- 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.
Last season, the Hamilton Pistols were headed for their first-ever playoff appearance, and they faced a choice: dip into their store of top prospects and make a big win-now deal, or make a smaller depth deal and hold on to their young talent. They chose the latter path, and wound up being bounced in the first round by Quebec.
This year, in the midst of an intense race in the East, the Pistols decided to go for a big-splash deal. They acquired C Eddie Costello from the Washington Galaxy in exchange for C Pat Collistone, D Buster Kratz, and their first-round pick.
“To be honest, I’m surprised to be here announcing this deal,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire. “When we began to discuss it, it was almost as a joke. But the longer we talked, the more serious it became. Finally I said, ‘Let’s take the dare and do it.’”
The trade is a big swing designed to address Hamilton’s biggest weakness, which is scoring beyond their top line. The 28-year-old Costello led the Galaxy in points with 45 and in assists with 33. He will slot into the second-line center position in Hamilton, between LW Magnus Gunnarson and RW Kenny Patterson. In order to fit under Hamilton’s salary cap, the Galaxy will retain $1 million of Costello’s salary.
“Eddie is a dynamite player, and he gives us an immediate boost on offense,” said Pistols coach Keith Shields. “I’ve watched him beat us enough times over the years; I know what he can offer us.”
For Washington, the trade brings an end of the tenure of one of their most popular players. Costello was a key contributor to the Galaxy teams that made back-to-back SHL finals appearances, and was also a colorful character on the ice and in the locker room. Many young Galaxy fans copied his signature fauxhawk haircut.
“It’s pretty tough for me to leave DC, since I’ve had so many good times here,” Costello said. “But I’m excited to join the playoff hunt again, and I’ll keep in touch with all my boys back here.”
The rental of Costello (who will be a free agent at the end of the season) didn’t come cheaply. Collistone has been a longtime favorite in the Pistols organization. The 23-year-old known affectionately as “Stoner” was strongly considered for the third-line center role in Hamilton this season; the Pistols wound up signing veteran J.C. Marais instead. He was a 2018 CHL All-Star, and though his numbers are down a bit this season (13 goals, 17 assists with Oshawa), he remains a well-regarded prospect.
The 21-year-old Kratz is another homegrown Hamilton prospect. He’s been a depth defenseman for the Pistols this season, appearing in only 12 games and failing to record a point.
“I never thought [LaClaire] would make Stoner available,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams. “He and Kratz both help us restock our prospect pool, which is great as we look to the next chapter for our team. We wish Eddie all the best. I hope he brings home the Vandy.”
Fans who showed up at Oshawa’s General Motors Arena on Sunday for a CHL interdivision clash between the Oshawa Drive and the Idaho Spuds probably weren’t expecting anything noteworthy. The Drive and Spuds have no rivalry to speak of, and on paper, the matchup between Western-division-leading Idaho (14-7-3 coming into the game) and third-place Oshawa (9-12-3 coming in) seemed like mismatch.
Surprisingly, the fans were treated to a thrilling contest, highlighted by a crazy third period in which the home town built a three-goal lead, lost it, and had to head to overtime before finally claiming a 4-3 win.
“That game was just plain bat-[guano] insane,” said Oshawa coach Harvey Williams. “No other way to put it.’”
Going into the third, it looked like things were going to end well for the home team, despite being outplayed. Although Idaho outshot Oshawa 23-14 through two, Drive goalie Hector Orinoco was in top form, turning aside every shot and staking his team to a 2-0 lead.
When LW Troy Blackwood went top-shelf on Spuds goalie Guy Laroche to put Oshawa up 3-0 a mere 96 seconds into the third, the crowd was ready to start celebrating its victory. They began chanting “Start the bus! Start the bus!” at the dejected Idaho bench.
Spuds coach Gilbert McCoyne saw the crowd’s taunting chant as an opportunity. “You hear that? Hear it?” McCoyne barked at his players. “The folks up in the stands seem to think the game’s over already. Are you gonna let ‘em get away with that?”
“Hell no!” responded Spuds F Trace Walker. “Time for us to turn the bus around!” His teammates thumped their sticks on the ground in approval.
Just over three minutes later, Walker found D Gray Torian with a laser-beam pass in the slot. Torian tipped the puck past Orinoco’s catching glove to break the shutout.
Unfortunately for the Spuds, they struggled to generate another goal as the minutes ticked off the clock. With just under six minutes to go and the Drive still up 3-1, the fans began the “Start the bus!” chant again.
