- 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.
The Boston Badgers are in a challenging position. They’re on the fringes of the playoff race in the crowded East. It was a seller’s market at this year’s deadline, and the Badgers had some pieces – like winger Jorma Seppa and defenseman Patrick Banks – that could have fetched a solid return. On the other hand, Boston already made one aggressive go-for-it move this season – acquiring LW Casey Thurman from Washington – and they’d clearly need more help if they were going to make the postseason.
GM Jody Melchiorre considered both paths nearly up to the deadline. He entertained deals for Seppa, Banks, and others. But in the end, he decided to double down and go for it.
“At some point, if you’ve got enough chips in the pot, it doesn’t make sense to fold,” said Melchiorre. “Our fans want to see a playoff team, and I want to give it to them.”
The Badgers needed an upgrade to their lackluster offense; adding Thurman was a much-needed boost, but their goal numbers are still in the league’s lower half. But they also needed to find players who fit the team’s rugged, grinding, hard-hitting style. In the end, Melchiorre found what he was looking for, landing RW Gordon Lunsford from the Michigan Gray Wolves and D Victor Addison from the Dakota Jackalopes.
Lunsford has been a quietly consistent cog in Michigan’s offense for years. He’s regularly put up 50-point seasons with little flair or drama. He’s capable of laying the kinds of heavy checks that Badgers fans love. And he’s been a steady, dependable clubhouse leader for the Wolves since the beginning. Although his numbers this year (8 goals, 20 assists, +10 rating) aren’t quite up to his career norms, he continues to be a solid performer.
“Gordon is exactly the kind of strong veteran presence I want here,” said Melchiorre. “He’ll fit in perfectly on the ice and off the ice. He’s got playoff experience, and he can help lead our team to great things.”
The Badgers didn’t give up a ton to get him, either: they acquired Lunsford in a one-for-one swap for RW Rory Socarra. The 21-year-old Socarra has shown dazzling flashes of athleticism, but has yet to fully harness his potential. He has yet to exceed 20 points in a season, and his current-season numbers (4 goals, 6 assists, -3) have once again disappointed.
All in all, it seems like a steal for Boston. There is, however, one risk factor: Lunsford’s age. He is currently 37 years old, the league’s oldest active player. He has shown clear signs of decline the last couple of seasons. And he’s signed through the 2021 season at a sizable hit of $2.5 million per season. Might that come back to bite Boston down the road?
For his part, Lunsford isn’t concerned. “I don’t think I’m near the end of the road,” he told reporters. “I’m in great shape, and I’ve been healthy as a horse my entire career. I’m ready to keep going and producing until I’m 40, or longer.”
In Addison, whom they acquired for minor-league blueliner Jackson Creed, the Badgers are hoping to find a defenseman who can provide some help in the offensive end as well. The Badgers have two blueliners with a solid scoring touch: Banks and Matt Cherner. They’ve also gotten help from Brody “Bruiser” McCallan, who has a good passing touch. The rest of their defensive corps, however, has contributed virtually nothing offensively. So Melchiorre picked up Addison, hoping that he can slot in on the second pairing beside McCallan and provide a bit of a spark.
The 24-year-old Addison has put up solid numbers in the minor-leagues, but has struggled to replicate those at the SHL level. In 19 games with Dakota this season, he recorded no goals and 7 assists with a -5 rating. But Melchiorre believes that Addiston can unlock the offensive side of his game with more consistent ice time.
“Victor’s been jerked around a lot in his career,” said Melchiorre. “He’s been moved up and down pairing, on the ice one day and not the next. No wonder he can’t find consistency. What we plan to do is give him a consistent role beside the same partner and consistent minutes, and not panic and bench him if he doesn’t light it up immediately. I’m confident that with some time and trust, he can thrive.”
That’s music to Addison’s ears. “All I’ve ever wanted is the chance to prove myself,” he told reporters. “In my last organization, I felt like I never got that chance. I’m glad to have a fresh start, away from the chaos.”
Will Lunsford and Addison prove to be the difference-makers that launch Boston into a playoff spot? Or will they prove to be too little, too late in a packed race? Melchiorre and the Badgers look forward to finding out.
- On Wednesday, the Michigan Gray Wolves‘ CHL affiliate in Cleveland placed D Gil Calvert on the injured list. The 21-year-old Calvert showed a surprising scoring upside this season, with 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in 38 games. To fill Calvert’s spot on the roster, Cleveland signed free-agent D Davis McNeely. The blueliner is the younger brother of Washington Galaxy star Jefferson McNeely.
- On Friday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Kevin Buchanan from the injured list. Buchanan has struggled to stay healthy this time around, he missed over a month with an upper-body injury. Injuries have limited the veteran blueliner to just 14 games so far this season. To acccommodate Buchanan’s return to the roster, the Tigres sent D Boris Zhzhynov to their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Zhzhynov appeared in just 5 games for Quebec this season, and did not record a point. In order to make room on Halifax’s roster, the team released D Igor Shovshenkov.
