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.

2016 SHL Finals – Game 5

Washington SmallMichigan SmallWASHINGTON GALAXY 3, MICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 2

The Washington Galaxy aren’t going quietly.  Facing elimination in the SHL Finals, the Galaxy withstood an onslaught of shots from the Michigan Gray Wolves and struck in the final minute to steal a 3-2 win, living to fight another game.

“Not dead yet, boys!” crowed Washington coach Rodney Reagle after the game.  “Just like the Bee Gees, we’re stayin’ alive!”  The coach then proceeded to demonstrate his best disco moves.

The Wolves did their best to send the Galaxy packing.  They came out firing from the start of the game, and wound up outshooting Washington 33-22.  But Galaxy netminder Roger Orion stood tall amid the barrage, turning aside 31 shots and outdueling Michigan’s Dirk Lundquist.

“All series, we’ve been hearing about how, oh,Lundquist is so great, Lundquist is God,” said Washington RW Jefferson McNeely.  “But you know what?  Roger’s a damn good goalie too.  He doesn’t get the headlines Lundquist does, but he can be just as clutch.”

Michigan actually drew first blood in this game, with RW Oskar Denison drilling one home just inside the left pipe late in the first period.  “I was not expecting it to go in,” admitted Denison.  “I was hoping to have a big rebound that someone could put in.  I got lucky.”

Washington was able to get even early in the second.  After Wolves D Bjorn Tollefson was penalized for high-sticking, Galaxy RW Sindri Pentti cashed in on the power play, going five-hole on Lundquist.  Washington went into the locker room after two periods tied at 1, despite getting outshot 23-14.  “We were pretty anxious between periods there,” said McNeely.  “Yeah, it was tied, but [the Wolves] were really in the driver’s seat as far as puck control and zone time.  We knew we needed to slow them down and break their rhythm.”

The Galaxy succeeded in disrupting Michigan’s offensive flow, narrowing the shot gap to 10-8 in the third period.  A little more than five minutes into the third, Washington C Eddie Costello and LW Casey Thurman broke away on a two-on-one, with Thurman going top shelf to give the Galaxy their first lead of the game.  The lead was fairly short-lived, as Wolves C Hunter Bailes deflected a shot past Orion a little more than four minutes later.

The latter half of the third period was frustrating for both teams, as neither side was able to generate much offensive action.  “It kind of felt like we were both playing not to lose,” admitted Tollefson.

But with less than a minute left in the game, Thurman shoveled a sharp-angle shot past Lundquist, and the sellout crowd at Constellation Center exploded as Thurman did a celebratory belly-flop on the ice and his teammates banged their sticks against the boards.

“It was a tight game, and you knew the game-winner wouldn’t come easy,” said Thurman.  “But I think the fact that it was do-or-die, that gave us that little extra edge we needed to get over the top.”

The good news for the Wolves is that they still have a 3-2 series lead, and the action shifts back to Cadillac Place, where they drubbed Washington twice by a combined 6-0 margin.  But there’s also cause for Michigan to be anxious, as they’re missing a pair of key forwards, Vladimir Beruscko and Warren Marlow.  In this game, the Wolves were forced to give ice time to Kimmo Eliasson, a street free agent who signed an emergency contract with the team at the start of the Finals.

Wolves coach Ron Wright said it’s no time to panic.  “We’ve got to remember what got us here,” Wright told reporters.  “We’re not a team that relies on any one star to succeed.  We rise and fall as a team, and that’s how we’re going to win this.”

Continue reading “2016 SHL Finals – Game 5”

2016 SHL Finals – Game 4

Michigan SmallWashington SmallMICHIGAN GRAY WOLVES 3, WASHINGTON GALAXY 2 (OT)

Whatever else you might say Game 4 of the SHL Finals, it finished off with a bang.  The first three games of the series have followed a familiar pattern: two periods of tense, grinding, defense-first play, followed by a third period of wide-open firewagon hockey.  In Game 4, the high-flying action was compressed into the final 5 minutes, as a slow-paced game turned frenetic at the end.  It took more than the allotted 60 minutes, but ultimately the Michigan Gray Wolves, thanks to a little-used reserve, pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory over the Washington Galaxy.  Michigan moved within a single win of the Vandy, but it came at a steep cost, as the Wolves lost a key offensive playmaker in C Warren Marlow.

