- 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.
The Michigan Gray Wolves have never been ones for the trade market. While other contenders have frequently used the trade deadline as a chance to patch weaknesses before the stretch run, the Wolves have always passed. In some cases, this has been because they were too far ahead to be caught. But it also seemed to be a matter of philosophy; Michigan tended to trust their own players, even when they struggled, rather than looking to add outsiders.
“The guys in this locker room have been around from the beginning,” said Wolves coach Ron Wright in the run-up to this year’s deadline. “They’ve made the sacrifices and bought in to what we’re trying to do. I’m happy with what we have.”
But with Michigan clinging to a razor-thin lead in the West and with three other teams hot on their heels, GM Tim Carrier decided to break with tradition and make a deal. The Wolves picked up LW Kelvin Starkey and D Scott Hexton from the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for minor-league winger Cleo Rodgers, goalie Gus Parrish, and a 2nd-round draft pick.
“This is obviously not our usual approach at the deadline,” said Carrier. “And this is not in any way a commentary on the players on our current rosters. But with the race as tight as it is, I’d be remiss if I wasn’t looking for ways to improve our team. And this is a deal that makes us better now and in the future.”
While Michigan’s success has always been built on defense and goaltending, their punchless offense and aging roster have been growing concerns. As of the deadline, the Wolves were tied with Boston for dead last in the league with only 88 goals. And of their 15 regular starting skaters, eight of them are over age 30.
Starkey helps the Wolves address both concerns. The winger has been a reliable and steady scorer for Kansas City, with 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists) so far on the season. The 26-year-old is also signed for this year and next at a very reasonable $200,000 annual salary, another plus for the cap-strapped Wolves.
“This is a pretty cool opportunity for me,” said Starkey. “Knowing that a strong team like Michigan was interested in me… that’s a real boost. I can’t wait to get over there!”
The 28-year-old Hexton has struggled with the Smoke this season, recording a lone assist in 16 games as he has shuttled between Kansas City and their Omaha farm club. But he is a veteran with a reliable track record, and he was reportedly highly disenchanted with a Smoke team that he considered directionless and unprofessional. According to team sources, he had asked to be dealt if the opportunity presented itself.
With the Wolves, he’ll replace Igor Shovshenkov, a depth defender who was another member of the over-30 club. To facilitate the trade, the Smoke agreed to retain $150,000 of Hexton’s salary.
For the Smoke, the 21-year-old Rodgers provides the team with a much-needed scoring prospect. He had been considered a likely replacement for one of Michigan’s aging wingers, but despite a solid season with the Wolves’ affiliate in Cleveland (14 goals, 20 assists), his star seemed to have dimmed a bit within the organization. He will report to the Smoke’s farm club in Omaha, but is considered a strong shot to make the big-league roster next season.
The 29-year-old Parrish, meanwhile, will reportedly head straight to Kansas City to aid the Smoke’s woes in the crease. Kansas City is last in the league in GAA (4.13) and save percentage (.880). Parrish was having an exceptional season in Cleveland (8-9-4, 1.97 GAA, .912 save percentage), but was blocked in Michigan by the exceptional tandem of Dirk Lundquist and Art Cowan.
So after his “happy with what we have” comment a couple days earlier, how does Wright feel about the new additions? “I’m all for it,” the coach said. “What, you thought they were going to make this deal without asking me?”
- On Monday, the Boston Badgers placed G Roger Orion on the disabled list. Orion suffered a lower-body injury during Sunday’s 4-1 win over Washington. He is expected to be out at least through the All-Star break. Orion, who signed a five-year free-agent deal with Boston in the offseason, has gone 7-10-2 with a 2.75 GAA and a .916 save percentage for the Badgers. To replace Orion on the roster, the Badgers called up netminder Jonas Schemko from their minor-league affiliate in Hartford. In the CHL this season, Schemko has gone 7-9-2 with a 2.43 GAA and a .909 save percentage.
- On Wednesday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Richard McKinley from the disabled list, and placed D Ward Jones on the DL. McKinley missed nearly a month with an upper-body injury. His return is a major boost to the Tigres’ defensive corps; he recorded 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) in 11 games prior to going on the DL. Jones has registered a goal and 7 assists in 24 games so far on the season. To take Jones’ spot in the lineup, Quebec called up Serge Rimbaud from their CHL club in Maine. on Saturday The 18-year-old Rimbaud was the Tigres’ first-round draft pick this season, and he makes his SHL debut after recording 11 goals and 6 assists in 27 games with Maine.
- The Kansas City Smoke continued their season-long blueline shuffle on Saturday, demoting Jon Rogers to their farm team in Omaha and promoting Scott Hexton back up to the big club. The Smoke called the 23-year-old Rogers up back in Week 2; he appeared in 11 games for Kansas City and recorded a single goal and a -6 rating. The 28-year-old Hexton was sent to Omaha three weeks ago; he lit up the CHL during his time there, recording 9 point (2 goals, 7 assists) and a +4 rating in 12 games.