- On Saturday, the Wolves’ Cleveland affiliate activated RW Boris Badenov from the injured list. The winger went down with a lower-body injury before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Badenov on the roster, assistant coach Glenn Reichler, who briefly un-retired to fill Badenov’s roster spot, returned to his bench duties. The 35-year-old Reichler appeared in 8 games for Cleveland, recording two assists.
- Also on Saturday, the Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Victor Addison to their farm team in Idaho. This move was not made due to dissatisfaction with Addison’s performance, but rather due to a blueline shortage on the farm. Idaho is currently missing Ds Rusty Sienna and Clark Blanchard, both day-to-day with injuries. Rather than sign a player to a short-term deal to fill the spot, the cost-conscious Jackalopes sent Addison down to fill the gap. Addison has appeared in 19 games for Dakota so far this season, recording 7 assists.
This year’s CHL finals present an interesting contrast. One team has been in the finals every year of the league’s existence, and is bidding for back-to-back titles after surviving a back-and-forth first-round series that went the distance. The other club is in its first year in a new city, and is trying to go all the way in its first-ever postseason appearance, coming off of a surprising sweep of the league’s best regular-season team.
In the East, the Virginia Rhinos are getting to be old hands at the postseason; this is their third straight trip. Despite losing a number of key contributors from last season’s title-winning squad, the Rhinos managed to eke out the top seed in a closely-packed division. But Virginia wasn’t the least bit embarrassed or deterred by their narrow playoff qualification; they remain fixated on the ultimate goal. “We’re all focused on the repeat,” said RW Chris Quake. “No one in here doubts that we can pull it off.”
In the division playoff, they faced the Cleveland Centurions, who sported the league’s best regular-season defense. The Rhinos hunkered down for what they knew would be a tense, hard-fought battle. Game 1 was a chippy affair with a slew of penalties, a couple of fights, and not a lot of offense (28 shots between both teams). Virginia got goals from Quake and LW Jayden Gunn, while goalie Quentin Chislic stopped all 16 Cleveland shots for a 2-0 shutout. In Game 2, the Rhinos rallied from behind with a pair of third-period tallies just 29 seconds apart from C Marvin Cascio and LW Yuri Laronov, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory. The action shifted to the shores of Lake Erie for Games 3 and 4, and the Centurions battled back. In Game 3, Rhinos C Trent Harlow notched a third-period goal to erase another deficit and force overtime, but Cleveland C Phoenix Cage scored 36 seconds into the extra session to stave off elimination with a 2-1 win. In Game 4, Centurions netminder Eugene Looney came up big, stopping all 27 shots in a 3-0 triumph to force a fifth game back in Virginia Beach. But in the deciding game, it was Chislic’s turn for another shutout (24 saves) as D Roscoe “Ruckus” Corbetta netted two to lead the 3-0 series-clinching victory.
“That was a tough series, for sure,” said Corbetta. “But it got us tuned up, and we’re firing on all cylinders now and playing our best hockey.”
Virginia’s Finals opponent will be the Idaho Spuds, who played to sellout crowds after moving from Muncie in the offseason. The Spuds came into the postseason with the CHL’s top-ranked offense (3.6 goals per game), but they had a lackluster performance in the last few weeks of the regular season, and they were largely written off in their first-round series against the heavily favored Omaha Ashcats.
But the boys in russet brown not only beat the Ashcats, they did so in a stunning three-game sweep. In Game 1, they buried Omaha in an avalanche of shots (45 vs. the Ashcats’ 22) and scored three goals (from LW Rick Crisak, D Victor Addison, and LW Terry Cresson) before the game was 3 minutes old, on the way to a 4-2 win. For Game 2, Ashcats coach Butch Slazenger switched goalies from Bill Bates to Jim Fleetwood. Fleetwood did a better job, stopping 28 of 30 shots, but Spuds LW Van Dyke Browning scored three minutes into overtime for a 2-1 win. In order for Omaha to rally in the series, they’d have to win twice on enemy ice. Slazenger raised a number of eyebrows by going back to Bates for Game 3, a decision that looked foolish when Idaho went up 2-0 by the first minute of the second period. The Ashcats rallied back to tie thanks to tallies from blueliners Trevor Lockwood and Lowell Sharkey. With just over three minutes left in regulation, however, Spuds C Jacob Cunniff scored a power-play goal that would prove to be the difference in a 3-2 contest. Treasure Valley Arena – sold out as usual – exploded in cheers as the players formed a celebratory circle in front of their net.
“We’re probably going to be the underdogs again in the final, since [the Rhinos are] the defending champs,” said Idaho coach Gilbert McCoyne. “But we like that underdog role. If anyone’s thinking of sleeping on us, they’d better think again, because we’re ready to shock the world.”