Galaxy Stokes Rivalry with “Hershey-pocalypse”

The Washington Galaxy and Hershey Bliss have forged one of the SHL’s strongest rivalries.  They have proven to be the strongest teams in the East since the SHL’s beginning. Last season, the teams battled for the division title all the way to the very last day.  Yet in spite of their spirited competition, the Galaxy and Bliss have remained fairly cordial; the coaches and players largely seem to get along, as have the teams’ fan bases.

That may change going forward, as the Galaxy turned up the temperature on the rivalry this week with a controversial promotion that left both teams talking.

Prior to Wednesday’s game against the Bliss at Constellation Center, the Galaxy asked each fan to bring a Hershey bar with them, but didn’t explain why.  When the fans arrived at the gate, they were asked to turn in their Hershey bar.  In exchange, they each received a Milky Way bar.  The choice of the replacement candy bar was symbolic on two levels.  The first is the obvious connection with the “Galaxy” name.  Second, the Mars corporation (which manufactures the Milky Way bar) is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, a DC suburb.

“We wanted to offer our fans the chance for a superior chocolate-eating experience,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams.  “And we want to encourage them to support their hometown candymaker, not our rival’s.”

But the promotion didn’t end there.  Between the second and third periods, the song “Candy Man” began playing over the arena speakers.  A brown rabbit bearing a suspicious similarity to Nibs, the Bliss mascot, skipped out onto the ice pushing a bin full of the turned-in Hershey bars.  He was greeted with scattered boos.

Rocketman

Suddenly, the Galaxy’s mascot Rocketman came out onto the ice, accompanied by a pair of talking M&M mascots.  They came up to the rabbit and knocked him down, confiscating the bin of Hershey bars, as “Candy Man” stopped playing, replaced by “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”  Then members of Washington’s operations crew wheeled a wood chipper onto the ice.  Rocketman and the M&Ms began feeding the Hershey bars into the wood chipper, with the spit-out fragments landing on the fallen rabbit.  The fans cheered this display wildly.

Once all the Hershey bard has been shredded, the rabbit jumped up and ran off the ice, chased by the M&Ms.  Meanwhile, Rocketman glided around the ice, flexing his muscles and tossing out coupons for Mars products.  Meanwhile, the PA announcer crowed, “Welcome to the Hershey-pocalypse!” and stated that henceforth, “any fan bringing Hershey candy into the arena will be ejected,” which was met by a roar of approval.  The crowd’s mood only improved after Washington completed a 5-4 win.

Washington coach Rodney Reagle was a big fan of the promotion and the attempt to stoke the rivalry.  “Personally, I’ve always been a Snickers man, because the peanuts fill you up and help you make it through those afternoon blood-sugar crashes,” said Reagle.  “But I’ll happily eat any of the fine Mars family of products.  They taste great, unlike Hershey bars, which taste like somebody scraped them out of the bottom of a bird cage.”

The coach added, “I’m all for fanning the flames of this rivalry.  I mean, it’s a little one-sided, since we’ve won all the titles.  But hate makes the world go round – sports hate, anyway – and I’m all for stirring the pot.  So come on, Galaxy fans: put a little hate in your heart!”

Bliss coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber objected to the between-periods display, saying “it’s a waste of good chocolate, and I can’t get behind that.”  He added, “A lot of guys in this room took notice, and they didn’t appreciate it.  We will proudly stand up for the superiority of Hershey’s chocolate any time.  We know that America’s best chocolate comes from central Pennsylvania, and we’ll fight anybody who says otherwise.”

Asked if the Bliss planned any revenge for the activity, Barber said, “The best revenge will come when we win the division this year.  But yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if our guys come up with something.”

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

Eastern All-Star Rosters

The roster for the Eastern Division in the SHL’s first All-Star Game, as announced by coach Rodney Reagle, are as follows:

First Line

LW: Steven Alexander, HamiltonThe young, scrappy, and hungry winger has been one of the SHL’s top scorers since the beginning.  This year, Alexander is tied for the league lead in goals with 23.  “I am not throwing away my shot,” Alexander told reporters, confirming that he will play.

D: Reese Milton, HersheyThe 25-year-old blueliner is one of the SHL’s best two-way threats, contributing solidly on offense (7 goals, 24 assists) and providing lock-down defense that has helped propel the Bliss to the top of the division. “For once, Reese will be on my side, instead of kicking my butt,” said Reagle.