“They’re really trying that again?” hollered Walker. “Time to really make ‘em pay.”
A few seconds later, Walker ripped a shot over Orinoco’s left shoulder to make it 3-2. Walker skated around with his hand cupped over his ear, but the crowd had fallen quiet.
Just over a minute later, Drive C Albert North tried to draw a penalty, snapping his head back as though Torian had hit him with a high stick. But eagle-eyed referee Alan Cole wasn’t fooled, and he sent North to the box for embellishment. Oshawa managed to kill off the penalty, barely, but were unable to get the puck out of their own end. Idaho kept up the pressure after the penalty expired, as the exhausted Drive desperately tried to hold off the vistors.
Finally, with 15 seconds left, the puck got lost in a scrum in front of the Oshawa net. It seemed to bounce off a forest of sticks and bodies before winding up on the blade of Spuds D Rodney Black, who jammed it home to tie the game and stun the crowd.
Orinoco slumped on the ice and several Oshawa players slammed down their sticks and looked at the ceiling in frustration. Williams argued vigorously for a goaltender interference call, to no avail.
The Spuds turned the heckling back on the fans, chanting “Stop the bus! Stop the bus!” before launching into a round of the nursery rhyme “The Wheels on the Bus” as the fans sat in disconsolate silence.
“I was really proud of the way the boys didn’t give up when it looked bad,” said McCoyne. “Especially on a long road trip like this, it can be hard to find the energy. But they found it – thanks to the fans. Appreciate it!”
At the end of regulation, the Drive filed quietly into their locker room, unsure what had happened. “It’s like [the Spuds] drove the bus right over us,” said C Pat Collistone.
But with a pep talk from Williams and a crucial opportunity to catch their breath, Oshawa pulled themselves together, and D Elvis Bodett banged home the winning goal 24 seconds into overtime.
“I don’t know if they were trying to give me another heart attack or what,” quipped Williams, who only recently returned to the bench after collapsing on the bench due to cardiac trouble. “I told ‘em after the game, ‘Don’t do that to an old fart with a bad ticker like me!’”
The 63-year-old Williams cheerfully admits that his nickname was “Hangover” during his playing days, and boasts that he can still drink his players under the table. He motivates his players with saying such as, “Go out there and work your [expletive] off, because hard work makes you thirsty. And the thirstier you are, the more beer you can drink after the game.”
Williams shuns the usual postgame clichés that other coaches rely on, saying: “Look, nobody here’s an idiot. If we got our [expletive] kicked, we all know it. So I’m gonna come out and say we got our [expletive] kicked. If I mumbled something about it being a ‘learning experience’ and we’re ‘focused on the next one,’ we all know that’s a bunch of crap. So why bother? I’d rather tell the ugly truth.” If the Drive ever get in a line brawl, Williams says that he’ll join his players in the fray: “I know they’ve got my back, and I’ve got their back. Anybody messes with my boys, they gotta answer to me.”
In short, Williams is a throwback to an earlier era, and his players enjoy it. “He’s definitely not like any coach I’ve played for before,” said Drive C Pat Collistone. “He’s serious about winning and working hard, but he keeps things fun and loose.”
Things took an unfortunate turn this week when Williams collapsed during Thursday’s game against the Virginia Rhinos. The coach began feeling ill during the first period, complaining to assistant Rob Mancini that he was feeling dizzy and short of breath. This did not stop the coach from getting into a shouting match with referee Doug Mollis over a disputed goal early in the second period. About fifteen minutes later, Williams collapsed.
Mancini quickly drew the attention of the officials, who stopped play while both teams’ trainers rushed to Williams’ assistance. He was taken out of the arena on a stretcher as a hush fell over the crowd and the Oshawa players kneeled in a prayer circle.
“It was really a shock to all of us,” said RW Anders Pedersen. “One minute, he was clapping and barking out shifts. The next minute, he’s laying on the floor.”
Williams was rushed to the hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered a mild heart attack. He was discharged the next morning. “It’s revenge from my old man for all the heart attacks I caused him raising hell as a teenager,” he quipped after his release.
The coach wanted to get back to his duties right away, but the Drive, on the advice of team doctors, announced that Mancini will coach the team for the next week while Williams recuperates.
“I’ll be a good boy and sit in my rocking chair and take it easy for a week,” the coach told reporters. “But I’ll be back out bending the elbow before you know it. Save a barstool for ol’ Harvey!”