- On Tuesday, the New York Night placed LW Lee Fleming on the disabled list. Fleming went down awkwardly in the third period of the Night’s 3-2 win over Boston after taking a puck off of his right leg. He was later diagnosed with a lower-body injury and is expected to miss 3 to 4 weeks. To fill Fleming’s roster spot, New York promoted RW Mickey Simpson from their minor-league affiliate in Utah. Simpson was having a strong campaign with the Owls, putting up 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists) in 14 games.
- On Wednesday, the Washington Galaxy and Kansas City Smoke swapped minor leaguers. The Galaxy sent RW Brendan Bailey and a 3rd-round pick to the Smoke in exchange for F Jimmy Horton. The 23-year-old Bailey recorded a goal and a +1 rating in 11 games for Washington’s minor-league club in Baltimore. The 21-year-old Horton notched 2 assists and a +4 rating in 4 games with KC’s affiliate in Omaha. The primary purpose of the trade was to open up salary cap space for the Galaxy, who needed to sign an additional defenseman due to injuries in Baltimore. After making this deal, they inked free agent Zbynek Otradovec to a temporary 10-game contract.
- On Saturday, the Boston Badgers demoted F Liam Engstrom to their CHL affiliate in Hartford and promoted C Hollis Shivers to the majors. According to the Badgers front office, the move was made to give the 19-year-old Engstrom more ice time in order to foster his development. Engstrom had appeared in only 3 games for Boston this season, and had not recorded a point. The 22-year-old Shivers recorded 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 16 games with Hartford.
- Also on Saturday, Kansas City shuffled their blueline corps yet again, demoting Scott Hexton to their farm club in Omaha and calling up Lowell Sharkey to the SHL. The 28-year-old Hexton signed with KC as a free agent this offseason. The front office hoped that he could provide some veteran stability to their young defensive group, but things didn’t work out as planned. In 9 games, Hexton put up a -9 rating and failed to record a point. The 19-year-old Sharkey was a 4th-round draft pick in 2018, and has impressed in Omaha. After putting up 36 points in his rookie season, Sharkey has already registered 17 points (2 goals, 15 assists) so far this year.
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.
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!”
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.
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.”
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.”
This week, the Dakota Jackalopes held a “Faith Day” celebration, which is a fairly common occurrence in the SHL and in other leagues. This particular celebration, however, was anything but common, thanks to C Harvey Bellmore. The quirky center, who has a reputation as a jokester, crashed the ceremony and put on a performance that startled and angered the fans and left the team scrambling to apologize and make amends.
Tuesday’s ceremony during the Jackalopes’ game against the Michigan Gray Wolves initially unfolded according to plan. A local gospel choir sang the national anthem and performed a concert after the game. The Jackalopes’ team chaplain led several players and the hundreds of fans in attendance in a prayer circle.
The highlight of the event came when several Dakota players stepped up to talk about their belief and how it helps them in their athletic careers. Ds Rusty Anderson and Terry Hendricks and netminder Christien Adamsson all gave their testimony and talked about how their faith in Jesus Christ strengthened their lives on and off the ice. Their speeches were received warmly by the fans, with frequent applause and several shouted “amens.”
Once the other players had said their piece, Bellmore stepped forward and asked to speak. He had not been scheduled to appear, but the emcee, Lutheran pastor Mark Emerlein, invited him to come forward.
Bellmore began by saying, “I’ve never really talked about my faith before, but I felt like this was the right time for me to do it. My father was a gambler and my mother was a bartender, so it’s fair to say that Satan was my nanny.” Some fans murmured agreement. “But that’s all changed. Now, the source of all my strength, my courage, everything that makes me the man I am today comes from right here.” At this point, Bellmore reached into his pocket. The fans assumed he was pulling out a Bible, but what he actually withdrew was a hip flask. He took a hearty swig as the fans began buzzing with confusion.
“That’s right, folks, my religion is booze!” Bellmore shouted. “Whenever I run into a rough patch in my life, or when I need a little something extra to get the winning goal or go after that fine-looking chick in the bar… I reach for the bottle! That’s all the faith I need!”
The center continued, “Let me tell you what else I believe.” Bellmore then launched into Crash Davis’ famous (and obscene) speech from the movie Bull Durham. When he got to the part about “long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days,” Emerlein and Anderson escorted him away as the fans booed.
GM Paul Mindegaard apologized profusely to the fans, many of whom called or emailed the Jackalopes front office to express their displeasure. “Obviously, the point of Faith Day is to celebrate faith and belief, not to ridicule it,” said Mindegaard. “On behalf of the organization, I apologize to everyone who was there and all our fans who believe. Harvey Bellmore likes to make jokes, but this one was over the line, and he knows that.” In addition, the team suspended him for their next game against the Saskatchewan Shockers.