“We got the W, and that’s what counts the most,” said Michigan coach Ron Wright.  “But losing Warren… that’s a real blow.”

The Wolves notched their win thanks to a little-used reserve.  Under ordinary circumstances, F Isaac Preston wouldn’t be expected to play at all in the Finals.  He played in only 17 games this season, recording 3 assists and no goals.  But when LW Vladimir Beruschko suffered an injury in the last week of the season, Preston was thrust into a starting spot.

“My first priority was, don’t embarrass myself or the team,” said Preston.

The reserve forward made very little impact through the first three games.  But in this game, Preston came through when it counted.  About a minute into overtime, Michigan D Bjorn Tollefson faked a slapshot from the left faceoff circle.  He got Galaxy G Roger Orion to commit, then slid a pass over to Preston.  With a wide-open net, Preston buried the game-winning shot under the crossbar.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that open, not even in practice,” said Preston.  “If I’d missed it, I’m pretty sure my teammates would have beaten me to death.

Preston’s winner capped a flurry in the final five minutes of frenzied action, which stood in stark contrast to most of the play up to that point.  Michigan struggled all game to enter the zone and get shots on net, much as Washington had done in the first two games.  Michigan got off only 20 shots in the entire game, including a season-low four in a brutal second period.  “It’s like they watched our game film from the first two and turned our own game plan against us,” said Wolves C Hunter Bailes.

The Galaxy, meanwhile, were able to generate more offense, but had a devil of a time getting pucks past Wolves goalie Dirk Lundquist.  “You can’t fake him out, you can’t sneak one under him, you can’t fool him, nothing,” said Galaxy LW Casey Thurman.  “I think he must be able to read minds or something.”

Late in the first period, Washington C Eddie Costello beat Lundquist on a breakaway to give the Galaxy the lead.  Early in the third, Bailes struck on the power play to tie it up.  But that was it for offense… at least until the final five minutes.

With three and a half minutes left in regulation, Galaxy LW Walt Camernitz accidentally caught Marlow under the eye with a high stick.  On the resulting power play, Wolves C Wesley Knight deflected a slapshot past Orion to put Michigan ahead 2-1.

“That’s on me,” said Camernitz.  “In that situation, late in a close game, I can’t take a penalty like that.  Got to maintain better control of my stick.”

A disconsolate silence fell over Constellation Center, as the Galaxy seemed doomed to a heartbreaking defeat.  But in the waning seconds of the game, Washington launched a final desperate rush.  A Thurman slapshot got lost in a scrum in front of the net.  The puck bounced between bodies as Lundquist tried to get a glove on it.  Finally, with four seconds left, the puck squirted behind Lundquist and over the goal line.  Wright challenged the goal, claiming that a Galaxy player had kicked it in.  After several minutes of review, the referees upheld the goal, as the crowd exploded with delight. Costello got credit for the tally.

Fortunately for the Wolves, they prevailed in overtime, although with a cost.  Marlow made the initial pass that led to Michigan’s winning goal, but he paid for it when Galaxy D Rusty Anderson laid a devastating hit on him and Marlow’s head hit the ice.  After the game, he entered the league’s concussion protocol.  Wright sounded doubtful that his second-line center would be able to return in the series.

“We’ll have to reevaluate him tomorrow and see where things stand,” said the coach.

The Galaxy suffered a loss as well, with D Leonard Wright being sidelined after taking a rough open-ice hit.  He suffered an upper-body injury, and Washington coach Rodney Reagle confirmed that he is likely to miss the rest of the series.

The Galaxy face an uphill battle, having to win the next three games in a row with half of their top defensive pairing on the shelf.  “I’ve already got Bartlett’s Book of Inspiring Sports Cliches by my bedside,” said Reagle.  “I’ll be working on my big speech tomorrow morning.”

