and D Scott Hexton. (More details here.) After the trade, Kansas City called up Parrish and LW Veikko Sikanen from their CHL affiliate in Omaha, and demoted G Jim Fleetwood to Omaha. They also released G Toby Kemper. Meanwhile, Michigan released D Igor Shovshenkov, demoted F Yann Eberlein to their affiliate in Cleveland, and signed Kemper to a minor-league deal.
- The Saskatchewan Shockers traded C Tanner Brooks to the Dakota Jackalopes in exchange for D Rusty Anderson. (More details here.) After the trade, the Shockers demoted D Valeri Nistrumov to their farm team in Virginia. They also released D Knute Skoeglin and signed F Marvin Cascio to a minor-league deal.
- The Hamilton Pistols traded C Pat Collistone, D Buster Kratz, and a 1st-round pick to the Galaxy in exchange for C Eddie Costello. (More details here.) After the trade, the Pistols called up D Russ Klemmer from their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and demoted RW Michael Jennings to Oshawa. They also signed D Gresham Sourwine to a minor-league contract. The Galaxy demoted Kratz to their affiliate in Baltimore and promoted C Tucker Barnhill from Baltimore. They also released D Sheldon Harville.
- The Quebec Tigres traded D Kirby Hanlon, C Jacob Cunniff, and a 1st-round pick to the Jackalopes in exchange for D Matt Cherner. (More details here.) After the trade, Dakota released RW Omar Zdurchek; Quebec then signed him to a minor-league deal.
- Finally, the Seattle Sailors traded D Serkan Mratic to the Galaxy for D Stan Gallagher. (More details here.)
- On Saturday, the Jackalopes activated D Rodney Black from the injured list. Black, who was sidelined in only his second SHL game, missed two and a half weeks with an upper-body injury. Since Dakota was one player short of the roster limit, they did not make a corresponding move.
- Also on Saturday, the Hershey Bliss placed LW Lance Sweet on long-term injured reserve. Sweet was carried off the ice on a stretcher after being crunched into the boards late in the second period during Saturday’s 6-3 win over Saskatchewan. Sweet underwent surgery on his right leg, and is expected to be out for the rest of the season. To fill Sweet’s roster spot, Hershey called up D Seth Dowd from their CHL affiliate in Milwaukee. The 33-year-old Dowd, who last played in the SHL in 2016, recorded 27 points with Milwaukee this season.
With the SHL trade deadline approaching on Wednesday, the New York Night made the first move. With the team’s grip on a playoff spot slipping and with a crucial injury on the right wing, the Night picked up RW Nori Takoyaki from the Washington Galaxy in exchange for RW Mickey Simpson, D Andy Ruger, and a 3rd-round draft pick.
“Being hard up against the cap, there was only so much we could do,” said Night GM Royce McCormick. “But we saw a need, and we were able to fill it fairly cheaply.”
Takoyaki, who is the SHL’s only player of Japanese ancestry, had played with the Galaxy since the SHL’s beginning. He continued to produce solid numbers (6 goals, 15 assists) even in the midst of a disappointing season in the nation’s capital. He has a reputation as a weak defender, but he’ll fit right in with the Night’s shoot-first philosophy. With New York, Takoyaki will plug immediately into the open right-wing slot on the second line, which became vacant when Ivan “Trainwreck” Trujwirnek went down with a lower-body injury at the end of last week.
“Obviously, we all want Trainwreck to get healthy and get back in the lineup as soon as possible,” said Night coach Nick Foster. “But with Tako here, he should help us keep humming and keep the wins rolling in.”
When Trujwirnek returns, Takoyaki is expected to slot in on the third line, where Sylvester Catarino has struggled this season. “The deeper we are, the better we are,” said Foster.
The 22-year-old Simpson is the prize of the deal for Washington. Simpson has shuttled back and forth between the Night and their farm team in Utah this season. In 10 games with New York, Simpson recorded 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) and a -5 rating.
“Right now, we’re a team in transition,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams. “We’re focused on picking up prospects and giving our young guys some opportunities to shine. We’ll miss Tako and everything he did for our team. But I can’t wait to see what Mickey can do for us.”
The 30-year-old Ruger was a solid defender for the Night (he put up 4 points and a +2 rating in 11 games this season), but he was included solely to help the deal fit under the salary cap for the Night. The Galaxy also retained $500,000 of Takoyaki’s salary for this reason.
Immediately after the deal was completed, Washington turned around and dealt Ruger to the perpetually defense-starved Kansas City Smoke in exchange for future considerations.