C: Justin Valentine, Hershey. Valentine was the top overall vote-getter among Eastern All-Stars.  He needed them all, as this was one of the most competitive positions.  Valentine withstood a determined charge from New York’s Brock Manning, Hamilton’s Calvin Frye, and Washington’s Eddie Costello.  Valentine is tied for the league lead in goals (23) and is in the top five in points (39).

D: Dominic Sanchez, New YorkSanchez was the beneficiary of a late surge in voting from the New York area, allowing him to surpass Hamilton’s Raymond Smyth to claim a starting spot. Sanchez is one of the league’s top offensive defenseman, and he has put up 30 points (6 goals, 24 assists) for the Night so far this season.

RW: Jefferson McNeely, WashingtonMcNeely withstood a late charge from New York’s Rick “The Stick” Nelson to win this starting spot by less than 5,000 votes.  The winger is having a bit of a down season, but he is still among Washington’s top scorers with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists).  When reporters called McNeely to get his reaction to being selected, they discovered that he had not yet learned he had been chosen.  “What’d I miss?” McNeely said.

 

Second Line

LW: Lance Sweet, Hershey. Sweet is a member of Hershey’s well-known “Love Line,” among the top-scoring lines in the SHL.  Sweet has more than held up his end of the bargain, putting up 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) on the season so far. He is just outside the league’s top 10 in both points and assists.

D: Raymond Smyth, Hamilton. Smyth lost out on a starting spot to Dominic Sanchez in the final days of voting, but Reagle wasted no time tapping him as a reserve.  Smyth has the numbers to back up his case: he has the most points (38) of any defenseman in the league, and he has an excellent defensive reputation as well.

C: Brock Manning, New York. Manning fell short to Valentine  in the voting for the hotly-contested center position, but he was selected by Reagle as a reserve.  Manning has long been one of the SHL’s top scorers, and this season is no exception; his 21 goals puts him in the league’s top five.  As the Night have improved in recent weeks, Manning has led the way, scoring 10 goals in the last two weeks.

D: Kevin Buchanan, Washington. Buchanan was one of three Galaxy players that Reagle named to the Eastern squad.  He is the top point-scorer among Washington’s defensive corps with 18, but he is known primarily as a stay-home defender.  “I was afraid of what Kevin would do to me if I didn’t pick him,” said Reagle.

RW: Christopher Hart, Hershey. Hart joins his linemate Sweet among the Eastern reserves.  He is among the top 10 in the league in points with 36 (10 goals, 26 assists).  “Glad to see the Love Line representing!” Hart said.  “We’re going to tear it up out there.”

 

Third Line

LW: Casey Thurman, Washington. Thurman is having a bit of a down year by his standards, but he remains the Galaxy’s leader in goals scored (with 14), which is good enough to put him in the top 10 in the league.  “I had to talk Casey into it a little,” said Reagle.  “He didn’t think he deserved it, but I convinced him that he did.”

D: Ward Jones, QuebecJones will be the Tigres’ only All-Star representative, as Riki Tiktuunen will miss the game due to injury.  Jones is one of the key contributors to the Tigres’ largely anonymous but second-ranked defense.  He has been a stalwart on Quebec’s top line, producing 3 goals and 3 assists while providing rugged defense.

C: Calvin Frye, Hamilton. Frye was not voted in as a starter despite being in the top ten in the league in both goals (14) and assists (28).  Frye was named SHL Rookie of the Year last season, and he shows no signs of dropping off in his sophomore campaign, on pace for a 25-point improvement from his rookie point total.

D: Grant Warriner, Washington. The Galaxy’s second-year blueliner is proving his worth as a two-way contributor.  He has thrived beside free-agent signing Patrick Banks in Washington’s second pairing, putting up 17 points to go with a +10 rating.  “I didn’t want to pick too many of my own guys,” said Reagle, “but I look at the numbers until my eyes crossed, and I didn’t see anyone who was more deserving.”

RW: Ivan Trujwirnek, New York. The second-year winger known affectionately as “Trainwreck” has been a consistent contributor on a struggling Night team.  His rugged, hard-working play quickly earned the notice of coach Nick Foster, who wound up promoting him from the third line up to the top line.  He has continued to produce even with the promotion, putting up 8 goals and 11 assists.

 

Goaltenders

Roger Orion, Washington. The Galaxy have been a defense-first team this season, and Orion has been a key piece of the equation. He is among the top 5 in the league in wins (9), GAA (2.50), and save percentage (.922).  He was voted the starter by over 10,000 votes more than his closest competitor.