Continue reading “2016 SHL Finals – Game 4”

Michigan Clinches West, Loses Beruschko

Michigan SmallLast season, the Michigan Gray Wolves had a frustrating season: they finished with the second-most points in the league, but were shut out of the SHL Finals thanks to the Anchorage Igloos.  This year they turned the tables, seizing the Western division lead early and holding off the Igloos on the way to their first Finals berth.  The win came at a cost, however, as the Wolves will enter the Finals missing a key player.

vladimir-beruschko
Vladimir Beruschko

Michigan entered the final week of the season on the brink of clinching, leading Anchorage by eight points with five games remaining.  But they suffered a surprising setback on Saturday, blowing a 2-0 third-period lead and losing to Dakota while Anchorage turned aside Quebec 4-1.  Compounding the problems for the Wolves, LW Vladimir Beruschko crumpled awkwardly after taking a puck to the lower leg and left the game.  The team later confirmed that Beruschko appears to be finished for the season.  The winger was a stalwart on Michigan’s first line this season, providing strong play on both ends; he finished the year with 4 goals and 38 assists.

After the game, Wolves coach Ron Wright called out his team for a lack of effort.  “It seems that some of the guys in our locker room think we’ve already clinched it,” said Wright in his postgame press conference.  “Well, we haven’t won a damn thing yet.  And if we’re going to keep playing like this, Anchorage is going to come right up and take it away from us.  We’re going to have to do this without Vlad, so everybody better be ready to step up.”

The Wolves responded the next night, downing Hershey 3-1 and pushing the Igloos to the verge of elimination.  On Tuesday, Michigan toppled hapless Saskatchewan by the same 3-1 margin to punch their ticket to the Finals.  In an emotional locker-room celebration, Wright fought back tears as he saluted his players.  “When we got together in training camp, I told you that we had the talent here to go all the way, if we were willing to work for it,” Wright said.  “You’ve given it everything I could have asked for, and this is your reward.  Savor it!”

By all accounts, the Wolves followed their coach’s instructions and savored it immensely.  The team reportedly partied hard the rest of the week and staggered through their final two games, particularly their season-ending 5-1 loss to Anchorage.  This time, even the famously hard-driving Wright declined to admonish his team for not working hard.  “They deserve to have a little fun,” the coach said with a wink.  “Just as long as they dial it back up in time for the Finals.”

According to his players, Wright needn’t be worried.  “I guarantee you, nobody in this room thinks we’ve reached our goal yet,” said C Hunter Bailes.  “We won the division, and that’s sweet.  But we all started this season with one goal, and that was to win the Vandy.  If we don’t get there, we’re not going to be satisfied.  We’ve got one more step to go, and we’ll be ready.”

 

Hogaboom Goes Hog Wild, Gets Suspended

Washington SmallMichigan SmallSunday’s game between the Michigan Gray Wolves and the Washington Galaxy was expected to be a marquee matchup, an early test of skill between two strong teams that might end up facing each other in the Finals.  While the game itself was less competitive than expected (Michigan cruised to a 5-2 win), it turned out to be a memorable contest for other reasons.  Galaxy D Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom turned the game into an MMA match, and wound up receiving the league’s first suspension as a result.

bruce-hogaboom
Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom

“It’s official,” quipped Washington coach Rodney Reagle after the game.  “Boom Boom retains his belt as the heavyweight champion of the SHL.”

The game was chippy from the beginning: the Galaxy and Wolves are both physical teams, and both seemed eager not to let the other push them around.  “Our identity is strength,” said Michigan LW Vladimir Bersuchko.  “We win when we dominate the physical battles.  We are not afraid of hard checks and aggressive play.”

Beruschko’s “aggressive play” seemed a little too aggressive in the eyes of the Washington bench.  “There’s a line between playing hard and playing dirty,” said Galaxy C Eddie Costello.  “Vlad was way over that line, and the refs weren’t doing a damn thing about it.”  It infuriated the Galaxy that the Wolves winger had been whistled for only one minor penalty over the first two periods.

During the second intermission, Hogaboom asked Reagle to put him on the ice against Beruschko.  “Bruce said if the refs weren’t going to do something about it, he would,” said the Galaxy coach.

Less than a minute into the third period, Beruschko violently checked Washington RW Jefferson McNeely into the boards.  Hogaboom skated over to Beruschko and challenged him.  The two proceeded to trade blows, with Hogaboom getting the better end of things by most accounts.  Both players were assessed five-minute majors for fighting.