WASHINGTON GALAXY 2, MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 1
This is a game that the Washington Galaxy needed to win. In the first two games of the SHL Finals, the Galaxy’s offense had been completely shut down by the defense of the Michigan Gray Wolves and their red-hot goalie, Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist. For Game 3, the action shifted back to Constellation Center, and Washington hoped that the energy of the home crowd would ignite their offense. They got what they needed, barely, squeaking out a 2-1 win that cut Michigan’s lead in the series to one game.
“That’s our kind of game!” said Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely, who scored both of the home team’s goals. “Those last two games, it just feels like we’ve been skating into a wall at the blue line. Today we broke through, and we proved to ourselves that we can do it. I think the momentum of this series is shifting.”
The first half of this game resembled Game 2, with both Lundquist and Washington netminder Roger Orion in top form and keeping it scoreless. Even then, though, there was an obvious difference. Whereas Michigan dominated play in the first two periods of the last game, Washington had the better of things in this contest, outshooting Michigan 21-12 over the first two frames. “We’d been letting them push us around, especially between the blue lines,” said Galaxy D Rusty Anderson. “In this game, we decided to see if we could use our speed to our advantage, outrace their checks a bit. And it worked.”
The Galaxy beat Lundquist for the first time all series with less than four minutes left in the second, as McNeely and LW Casey Thurman sprung loose on a breakaway, with McNeely beating the Wolves goalie stick-side. “He was definitely in our heads a bit,” admitted the Galaxy star. “Getting one by him was huge for us psychologically. It’s like, ‘Hey, we can win this thing.'”
In another parallel to Game 2, both teams picked up their offense in the final period, combining for 28 shots. With the Galaxy clinging to their 1-0 lead, the arena was buzzing with excitement, but the fans’ cheers had a nervous edge. “We knew Michigan was saving their best for the end, and we had to be ready to match it,” said McNeely.
Sure enough, a little more than halfway through the period, Wolves LW Jorma Seppa fired a shot through traffic that tipped off of C Hunter Bailes‘ stick and bounced between Orion’s legs, tying the score. “Lucky bastards,” said Anderson. “They fling a lousy slapper that bounces off like five different guys and dribbles into the net.” But although Michigan’s strike silenced the crowd, it didn’t dampen the Galaxy’s enthusiasm.
Washington got its break less than a minute later when Wolves D Frank Mudrick got tangled up with Galaxy RW Nori Takoyaki and was whistled for a tripping minor. Michigan coach Ron Wright protested the call vigorously, but to no avail. Michigan managed to kill off the penalty, but Washington kept the puck in the offensive end after Mudrick exited the penalty box, and McNeely blasted home the go-ahead tally from the right faceoff circle.
“They’d been crashing down on me during the whole PP, and I wasn’t getting any good looks,” said McNeely. “But then the puck took a lucky bounce over to me and I was wide open, and I didn’t miss.”
The Galaxy weren’t quite out of the woods, as Anderson took a cross-checking call with a minute and a half left in the game. But Washington managed to fight off the Wolves’ last gasp and held on for the win.
“That was fun!” said Washington coach Rodney Reagle. “That was like Hoosiers, only the hockey version. I ought to look into optioning the movie rights for that game. I hope I can get Tom Hanks to play me.”
The Galaxy have a chance to tie the series tomorrow in Game 4, while the Wolves will look to grab a commanding 3-1 lead.
WASHINGTON GALAXY 4, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2
Do you believe in momentum? The Washington Galaxy certainly do. After rallying back from a 3-0 deficit against the Anchorage Igloos in Game 3 to tie it up before falling 4-3, the Galaxy looked strong today and roared to a 4-2 win that knotted the series at 2 games apiece.
“Are you believing in us yet?” said Galaxy LW Casey Thurman. “Believe it. Everything’s moving in our direction. If Anchorage isn’t scared yet, they should be.”
Both teams came out somewhat sluggish in this game, as the Igloos seemed a bit back on their heels after the Galaxy’s stirring comeback in Game 3, while Washington seemed weary from a physical game. “I think the jet lag from the trip from Alaska really hit us,” said Igloos C Jake Frost. “I felt like I could have fallen asleep on my skates.”
Both teams struggled to fight through the fog for most of the first period, before Galaxy C J.C. Marais went 5-hole on Igloos netminder Ty Worthington in the waning minutes of the period to give Washington a 1-0 edge.
