Igloos Furious After Miranda Hurt on Season’s Last Day

On Sunday, the Anchorage Igloos faced off against their longtime rivals, the Michigan Gray Wolves, to end the regular season.  In prior years, this might have been a critical matchup; perhaps a playoff berth or even the division title might be at stake.  But this season, the Igloos were already locked into the second playoff spot, and the Wolves had long since been eliminated from contention.

Anchorage came into the game with one primary goal: make sure no one gets hurt.  A victory would be nice, but optional.  They benched three of their stars – C Jake Frost, LW Jerry Koons, and D Ted Keefe – as a precautionary measure.  But while they did win the game 4-2, they failed in their first objective, as RW Waldo Miranda went down with a serious injury, costing the team a key contributor for the postseason.  Making matters worse, the injury came on a questionable hit that left the Igloos outraged.

Waldo Miranda

Miranda had a very productive game for Anchorage, with a goal and two assists.  But in the closing minutes of the third period, with the outcome already assured, Miranda was slowly drifting backward in the offensive zone when he was felled by a rough blindside hit by Wolves RW Vladimir Beruschko.  The 37-year-old Beruschko, playing in what may be his final SHL game, skated up on Miranda from behind and leveled him.  The hit was shoulder-to-shoulder, but it sent the Anchorage winger’s helmet flying and caused him to collapse to the ice.  As Miranda writhed in pain, several Anchorage players swarmed Beruschko, shouting and shoving.  Miranda had to be helped off the ice, and he did not return.

After the game, the Igloos expressed fury at what they felt was a dirty and unwarranted hit by Beruschko.  “I thought that was a dirty play, absolutely,” said Frost.  “It’s the last game of the season, you have nothing to play for, and you’re going to crush one of our guys, take him out for no good reason?  That’s crap.  It’s an ugly play by a player who, let’s be honest, has played ugly a lot in his career.  He should have been ejected.  And he didn’t even get a penalty?”

“When a guy gets hurt in the course of a normal play, it stinks, but that’s hockey,” said coach Sam Castor.  “But when a key contributor like Waldo gets hurt on a hit that was questionable at best, in a game that has no stakes… that’s really low, in my opinion.  And it’s a real disappointment for a guy like Vlad.  He’s always been a hard-nosed player, but I’ve usually respected him.  But this might be the last game of his career, and he puts one of my guys in the hospital just to be ugly.  Is that how you want to be remembered?  I’d expect more from him.”

In the aftermath of the game, Beruschko denied that he’d attempted to injure Miranda, and instead seemed to blame the Anchorage winger for his own injury.  “Always, when you are on the ice, you must have your head up,” said Beruschko.  “[Miranda] had his head down, was not looking around. How is that my fault?  I hit him, but not to the head.  It was a regular hockey hit.”

Interim Wolves coach Roger Stackledge noted that the Igloos had injured Michigan D Brooks Zabielski on a hard hit earlier in the game.  “I absolutely don’t think Vlad was trying to hurt Miranda there,” Stackledge said.  “Hockey’s a fast game, guys crash into each other hard at high speed, and sometimes guys get hurt.  [The Igloos] are up in arms about what Vlad did to their guy, but they crushed our guy and I didn’t hear anyone saying sorry.  I guess it doesn’t matter because we’re not going to the playoffs.”

The Igloos open the Western playoff against the Portland Bluebacks on Friday.

Wolves’ Knight Suspended for PED Usage

Halfway through the season, the Michigan Gray Wolves seem to be cruising toward a playoff spot and a strong shot at capturing their second Vandy.  Their otherwise marvelous season hit a speed bump today, however, as C Wesley Knight was hit with a 15-game suspension after failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs.

Wesley Knight

The 28-year-old Knight tested positive for an anabolic steroid called Tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG.  THG is a well-known drug, allegedly used by high-profile athletes from Barry Bonds to Marion Jones.  The steroid’s primary purpose is to assist with the building of muscle mass, which allows athletes to participate in more rigorous workouts and recover more quickly from injuries or intensive training.