Later in the period, Wolves D Bjorn Tollefson took a run at Galaxy LW Walt Camernitz, dumping him into the Washington bench with a high check.  The play outraged Hogaboom, who wasn’t on the ice at the time.  He leapt over the boards and charged at Tollefson, fists flying.

The resulting battle was wilder and more physical than Hogaboom’s earlier tussle with Beruschko, and the Galaxy defender wound up on the ice throwing right crosses to Tollefson’s head.  This time, in addition to matching majors, Hogaboom wound up with an additional instigation minor.  Reagle said that he had to talk the officials out of ejecting Hogaboom from the game.

After the game, the Galaxy enforcer was defiant.  “It’s like frontier justice,” said Hogaboom.  “You let law enforcement try to handle things.  If they won’t do it, you’ve got to take matters into your own hands.  [The Wolves] were getting away with murder out there, and the referees didn’t do nothing.  We had to put a stop to it, and I stepped up.”

The SHL held a disciplinary hearing about the incidents on Tuesday, after which Hogaboom was suspended for one game.  “The SHL is supposed to be family-friendly entertainment,” said Commissioner Perry Mitchell.  “When a player turns a game into a spaghetti Western, as Commissioner I have the responsibility to take action.  The second one in particular, when Hogaboom came off the bench to fight, that was a serious problem.  That’s how a fight can degenerate into mayhem, and I don’t want to see that.  Combine that with his lack of remorse, and a suspension was my only option.

When informed of the suspension, Hogaboom said it was “the cost of doing business” and added, “If the refs had done their damn jobs, this never would have happened.”

The Galaxy and Wolves face off again at Cadillac Place next month.

Igloos Clinch West

Anchorage IgloosThe matchup for the Vandenburg Trophy Finals is now set, as the Anchorage Igloos claimed the Western Division and will meet the Washington Galaxy for the championship.  The Igloos came into the last week of the season with the best record in the league, but with only a 6-point edge on the second-place Michigan Gray Wolves.  The two teams have battled it out all season, with Michigan’s heavy physical style pitted against Anchorage’s faster, skill-based play.

At the start of the week, Igloos RW Nicklas Ericsson fired a shot across the bow by saying, “There’s a lot riding on this title.  I know a lot of people are rooting for talent to win out over thuggishness.”  Gray Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko shot back, “The win will come down to heart, who is the biggest warrior.  We do not mean to make it easy.”

The teams faced off head-to-head on Saturday in Anchorage, with the Igloos winning 3-1 to put the Wolves behind the 8-ball.  “No more room for errors,” said Michigan coach Martin Delorme after the game.  “All there is now is winning.”

The Gray Wolves got a break in their next game; they shut out Dakota 2-0, while Anchorage blew a lead late and suffered a stunning 3-2 loss to Saskatchewan.  “We can’t take our foot off the gas yet,” Igloos coach Sam Castor admonished his team after the game.  “The lack of effort we showed in the third was appalling.  Michigan’s too good for us to take this for granted.”

The Igloos and Gray Wolves then faced off again, this time at Cadillac Place.  Between periods, the team’s mascots, Anchorage’s Petey the Polar Bear and Michigan’s Wally Wolf, engaged in a sumo-style wrestling match at center ice.  The mascots have been feuding all season, and both teams felt it was time to settle things.

Each mascot won one fall; just as they were preparing to line up for the deciding third fall, Wally stuck out his hand to offer peace.  Petey shook, and they left the ice arm-in-arm.  “If Petey and Wally can make peace, there’s hope for the world,” said a visibly moved Igloos C Nile Bernard.  The Gray Wolves won the actual game, 2-1, to remain alive.

The battle lasted until the second-to-last game of the season, when the Igloos routed Saskatchewan 6-2 to clinch both the division and the Congress Trophy for winning the league points title.  The team engaged in a fairly low-key celebration; Castor led a locker-room toast and the players exchanged high-fives and hugs, but there wasn’t any loud music or over-the-top shouting and hollering.

“I think we’re all focused on the [championship trophy],” said C Jake Frost.  “We won’t really feel like the season is complete unless we win the whole thing.”

Castor predicted glory for his team, saying, “We’ve fought long and hard to get to this point.  We’ve been a strong team from the start, and we’re getting stronger.  I think it’s going to be very tough to beat us.”