2020 SHL Week 11 Transactions

  • 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.

Tigres Swing Big, Land Center Marlow

At the trading deadline, the Quebec Tigres found themselves where they’ve been most of the season: within striking distance of a playoff spot, but not quite there.  Faced with a small but persistent gap between them and the Hershey Bliss, GM Pete Gondret decided not to waste time upgrading around the margins, and instead made a big-ticket acquisition, landing C Warren Marlow from the Michigan Gray Wolves in exchange for C Phil Miller, LW Carl Bleyer, and their first-round draft pick.

“We had the chance for a big move, and we took it,” said Gondret.  “Life is too short for weak measures.”

Gondret said that he’d originally engaged Michigan about acquiring veteran winger Todd Douglas, who would have provided some depth scoring for the Tigres.  But as they talked, Wolves GM Tim Carrier mentioned that Marlow was available.  “And then I heard the angels singing in my ear,” the Quebec GM said with a laugh.  “This was a player I have always wanted.”

Warren Marlow

Center has long been a weak spot for the Tigres, and the 34-year-old Marlow provides a reliable option to fill that need.  He has been a consistent two-way threat, averaging about 20 goals per season and providing stout defense.  He’s lost a step with age, but he still recorded 19 points (11 goals, 8 assists) with Michigan so far this season.  With the Wolves failing to contend this season, they chose to move on from their veteran center.

“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision to part with Warren,” said Carrier.  “He’s given so much to this team over the years.  We wouldn’t have won the Vandy [in 2016] without him.  But we’re at a stage where we need to get younger, and we had a chance to get a top pick and a prospect.  I couldn’t say no to that.”

For his part, Marlow is happy to join the contending Tigres.  “Obviously, in Michigan for so many years, we were always in the playoff hunt,” said the center.  “And as a player, you get used to that.  Being able to get back to a contending team… that’s huge for me.  I’m looking forward to helping bring the Vandy to Quebec.”

In the 21-year-old Bleyer, Michigan acquires a promising young winger.  He has appeared in a total of 14 games for Quebec over the past two seasons, recording a goal and an assist.  With the Tigres’ farm team in Halifax, Bleyer has produced 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 30 games.

“Carl is a prototype Michigan Gray Wolves player,” said Carrier.  “He’s good on defense, he’s a hard worker, and he knows how to score.  I think he’s going to be a big contributor for us down the road.”

Phil Miller

As for Miller, he was primarily thrown in for salary-cap reasons, but it represents another stop for the well-traveled journeyman.  Michigan is the sixth SHL team for which the 31-year-old Miller has played in his career.  This is the third time that he has changed teams at the trade deadline, having gone from Saskatchewan to Dakota in 2016 and Kansas City to Quebec in 2018.

Miller struggled badly with the Tigres this season, recording only 2 assists and a -10 rating in 27 games before being sent down to the minors.

Regarding his latest relocation, Miller displayed a sense of humor when speaking with reporters about the deal.

“At this point, I keep my suitcase packed around the deadline, because I just assume I’m going somewhere,” said the veteran.  “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s this; don’t buy any green bananas.”

2020 SHL All-Star Break Transactions

The following transactions occurred during the All-Star break:

  • The Anchorage Igloos demoted RW Jean Pierre Fleury and G Wendall Cantillon to their CHL affiliate in Minnesota and called up RW Lionel LaNeige and G Curt Freeze from Minnesota.  Fleury has struggled badly this year, recording only 2 points in 20 games, and has been a healthy scratch in many recent games.  Cantillon has posted a 2-4-2 record with a 4.04 GAA as the Igloos’ backup netminder this season.  The 22-year-old LaNeige makes his SHL debut; he has recorded 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 32 games with Minnesota this year.  Freeze, a longtime Anchorage prospect, has gone 5-11-2 with a 2.59 GAA and a .905 save percentage so far this seaosn.
  • The Boston Badgers sent F Jacques Bacon and D Jackson Creed to their affiliate in Hartford, and recalled RW Felix Delorme and D Brett Stolte from Hartford.  Bacon, a veteran who signed as a free agent in the offseason, has appeared in only 7 games for Boston and has yet to record a point.  The Badgers are hoping that Delorme, nephew of Quebec coach Martin Delorme, can provide a spark for their stagnant offense. Delorme was a starter in the CHL All-Star Game, and has recorded 10 goals and 17 assists so far this season.  The Badgers called up Creed from Hartford two and a half weeks ago; he played in 6 games and recorded an assist.  Stolte, another CHL All-Star, has produced 12 goals and 13 assists so far this year.
  • The Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Geoff Moultrie and promoted D Brady Prussian.  Moultrie recorded 2 goals and a -2 rating in 14 games for Dakota this season; the team hopes to get him more regular playing time with their affiliate in Idaho.  Prussian has produced 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) and a +13 rating with Idaho on the year.
  • The Hamilton Pistols demoted D Torrey Ashmont and promoted D Russ Klemmer.  Ashmont is a rookie who has struggled for ice time with the Pistols, appearing in only 9 games.  He figures to start regularly with the team’s Oshawa affiliate.  Klemmer, meanwhile, was a CHL All-Star; his 22 assists placed him in the league’s top ten.
  • The Hershey Bliss demoted F Anton Lapointe and promoted RW James Clay.  Lapointe, a capable defensive forward, has struggled to produce offensively at the SHL level; so far this year, he has produced two assists in 9 games.  Clay, another CHL All-Star, led Hershey’s Milwaukee affiliate with 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists).
  • The Kansas City Smoke demoted G Dennis Wampler and promoted G Eric Middleton.  Kansas City’s 3.79 GAA is second-worst in the SHL, and Wampler (3-8-1, 4.06 GAA, .882 save percentage) has contributed to those woes.  Middleton, an 18-year-old rookie, has thrived with the Smoke’s affiliate in Omaha, going 8-6-3 with a 2.06 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
  • The Michigan Gray Wolves demoted RW Kelvin Starkey and F Cary Estabrook and promoted LW Fendrick Scanlan and RW Steve Brandon.  The offensively-challenged Wolves shook up their forward depth, swapping out Starkey (1 goal in 24 games) and Estabrook (no points in 10 games) for the top two scorers (and All-Stars) with their Cleveland affiliate, Scanlan (13 goals, 10 assists) and Brandon (12 games, 10 assists).
  • The New York Night demoted G Corey Franklin-Lee and recalled G Sherman Carter.  This is the reverse of the transaction New York made two weeks earlier, when they sent Carter to their affiliate in Utah in order to regain his form and confidence.  Carter went 4-2-1 with a 1.98 GAA and a .926 save percentage in Utah, while Franklin-Lee went 1-2-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .925 save percentage in the Big Apple.
  • The Quebec Tigres demoted C Phil Miller and promoted C Dwight Flynn.  The veteran Miller has failed to produce in Quebec this season, with a mere two assists and a -10 rating in 27 games.  Flynn, meanwhile, has produced at an All-Star level with Halifax this year, including 16 goals, 21 assists, and a +3 rating.
  • The Saskatchewan Shockers signed D Kjell Hanson to a minor-league contract.  The Shockers found themselves with a short minor-league roster after calling up D Pierre Chappelle and C Trent Harlow as injury replacements just before the All-Star break, and Hanson will help fill the void.  The 24-year-Hanson started the year in the Kansas City organization, but the Smoke released him the week before the break.
  • The Washington Galaxy demoted D Shane Gladchuk and promoted D Morris Starling.  The rebuilding Galaxy wanted to give Starling, a CHL All-Star with Baltimore, some ice time at the SHL level.  He led the with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists).  Gladchuk appeared in 12 games with Washington, notching 3 assists and a -8 rating.

2018 SHL Finals – Game 6

QUEBEC TIGRES 3, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 0

In the wake of today’s Game 6, the Anchorage Igloos‘ locker room was completely silent.  After being thoroughly outplayed by the Quebec Tigres and defeated 3-0, after seeing their 3-0 series lead slip away entirely, after seeing the momentum of these Finals shift away from them, the Igloos stared at the floor and tried to process what had happened.  The team that was expecting to be hoisting its second Vandy by now, and the outcome of this game left them reeling.

“What we showed out there tonight isn’t us,” said C Jake Frost.  “If we can’t put out a better effort than that, we should just go give [the Tigres] the trophy right now.”

“We have no one to blame but ourselves for letting it get this far,” said coach Sam Castor.

From the drop of the puck, Anchorage looked confused and ill at ease.  The orange-clad crowd at Centre Citadelle generated a tremendous roar, and it clearly fueled the hometown Tigres.  Quebec completely dominated the first period, outshooting the Igloos 15-5.  “It felt like we were just stuck in quicksand out there,” said LW Jerry Koons.