Dennis Wampler, Hamilton. Orion originally named Quebec’s Riki Tiktuunen as the backup netminder, but the sophomore star was injured in Friday’s loss to Dakota.  Pistols rookie Lasse Koskinen was another possibility, but he was also injured this week and therefore unavailable.  So Reagle turned to Koskinen’s backup, Wampler.  The second-year man has been strong, going 6-3-1 with a 2.47 GAA and a .913 save percentage.

SHL to Hold First All-Star Game

The SHL continues to grow and mature.  This season, the league is taking another step forward by holding an All-Star Game.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for some time now,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “We’ve wanted to have a showcase to highlight our best players, and to give our fans a chance to cast their vote on who our best players are.”

The All-Star format pits the Eastern Division against the Western Division.  Over the last several weeks, SHL fans have had a chance to vote for their choices for the top line positions and starting goaltender for each division.  The remaining lines and the backup netminder were selected by the coaches for each team, Michigan’s Ron Wright for the West and Washington’s Rodney Reagle for the East.

The game will take place on Friday at Washington’s Constellation Center.  The rosters will be announced shortly.

At Reagle’s urging, the coaches have made a side bet on the outcome of the contest.  If the East prevails, Wright will send Reagle a case of Vernor’s ginger ale, a noted product of Michigan.  If the West wins, Reagle will send Wright six cans of Senate bean soup.  “I wanted to send him some Ben’s half smokes,” said Reagle, “but it turns out they don’t ship well.”

Interview of the Week: Rodney Reagle

This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with Rodney Reagle of the Washington Galaxy.  I have to say, Coach Reagle, we’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time.

Rodney Reagle

Rodney Reagle: I get that a lot.  A Rodney Reagle interview is a gold mine of insanity, a writer’s dream come true.

SHLD: Suffice it to say, you are one of the league’s most colorful characters.  You’ve coached games in costume, you’ve given post-game interviews in a wide variety of accents, and you’ve provided an endless stream of hilarious quotes.  What makes you so funny?

RR: You mean funny ha-ha, or funny what’s-wrong-with-that-guy?

SHLD: Funny ha-ha.

RR: Well, a lot of coaches are frustrated generals.  I’m a frustrated comedian.  When I was a kid, I wanted to either play hockey or be on Saturday Night Live.  Now, in a weird way, I can do both!

SHLD: Were you considered a funny guy during your playing days?

RR: Well, I was a goalie.  And everyone knows that goalies are crazy.  My teammates called me “Radio” because I liked to do the play-by-play on the ice when the puck was in our end.  And I liked to act out my favorite SNL bits in the locker room.  So, yeah, kinda funny.

SHLD: Your humor is pretty popular around the league, but there are some critics who call you a clown and say you should be more serious.  How would you respond to those critics?

RR: I mean, what can I say?  There are some people who think sports is like war, and you need to treat it like war, and be serious all the time.  That if you’re cracking jokes or being silly, you’re disrespecting the game.  But you know what?  A season is a long grind, and if you play every game like it’s life and death, you’re going to burn out.  So if you can keep the guys loose, get them laughing and joking for a bit, it makes the grind a little easier.

SHLD: That makes sense.

RR: And if the critics are fussing about me wearing a funny costume or saying something silly instead of talking about one of our guys being in a slump, it takes the pressure off.

SHLD: If we could switch to serious topics for a minute.

RR: You really want to do that?  Wouldn’t you rather talk about silly stuff?  I’ve got some really killer impressions.

SHLD: Tempting!  But we should talk about the Galaxy for a bit.  You’ve been hovering around the .500 mark for most of the year, and you’ve been trailing Hershey consistently.  What does your team need to do to repeat as division champs?

RR: Well, our defense has been strong, and Rogie [Roger Orion] has been great.  Offensively, we’ve had a little struggle.  But our tempo is good and we’ve been getting plenty of shots, but they haven’t been going in.  So I guess what we need to do is convince opposing goalies not to stop so many of our shots.  I’m thinking about offering bribes.

SHLD: It doesn’t sound like you’re too concerned.

RR: Don’t get me wrong.  The Bliss are having a great year, and they’re not going to be easy to catch.  But honestly, there’s not a lot we could be doing different.  I could give you some jive coach-speak answer like, “We need to increase our net-front presence and improve our quality-shot percentage,” but that’s just silly.  We’re taking shots, and they’re not going in.  If more of them went in, we’d be doing better.  Sometimes it really is that stupid.