“We have a no-tolerance policy for drug abuse in this league,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell in the press conference announcing the suspension.  “No matter who you are or how good your team is, if you’re using PEDs, you’re going to be caught and you’re going to be punished.

Knight is in his fourth season as Michigan’s third-line center.  He has been struggling this season – generating only 1 goal and 7 assists so far this season – and has seen his ice time steadily decrease as the season has gone on.  He acknowledged that he started taking PEDs this season in hopes of getting back to his usual production.

“It’s been tough for me this year, so tough,” said Knight.  “I’ve just been looking for any way I can to turn things around.  And I took a stupid shortcut, trying to get better.  I’m so embarrassed and humiliation.  I apologize to my teammates and the fans.  This is completely on me.”

Wolves coach Ron Wright condemned Knight’s PED use.  “There’s no excuse for that kind of thing in this game, none,” Wright told reporters.  “Hockey’s a tough sport, and you’ve got to be in good condition to play.  PEDs are an easy out, for players who don’t want to put in the work.  Wes is a good player and he puts in the work, which makes this so disappointing.  I’d expect a lot better out of him.  I’m just really disappointed, that’s the bottom line.”

At the All-Star Game earlier in the week, rumors were swirling that a Michigan player had failed a drug screening and was about to be suspended.  Many of the whispers centered around LW Vladimir Beruschko, who has had a surprisingly strong season at age 35.  After Knight’s suspension was announced, Beruschko stood up for his teammate.

“All of our team likes Wes,” said Beruschko.  “He made a mistake, but all of us make mistakes sometimes.  He was a man to admit it and take responsibility.  He has to serve the suspension, but when he comes back, we will all welcome him back.  We have a job to do together, to win the championship.”

Mango Hat-Trick Selfie Ignites Controversy

Seattle Sailors RW Vince Mango has emerged in his sophomore season as one of the SHL’s top scorers and most colorful personalities.  His vigorous and theatrical goal celebrations have drawn both admirers and detractors.  However, this week Mango’s showmanship crossed the line, as he snapped an on-ice selfie after scoring a hat trick.  His act inspired a violent retaliation and sparked a league-wide discussion that led to the creation of a new rule.

Vince Mango

When Mango’s Sailors hosted the Michigan Gray Wolves on Tuesday, few expected much in the way of fireworks.  Michigan’s smothering defense seemed likely to shut down Seattle’s attack.  But the speedy Mango proved adept at skating past the Wolves’ blueliners.  Just more than a minute into the game, he banged home a low slapper past Michigan goalie Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist to put the Sailors up 1-0.  Mango celebrated by “playing” his stick like a guitar, which drew a sharp rebuke from Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko.

Less than a minute into the second period, Mango scorched a shot past a screened Lundquist to give Seattle a 3-1 lead.  That time, he skated past the Michigan bench, using his stick as an imaginary tommy gun and “shooting” at them.  The Wolves responded with curses and upraised middle fingers.

Finally, about four and a half minutes into the third, Sailors D Benny Lambert fed a perfect outlet pass to Mango, who took off on a breakaway.  He deked Lundquist, then went top-shelf to complete his hat trick.  Mango dropped his stick to the ice, then reached into his sock and pulled out his cell phone.  He stuck out his tongue and flashed three fingers, then snapped a selfie with the Wolves goalie sprawled in the background.  He then posted the shot to his Instagram account.

Vladimir Beruschko

Before Mango could celebrate further, he was confronted by an angry Beruschko, who slammed his stick into Mango’s head and freight-trained the Sailors star into the boards.  Mango suffered a concussion, a bone bruise on his shoulder, and several loose teeth.  He was taken off the ice on a stretcher, and is expected to be out of action for at least the next couple of weeks.  Beruschko was ejected from the game, which the Sailors won 4-2.