Just over a minute into the second period, RW Nori Takoyaki took advantage of a crisp pass from Marais and doubled the Galaxy’s advantage with a sharp-angle shot that fooled Worthington. “I don’t even know if he saw me over there,” said Takoyaki. “To be honest, he seemed to be reacting a little slowly out there.”
After Takoyaki’s goal, Anchorage coach Sam Castor called timeout and reamed out his team for their uninspired play. “They were sleepwalking out there, and I told them it had to stop,” said the Igloos boss. “We can’t give games away in the championship.”
The team responded to Castor’s castigation, and stepped up their intensity. Before the second period was over, the Igloos had tied the game on a slapshot from LW Les Collins and a power-play tip-in by LW Jerry Koons six minutes later.
Collins has emerged as something of a secret weapon for the Igloos in the Finals. Although he scored only 9 goals in the regular season, this was his third playoff tally. “Les is built for the playoffs,” said Frost. “He’s not afraid to get dirty, dig in the corners or block shots, and he doesn’t shy from the postseason spotlight.”
Just as the Galaxy had done in the previous game, the Igloos were hoping to seize the momentum back with their stirring comeback. Washington didn’t let the Igloos rally shake them, though. Three and a half minutes into the third, Galaxy D Teddy Morrison poked a shot underneath Worthington’s right pad to take the lead. Halfway through the period, C Drustan Zarkovich collected a pass from D Bill Corbett and added some insurance with a blast from the blue line that bounced off Worthington’s glove and into the net.
Galaxy G Roger Orion stoned a flurry of late Anchorage chances – recording 35 saves in all – and the Galaxy secured the win and evened the series.
“So, everybody still think we’re dead meat against these guys?” said Washington C Eddie Costello. “I’ve had a chance to see [the Igloos] up close for four games now, and they’re not as scary as I thought. We’re hanging with them, and I think it’s even money right now who wins it. The next game is key.”
WASHINGTON GALAXY 3, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2
The Anchorage Igloos came into the SHL Finals as heavy favorites. If they expected this series to be a cakewalk, though, they’ll need to adjust their expectations. The Washington Galaxy skated into Arctic Circle Arena and stole Game 1 by a 3-2 margin.
“You guys might want to hold up on the coronation,” Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely jibed to reporters after the game. “Looks like we’ve got a real series on our hands, huh?”
The Igloos are famous for their team speed, and early in the first game, they threatened to leave the visiting Galaxy in the dust. A little more than 6 minutes into the game, Anchorage had already secured a 2-0 lead on goals by LW Les Collins and C Jake Frost. “That was a real gut check for us,” said Washington D Kevin Buchanan. “They were turning [the game] into a track meet, and we just weren’t able to keep up.”
But Washington coach Rodney Reagle made some adjustments and encouraged his team to keep their heads up. “I told ‘em all to take a deep breath and figure out a way to get in Anchorage’s heads,” said Reagle. “The pressure’s on them; they’re the favorite. If we can disrupt their flow, we can change the whole series. That was the message.”
Reagle’s players listened. Late in the first period, Galaxy D Bill Corbett goaded Collins into a slashing penalty, and Galaxy RW Nori Takoyaki took advantage, banging home a goal from the left faceoff circle to make it 2-1.
In the second period, Washington managed to slow the pace of the game and prevent the Igloos from making their trademark breakaways. Late in the period, the Galaxy first line struck twice to claim the lead. First, C Eddie Costello banged home a blue-line shot through traffic to tie the game. Then, less than a minute later, Igloos RW Sven Danielsen was whistled for tripping. On the ensuing power play, Costello faked another blue-line slap shot, instead passing to LW Casey Thurman, who was sitting in front of the crease. Thurman tipped it past Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington for a 3-2 lead.
In the third period, the Igloos peppered the Washington net with shots (a total of 14 in the period), but Galaxy goalie Roger Orion made several brilliant saves, and Washington’s defenders also sacrificed their bodies to block a number of Anchorage attempts, as the Galaxy held on for the victory. The crowd filed out in stunned silence, perhaps realizing that they were in for more than they’d bargained for.
Buchanan proudly lifted his shirt in the locker room to display the bruises he’d received from blocking shots. “That’s playoff hockey, baby!” Buchanan shouted. “Those are badges of honor right there. We’re not about to let up!”
Castor remained confident despite his team dropping the opener at home. “We never thought the Galaxy were going to make this easy on us,” said Castor. “We knew we’d have to earn this. But we’re going to have to turn the intensity up a notch in the next game.”