SHLD: Fair enough.  One last question: You have yet to coach a game in costume this season.  There have been rumors that either the league or your team’s ownership has asked you to stop.  Will we see you in costume on the bench again?

RR: First of all, let me deny the slanderous rumor that ownership has put the kibosh on my costumes.  Mr. [Perry] Dodge has been consistently tolerant and even supportive of my numerous eccentricities.  The league, maybe a little less, but they’ve never officially ordered me not to do it.  Mind you, I’m not just going to do it just as a stunt.  Only if the spirit moves me.  Will it move me this season?  You’ll have to stay tuned.

SHLD: Sounds good!  Well, thanks for your time, and good luck the rest of the season!

RR: Thanks.  I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.

Eastern Division Wide Open Early

Just like last season, the SHL’s Eastern division appears to be anyone’s for the taking, at least through the first two weeks.  The top four teams in the division are separated by just three points.  Each of the potential contenders has a surprising strength, but also a weakness that might undermine their hopes of victory.

“If anyone tells you they know who’s gonna win the East,” said Hershey Bliss C Justin Valentine, “they’re either lying or drunk.”

Valentine and the Bliss are the current leaders in the East with a 6-3-1 record.  Thus far, they’ve thrived with impressive defense.  They’ve recorded the fewest shots allowed in the league, less even than famously stingy Michigan.  Hershey coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber praised his team’s eagerness to block shots and win the board battles.  “Our guys are willing to do the unglamorous work that wins games,” said Barber.  “You can’t make chocolate without grinding up a few beans, and our guys have been grinding.”

The Bliss have needed that lockdown defense, because their goaltending has been lackluster.  Free-agent signee Brandon Colt has posted a 3.09 GAA and an .897 save percentage.  “I know I’ve got to step it up,” said Colt.  “We’ve got a championship-caliber team here, and I need to get up to that level.”

The Bliss are also hamstrung by a pedestrian offense, as they continue to search for scoring beyond the “Love Line” of Valentine, LW Lance Sweet, and RW Christopher Hart.  Second-line LW Russ Nahorniak has six goals, but no one other than he and the Love Line has scored more than two.  The defense has been a particular black hole offensively; star Reese Milton has 12 points, but the other five have only combined for 8 points.  “We’ve been taking care of business in our own end,” said second-pairing blueliner Vitaly Dyomin, “but we need to be stronger both ways.”

The surprising second-place squad is the Hamilton Pistols, who have won their last four in a row to rise to 6-4-0.  The key to the Pistols’ surprising success has been their dominant top line; they are the runaway leaders in plus-minus rating, and four of them (LW Steven Alexander, C Calvin Frye, RW Claude Lafayette, and D Raymond Smyth) are among the league’s top 10 in points.  “All the smart folks thought we were still a couple seasons away,” said coach Keith Shields.  “But our first line is hotter than a firecracker, and it looks to me like we’re ready now.”

Aside from that top line, though, Hamilton is a young team that’s lacking in depth.  The team’s third line has been a particular black hole.  Shields has juggled players in and out to no apparent effect; they’ve combined for only two goals and a -6 rating.  “We’re just getting wiped out when we’re on the ice,” said C Jens Bunyakin, who has a lone assist to his credit two weeks in.  “That’s not good enough.”

If the Pistols are going to contend, they’ll also need to rely on rookie Lasse Koskinen in the crease.  The Finnish prospect comes highly touted, but he’s shown his inexperience in his SHL debut (compiling a 4-3-0 record and a 3.26 GAA).  He has come up strong in his last couple of starts, though, stopping 32 in a 3-2 win over Saskatchewan and 35 in a 5-1 beatdown of Washington.

Sitting a point behind Hamilton is the Quebec Tigres.  As expected from a Martin Delorme team, the Tigres are making their name with defense and goaltending.  Second-year netminder Riki Tiktuunen has been one of the league’s best so far, going 5-2-1 with a 1.73 GAA and a .949 save percentage.  He’s been backed by a trapping, slow-down-oriented defense that makes Quebec’s games an exercise in patience at times.  “I don’t care if people think us boring,” said Delorme.  “Boring hockey can be winning hockey, and I am all about winning.”

What may keep the Tigres from winning, however, is their completely anemic offense.  Quebec has scored only 22 goals this year, last in the league; more disturbingly, they’ve managed only 237 shots, 75 fewer than the next-worst team, Seattle.  The Tigres had expected to draft top-prospect winger Rod “Money” Argent to address their lack of firepower, but were knocked for a loop after Seattle drafted Argent instead.  Their already-struggling attack took a further hit when RW Flint “Steel” Robinson went down with an injury.