Given how thoroughly Quebec controlled play in the period, it’s a bit remarkable that they ended the period with only a one-goal lead.  RW Sindri Pentti, who started the game on a hunch by coach Martin Delorme, put the puck in the next only 13 seconds in.  But Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington made a number of acrobatic saves to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Unfortunately, Worthington couldn’t hold the fort forever.  Less than two minutes into the second period, Quebec D Dmitri Kalashnikov blasted a shot from the blue line that bounced off the crossbar.  The Igloos goalie couldn’t corral the rebound, and RW Flint Robinson stuffed it home for a 2-0 lead.

“Steel is great at parking himself in front of the net and cleaning up the garbage,” said Tigres D Ward Jones.  “That’s the kind of rugged, hard-working game that we play.”

Although Quebec didn’t dominate play to quite the same extent in the second, they did manage to control the pace of the game with their suffocating defense.  Once again, they held Anchorage to a mere five shots in the period.

“Ten shots is a slow period for us typically,” said Frost.  “To get only ten shots in two periods?  That’s unheard of for us.  They just completely bottled us up.”

Continuing their pattern of early-period strikes, Tigres C Phil Miller beat Worthington high on the glove side with two minutes gone in the third to give the home team a three-goal lead and send the home crowd into orbit.  “I thought they maybe would cheer enough for the roof to fall down,” said C Drustan Zarkovich.

The desperate Igloos were finally able to generate some offensive momentum in the third; they ripped off 11 shots in the period.  But Quebec goalie Riki Tiktuunen stood firm in the crease, calmly turning aside every blast; when all was said and done, he had stopped 21 shots to complete his second shutout of the series.  Even when Tigres D Laurie Workman committed a pair of late penalties to give unwitting aid to the visitors, the Igloos were unable to convert.

“We didn’t really find our game until the third, and by then it was too late,” said Koons.

Now, if the Igloos are going to claim the Vandy they’d assumed was theirs, they will need to erase the memory of the Tigres’ three-goal third period in Game 5 to secure a come-from-behind win, and they’ll need to forget the way they were manhandled in this game.  “We need to remember that we’re the better team, and we need to play like it,” said Frost.

For their part, the Tigres say they aren’t going to take a Game 7 victory for granted, either.  “Momentum disappears the minute the puck is dropped,” said Delorme.  “Tomorrow is a one-game series, and we must treat it that way.  What came before is only the prologue to the story.”

Continue reading “2018 SHL Finals – Game 6”

Tigres, Galaxy Make Dueling Deals

The race for the SHL’s Eastern Division remains in flux.  While the Hamilton Pistols remain the favorite to win the division, they haven’t put it away.  Meanwhile, the Quebec Tigres and Washington Galaxy have been jostling for position all season long, knowing that there is likely only room for one of them in the postseason.

The Pistols made their move at the beginning of the week, shoring up their depth amid a run of injuries.  Meanwhile, the Tigres and Galaxy waited until the final minutes before Thursday’s deadline, but each made a move designed to address shore up key areas and position themselves to punch their ticket to playoffs.

“We knew they were going to make a move,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams of his Quebec rivals.  “And if they were going to get better, we knew we needed to keep up, and hopefully get a step ahead.”

For the Tigres, the target areas for a trade were obvious.  They wanted a better third-line center; Florian Theroux remains a fan favorite, but his stats were lackluster.  And for a team that is built on defense, Quebec was relying heavily on a trio of rookies: Laurie Workman, Richard McKinley, and Geoff Moultrie.

Doug Wesson

They addressed both needs in one deal, acquiring C Phil Miller and D Doug Wesson from the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for Moultrie and minor-league winger Aaron Knorr.

“This was the perfect deal for us,” said Tigres GM Pete Gondret.  “Kansas City had what we wanted, and the price was right.”

Wesson certainly add toughness for the Tigres; he is regularly one of the SHL leaders in penalty minutes and has been involved in several heavyweight bouts.  He is an excellent fit with Quebec and coach Martin Delorme’s scrappy, hard-checking style.  With the Smoke, he contributed 1 goal and 15 assists, in addition to 63 penalty minutes.

“I’m a two-fisted blue-collar guy, and Quebec is a two-fisted blue-collar team,” said Wesson.  “Let’s go!”

Phil Miller

With the deal, Miller continues his tour around the SHL.  The Tigres are Miller’s fifth club in four seasons; he’d ben with Saskatchewan, Dakota, and New York before being claimed by the Smoke in the expansion draft.  He rotated between the second and third lines for Kansas City, compiling 7 goals and 6 assists.

“Story of my life,” said Miller.  “Good enough that teams want me, but not good enough to keep around.”