A furious Sailors coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan attempted to jump onto the ice to attack Bersuchko as he headed to the dressing room.  Corrigan was restrained by several of his players and was unable to get at the Wolves winger.

After the game, Corrigan called for Beruschko to be suspended.  “If he did that outside of the arena, he’d have been arrested for assault,” the Seattle coach fumed.  “My guy was just celebrating a job well done, and he gets knocked into next week by this thug.  Vince had a shot at the scoring title, but this [injury] might cost him his chance.  Berzerko better hope he doesn’t cross my path in the parking lot, or I’ll take care of him.”

In response, Wolves coach Ron Wright blasted Mango’s selfie stunt.  “Look, what Vlad did was over the line, I’ll grant that,” Wright said.  “But I’m getting sick and tired of Mango’s punk moves on the ice.  A lot of teams around the league feel the same way.  He should get hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for those idiot celebrations he does.  But the league just looks the other way.  And now he’s pulling out his goddamn phone on the ice?  It’s childish and irresponsible and dangerous.  Vlad shouldn’t have hit him as hard as he did, but do I understand why he did?  Absolutely.  Somebody’s got to draw the line.”

The SHL reviewed the incident and assessed Beruschko a one-game suspension.  The league also passed a rule forbidding players from bringing phones onto the ice during a game.  “It’s a player-safety issue,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “When players are on the ice, they need to be alert, and if they’re on their phones, they’re not paying attention.  We also don’t want to see any copycat incidents in the future.”

For his part, Mango said that he has no regrets.  “It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and I’m glad I got it,” the Seattle star said.  “And thanks to the new rule, no one else will ever get a shot like that, so that’s cool.”  Asked if he had a message for Beruschko and the Wolves, Mango said, “They owe me a new phone.  Mine got broken when I got hit.”

Interview of the Week: Vladimir Beruschko

This week’s interview is with Michigan Gray Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko.

SHL Digest: We’re here with one of the SHL’s most veteran players, Vladimir Beruscko.  Thanks for speaking with us, Vladimir!

Vladimir Beruschko

Vladimir Beruschko: It is my pleasure.

SHLD: So, your team is off to another strong start, with the league’s best record.  Do you consider yourselves the favorite to repeat as champions?

VB: (laughs) No, no.  Coach [Ron] Wright would kill me if I said such a thing.

SHLD: He doesn’t want you to consider yourselves the favorite?

VB: He says that to be the favorite is a curse.  You get soft and lose your edge.  To be hungry, to hustle, this makes a champion.  This is why Coach Wright does not like to be the favorite.

SHLD: But you’re a very talented team.  You have the best goal differential in the league.  Arguably, you have the best goalie in the league.

VB: No, no argument!  The Bear [Dirk Lundquist] is the best.

SHLD: Well, if you aren’t the favorite, who is?

VB: Anchorage is a very good team.  Dakota is very good, score a lot of goals.  Washington and Hershey, both good.  We take nothing for granted.

SHLD: Fair enough!  So, you’re one of the older players in the league.

VB: Yes, I am old man.  More grey hairs every day.

SHLD: Your production has dipped the last couple of seasons, and some have suggested that you might be nearing the end of the road.  Are you thinking about retirement at all?

VB: Absolutely not!  I feel young, still, even though I am old.  I am good with the passes and good with the defense.  I think maybe I will play until I am 50.

SHLD: We hope you do!  One more question: One of the things you’re best known for in the league is your feud with Petey the Polar Bear.  That’s been quiet lately.  Any chance it might heat up again, especially if you and Anchorage are battling for the division again?

VB: No, no. no.  Petey and me good now.  Petey my friend.  When I see Petey, I blow him kisses.  Happy times.

SHLD: Glad to hear it!  Well, thanks for the chat, and good luck the rest of the season!

VB: Thanks, I will try for that.