Quebec’s one-dimensional and unattractive style of play has made them less than popular with other teams.  “I think we’re all agreed that we don’t care who wins as long as it’s not Quebec,” said Valentine.  “The other teams are trying to win with talent.  They’re trying to win by beating and bloodying the other team and hobbling their talent.  It’s not cheating, but it’s close.”

Sitting in fourth, a point back of Quebec at 5-5-0, is the two-time defending champion Washington Galaxy.  The good news for the champs is that they’re getting a career season out of goalie Roger Orion, who’s posted a 1.99 GAA and a .933 save percentage.  The Galaxy’s defense has also been strong, allowing only 336 shots, virtually tied with Quebec.

But Washington’s offense has kept the team mired in mediocrity.  Part of that has been attributable to bad luck; they’ve converted on only 7.5% of their shots, one of the worst marks in the league.  Anecdotally, Galaxy players say they’ve noticed an unusually high percentage of shanked shots and pucks pinging off of goalposts this season.  However, their usually-stout power play has disappointed them as well; they’ve scored on only 18.4% of their shots, good for only sixth in the league.

“I don’t need to do a deep dive on the numbers to see where our problem is,” said Washington coach Rodney Reagle.  “The numbers say we’ve been meh.  Our record says we’ve been meh.  Watching us play, I’ve seen a lot of meh.”

It was shortly after this point last season that the Galaxy caught fire and took control of the East, holding it the rest of the way and fending off a late challenge from Hershey to claim the crown.  Can Washington repeat the feat in 2017?  Or will Hershey wreak their revenge?  Or will Hamilton or Quebec play Cinderella and steal the title from the favorites?

“I’m not making any predictions two weeks in,” said Reagle.  “As Shakespeare once said, that’s why they play the games.  I think that was in Romeo and Juliet.”

VP Draws Protests, Boos at Galaxy Game

The worlds of politics and hockey had another awkward intersection this week, courtesy of Donald Trump.  In 2015, back when Trump was still considered a fringe candidate, the Washington Galaxy mocked him by having fans shoot pucks at a caricature of his face, a stunt for which the team later apologized.  Now that Trump has stunned the world by becoming president, the Galaxy invited him to drop the puck for their Opening Day game against the Hamilton Pistols.

Trump declined the invitation, but the Vice President agreed to do the honors in his place.  But a seemingly harmless ceremonial ritual turned into the latest example of the partisan divide in America, as his appearance was met with protests and boos.

Prior to the game, a group of approximately 50 anti-Trump protesters demonstrated outside of Constellation Center, leading chants and holding signs with slogans like “Dump Trump,” “Impeach Trump,” and “Hail to the Thief.”  Many fans walking into the arena flashed thumbs-up and expressed agreement with the protesters, although a couple of them stopped to argue.  The arguments grew heated at times, but did not turn physical.

When it was time for the puck drop, the VP emerged onto the ice wearing a Galaxy jersey and waving to the crowd.  As soon as his name was announced, the boos began to swell, drowning out the handful of cheers.  By the time he arrived at center ice along with Galaxy C J.C. Marais and Pistols D Russ Klemmer, the booing was so loud as to be nearly deafening.  Public address announcer Rob Crane urged the fans to show respect, which only made them boo louder.   The VP dropped the puck, then briefly waved again and hurried off the ice as quickly as he could.

He also visited both locker rooms before the game.  “We had a chance to talk a little bit,” said Galaxy D Bill Corbett.  “He’s a really nice guy and a real sports fan.”  Asked about the booing, Corbett said, “I mean, they’ve got the First Amendment rights, so they can do it.  But it’s a real shame, because he doesn’t deserve it.”

Rodney Reagle

Washington coach Rodney Reagle declined to discuss the incident, joking that “they’ve got 100,000 volts of electricity wired right through this chair, and if I say anything political, they’re gonna turn on the juice and I’m a goner.  So I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut.”

Sources close to the Galaxy say that star winger Jefferson McNeely was supposed to take the opening puck drop, but that he declined to do so either out of a personal antipathy to the administration or out of fear that he would be shot.  McNeely refused to confirm or deny the rumor, but said that “I’m glad to see our fans express themselves.”

For his part, the VP professed not to be upset about the booing.  “I love freedom, and this is what freedom is about,” he said.  “I don’t object to our citizens expressing their views.  I very much appreciated the fans who had the courage to show their support.”