Moultrie was the least productive of Quebec’s trio of blueline rookies, putting up 6 points in 40 games.  But at age 21, he presents considerable upside for a KC team that’s building for the future.  Knorr was the leading scorer for the Tigres’ minor-league affiliate in Maine, with 19 goals, and he scored four goals in a game last season; however, he lacked the passing and defensive skills to make him a fit with Quebec.

Charlie Brooks

The Galaxy, meanwhile, have struggled to get production from their bottom two lines, and their third defensive pairing has been a revolving door.  To address those issues, Washington picked up RW Charlie Brooks and D Scott Hexton from the Boston Badgers in exchange for D Graham Bellinger and minor-league RW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli.

“I think we got underrated value here,” said Adams.  “Charlie Brooks and Scott Hexton aren’t household names, but they’re both guys who can come in right away and help us get to the playoffs.  We’re thrilled with this pickup.”

Brooks was one of the few offensive bright spots for Boston, producing 17 goals and 19 assists on the top line across from rookie Lix Darnholm.  He’s known by the nickname “Sunny” for his cheerful disposition, which has made him a popular teammate throughout his career.

“Washington did well to land Sunny,” said Gondret; Brooks played for Quebec the last two seasons.  “He’s a great guy to have around.”

Scott Hexton

Hexton, meanwhile, is known as a solid defender who isn’t as active on offense; he posted 9 points this season with the Badgers.  It’s not clear whether he’ll replace Burt Hampton or Bruce Hogaboom on the bottom pairing, or whether the three will rotate.  Coach Rodney Reagle said that “we’ll figure that out as we go, but it’s nice to have a lot of good choices to pick from.”

Bellinger was a highly-regarded prospect when Washington drafted him last year, but he struggled to get established and fell out of favor with Reagle.  Twice in a row, he started the year with the Galaxy, only to be demoted to the minors in midseason.  The Smoke hope that more consistent playing time and a longer leash will allow him to live up to the hype.  Pescatelli is only 18 and showed some promise in the minors, scoring 5 goals and 18 assists in 41 games.

Will these deals put either team over the top?  Perhaps not; neither acquisition is a blockbuster.  But as Adams put it, “It really feels like we’ve got two teams that are about equal talent-wise.  Any little edge that we can find to come out on top, we’re gonna take it.”

Igloos Prevail Over KC In Wild OT Battle

When the Anchorage Igloos hosted the Kansas City Smoke on Friday, they were hoping for an easy win over a team on an eight-game winless streak, which would allow them to solidify their second-place standing in the West.  While the Igloos did ultimately prevail over the Smoke, it was anything but easy.  Twice, Anchorage had to rally from three-goal deficits, and needed overtime before they escaped with a wild 8-7 victory.

“Man, that was a battle we weren’t expecting!” exclaimed C Jake Frost after the game.  “We showed a lot of fight, a lot of heart, but boy, KC put a scare into us.”

The Smoke showed up ready to play.  It only took 15 seconds for LW Louis LaPlante to get on the board with his first goal of the season, a slapper past Igloos netminder Wendall Cantillon. Frost evened things up two minutes later with a shot from the right faceoff circle, but rookie C Noel Picard put the Smoke back ahead just over a minute later with a tip-in from the slot.  Midway through the first, Kansas City struck twice to take a 4-1 lead, leaving the crowd at Arctic Circle Arena in an uneasy silence.

Igloos coach Sam Castor considered lifting Cantillon at that point.  But given that it was the backup’s first action all week, the coach stayed with his goalie.  “Wendall’s got to have a chance to deal with adversity,” said Castor.  “I wanted to see how he’d react, and how the team would react.”

Anchorage rallied to Cantillon’s rescue, with RW Remi Montrechere and D “Chilly Willy” Calligan scoring to pull within one by the end of the period.  Four minutes into the second period, Montrechere struck again to tie it up and bring the crowd to its feet.

“We felt like the mommentum was going our way,” said Montrechere.  “We were in control and ready to pull away.”

As it turned out, the momentum was about to shift back to the visitors.  Three minutes after Montechere’s tally, Smoke LW Piotr Soforenko deflected a shot past Cantillon to retake the lead.  C Phil Miller went top-shelf to make it a 6-4 game at the end of the second period.

47 seconds into the third period, Kansas City D Tony Hunt notched a power-play tally to give the Smoke another three-goal lead and putting the Igloos behind the eight ball.

“We needed a jolt, and fast,” said Frost.