When asked if he was offended by Bellmore’s antics, Anderson laughed. “Nah, I get it. Harvey’s Harvey,” said the Dakota blueliner. “He’s a total screwball. Coo-coo bananas, you know? He didn’t mean anything by it. But yeah, he really ruffled some feathers out there. Hoo boy.”
Some speculated that Bellmore’s stunt was an attempt to get the rebuilding Jackalopes to trade him. Bellmore denied this, and sounded a mildly penitent note after the suspension was announced. “They told me I was a bad boy, and that I made a lot of people mad,” said the center. “And I feel bad about that, I really do. I wasn’t trying to make fun of anyone’s beliefs.”
He then went on to question the focus of the event. “But I thought that Faith Day was missing some other perspectives. I mean, all the people who talked were Christians. They’re not the only ones with faith, right? I mean, nobody got up and talked about how being Jewish or Muslim or whatever made them better at sports. So I thought I’d come in with a different opinion. But I realize now it was dumb. They told me it was dumb, which makes sense, because I’m dumb. So don’t listen to me, okay?”
Groundhog Day seems to be coming early for the Dakota Jackalopes and coach Harold Engellund this season. Last year, Dakota came into the season with high expectations. But when they stumbled out of the gate with a sub-.500 record, Engellund’s job was reported to be in jeopardy. Shortly thereafter, the team rallied around their coach and went on a winning streak, and Engellund was spared. This season, the Jackalopes spent heavily on trades and free agents and again came into the season expecting great things. But they’re off to a sub-.500 start again, and Engellund is reportedly on the hot seat… again.
“The sense here is that ownership has spent a lot of money building a contender,” said a team source. “And we’re still seeing average results. At some point, you’ve got to start wondering if Harold is the coach that can get us to the next level.”
After the Jackalopes allowed six goals in the third period in a 7-4 loss to Anchorage, Engellund was asked about his job security. “It’s not like I’m not used to this,” said the coach. “This is a results-based business, and we’re not having the kind of results that would make me secure. I know that the only way you stop the rumors is by winning.”
Prior to the season, the Jackalopes made perhaps more moves to improve than any other team in the league. They bolstered their already-potent offense by trading for C Mike Rivera from New York, and aimed to shore up their defense by signing Rusty Anderson from Washington and acquiring Scott Hexton from Hershey.
The results? Dakota’s offense has been even better than last year; their 104 goals are the most in the league. Rivera (7 goals, 20 assists) has fit right in with the Jackalopes’ fast-paced attack. But the defense, if anything, has taken a step back. They’ve allowed 94 goals (they allowed 86 through this point last year). The blueline corps itself has posted similar stats to last season; it’s the goaltending that has slipped a notch.
Last season, one of the points of contention between Engellund and the Dakota front office revolved around the net. Engellund reportedly preferred veteran Jesse Clarkson, while the front office wanted prospect Christien Adamsson to get more playing time. The team wound up trading Clarkson at the deadline, clearing the way for Adamsson (in conjunction with another youngster, Buzz Carson, who came over in the Clarkson deal). The duo has combined to post an .899 save percentage; only cellar-dwelling Seattle is worse.
It all adds up to a so-so team, which is not what small-market Dakota wants to see. The team is reportedly losing money at a concerning rate, and if the team isn’t going to challenge for the Vandy in its current form, ownership would like to tighten its belt and cut payroll. Others within the front office, though, think that the Jackalopes can contend with the current roster, and that Engellund isn’t a strong enough leader to get the most out of the team.
Engellund remains popular with the players, a definite point in his favor. But some in the organization feel that he is too close to the players, and is unwilling to call them out or push them hard.
“I don’t think there’s any magic bullet here,” said the coach. “It’s a tough division, and Michigan and Anchorage set a high bar. But that’s the bar we’ve got to clear.”
Asked if he was tired of the constant speculation about his employment status, Engellund said, “Well, yeah, it gets old. At some point, you want to fish or cut bait. But that’s how it is in this line of work. There’s no tenure in coaching, no life appointment. You do the job or you’re out the door.”
Jackalopes LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston strongly defended his coach this week. “If you ask around the locker room, you’ll find out in a hurry that we’re all behind Coach Engellund 100%,” said Airston. “Every one of us is happy that he’s in charge. I’m sick of these rumors coming out of nowhere that Coach Engellund needs to go. If the front office isn’t happy, they should man up and say it in public. And don’t point the finger at Coach Engellund. He’s not the problem.”
But Engellund himself said it best: It’s a results-based business. As long as ownership expects a championship contender and the Jackalopes don’t deliver, the coach and players alike will be on the hot seat.