They got a pair of jolts in short order.  Five seconds after Hunt’s score, Montrechere blasted a shot just inside the pole to complete his hat trick.  Then, a minute later, C Broni Zhlotkin took exception to a rough hit from Hunt and dropped the gloved with him at center ice.  Although the donnybrook completed Hunt’s “Gordie Howe hat trick” (a goal, an assist, and a fight), it fired up both the Anchorage bench and the crowd.

Twenty seconds after the fight, LW Les Collins banged home a juicy rebound to pull the Igloos within one.  Six and a half minutes later, C Nile Bernard went five-hole on KC goaltender Brooks Copeland and tied it up.  Bernard jumped up against the boards in the corner as the fans banged the glass in delight.

Although the atmosphere in the arena remained near delirium for most of the third period, the Igloos couldn’t push the go-ahead goal across.  Frost and Collins each hit the post, and Copeland made a tremendous sprawling stop with three minutes left in regulation to rob Montrechere of a fourth goal.

The game went to overtime, with both teams and the fans exhausted.  “In OT, that was all adrenaline,” said Frost.  “We had no energy left.”  With a minute and a half left in the extra session, RW Nicklas Ericsson faked a pass to Frost in the slot and slid it up to the blue line, where D Ted Keefe fired a blast that hit the crossbar and went in for the game-winning goal.

Keefe’s goal delivered the Igloos their fourth straight win and their fifth in the last six games.  It also moved Anchorage seven points clear of Saskatchewan and Seattle for second place; it’s their largest lead of the season.  But Castor remains dissatisfied with his team’s performance.  “We had no business winning this game,” the coach said.  “We’ve looked a lot better this week, but we’re going to need to tighten it up on a night-to-night basis if we’re going to make the playoffs.”

Castor’s players were happier with the outcome. “Coming back from a three-goal [deficit] in a game is a game is impressive,” said Frost.  “Doing it twice in one game?  That doesn’t happen.  We’re pretty awesome!”

Hershey’s Gromov Gets Physical, Gets Suspended

Hershey Bliss D Ruslan Gromov is an old-school, hard-hitting blueliner.  His aggressive, take-no-guff approach to the game has won him both admirers and detractors.  On Saturday, in an otherwise unremarkable 5-2 win over the New York Night, Gromov’s physical play went over the line and earned him a one-game suspension.

Ruslan Gromov

Gromov has been vocal about his lack of respect for New York’s speed-and-offense-based game.  In the past, he’s said of New York’s game, “That’s not hockey; it’s figure skating.”  Almost from the drop of the puck, Gromov sought to intimidate the Night with his physical play.  He targeted one of New York’s more physical players, D Tuomas Nurmi, with a series of slashes and rough checks.  About a minute into the game, a frustrated Nurmi shoved Gromov in the chest.  Gromov responded by punching Nurmi in the side of the head.  The two wound up dropping gloves and tussling for a couple minutes before being separated and assessed matching majors.

“I do not know what his problem is,” said Nurmi of Gromov.  “He seemed like he is a crazy man.”

Later in the first period, the Night established possession in the offensive zone and began peppering shots at the Hershey net.  New York F Elmer Sigurdson, Jr. tried to set up a screen in front of the crease.  Gromov responded by drilling him in the back and riding him down to the ice, and was whistled for interference.

Early in the second period, Sigurdson tried to get even by laying a hard open-ice hit on Gromov.  The Hershey defenseman popped up and flung Sigurdson into the boards, earning another two-minute penalty for roughing.  The two seemed destined to scrap, and six minutes later, Gromov jumped Sigurdson on a faceoff and the antagonists began trading blows, resulting in another pair of fighting majors.

Gromov finally crossed the line early in the third period, when he rammed Night C Phil Miller in the stomach with the butt end of his stick.  That earned the defenseman a double minor for spearing and a game misconduct from referee Brandon Fosse.

Gromov claimed that his spearing of Miller was unintentional, but showed no remorse for his actions.  “I play a physical game,” the Bliss blueliner said.  “If the other team cannot handle that, they should not be playing hockey.”

The league wasted no time slapping Gromov with a suspension.  “While we don’t object to physical play in this league,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell, “there’s a difference between hard play and assault.  Gromov’s actions were reckless, unprovoked, and dangerous.  He could easily have injured someone with that kind of play.  We don’t want to discourage him from playing hard, but he’s got to know where to draw the line.”

Gromov appeared undaunted by the discipline.  In his first game back from the suspension, he got into two fights and racked up 12 penalty minutes.  “I only know how to play one way,” said Gromov with a shrug. “I cannot change that.”