CHL Update: Banjax’s Firecracker Prank Leads to Prison

During their inaugural season in 2017, the CHL’s Utah Owls earned a reputation as a group of party animals.  Most infamously, they were banned from all the hotels in Muncie due to their repeated late-night hijinks.  “We’re basically a ‘70s rock band in skates,” said one Utah player.  (It’s worth noting that the Owls’ partying ways didn’t stop them from winning the championship that year.)

The good news for the Owls is that the CHL no longer plays in Muncie; the former Squirrels franchise relocated to Boise during the offseason.  The bad news is that the Owls’ hell-raising ways haven’t improved much with time.  In fact, things got so out of hand in Colorado Springs this weekend that Owls C Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax wound up in police custody overnight.

When the Owls arrived in town for Tuesday’s game against the Zoomies, Banjax and several teammates made a beeline for a local fireworks store, which they’d discovered on a previous trip.  Banjax purchased several dozen “jumping jack” firecrackers, along with a roll of string.  He then retired to his hotel room, where he tied the wicks of the firecrackers together with the string.  Then, at approximately 3 in the morning, Banjax and LW Chuck Alley laid the string down the middle of the hallway.  Then, hiding in the stairway, Banjax lit the end of the string, then watched as the jumping jacks exploded one by one.

The hotel management was alerted to the situation by a rash of irate phone calls from guests awakened by the noise.  (Although Banjax and Alley set up the firecrackers in the hallway where the team was staying, the explosions were loud enough to be heard throughout the hotel.)  Banjax was caught sneaking through the lobby with the lighter still in his hand.

This was not the first time that the Owls have caused trouble in this hotel.  The team was forced to apologize last season after starting a food fight in the hotel’s breakfast area.  “I’m proud to say that you can still smell the maple syrup we sprayed on the walls,” Banjax said months later.

But setting off fireworks is something else entirely, and the hotel manager was in no mood to be lenient.  He called the police, who arrested Banjax and charged him with disorderly conduct.  The center missed the game against Colorado Springs, but coach Wiley Kiyotie bailed him out before the Owls left town.

“Look, they call the guy Goofy for a reason,” said Kiyotie of his wayward center.  “But I do think he crossed a line this time, and he knows it.  I hope this was a bit of a wakeup call for him.  I’m all for guys having fun, but I’m not really up for bailing my guys out of jail on the reg, you know?”

Kiyotie and Owls management negotiated with the hotel, and they agreed to drop the charges in exchange for Banjax apologizing and paying to replace the rug, which was damaged by the blasts.  The Owls are also barred from staying at the hotel in the future.

Banjax admitted a certain degree of embarrassment over the incident.  “When you live out of hotel rooms all the time like we do, you go a little stir-crazy and want to have fun,” said Banjax.  “But from now on, I promise to try to keep it legal, okay?”

The center had another unorthodox idea to resolve the situation, saying that the New York Night (Utah’s parent club) “could always just promote me.  I think I’m good enough to deserve it, and I haven’t been banned from any SHL hotels yet!”

CHL Update: Utah’s Francis Nets First-Ever Hat Trick

Ed Francis is the very definition of a journeyman hockey player.  The 29-year-old has spent his entire career as a steady but unremarkable depth defenseman.  After graduating from Lake Huron State in 2010, Francis spent a couple years playing in Switzerland before joining the SHL.  In four seasons split between Washington and Saskatchewan, he never made much of an impact, never scoring more than 7 goals or recording more than 11 points in a season.  He is known as a hard worker and a positive clubhouse personality (earning the nickname “Easy Ed” for his gentle demeanor), but he hasn’t been quite fast or talented enough to nail down a starting job.

Ed Francis

Francis was a free agent in the offseason, in a crowded market for blueliners.  When it became clear that he wouldn’t receive a major-league contract, he gave serious thought to retiring.  Francis had an open offer to become a high-school gym teacher in his hometown of Charlevoix, Michigan.  He and his wife Judy have two young children, and the thought of spending less time on the road and more time raising his kids held considerable appeal.

In the end, though, Francis decided “I hadn’t gotten the game out of my blood quite yet.”  He signed a minor-league deal with the New York Night and reported to their CHL affiliate, the Utah Owls.  Finally having a chance to play every day, the defenseman has found joy with the Owls.  And this week, he recorded an achievement he never imagined possible: he scored a hat trick in Utah’s wild 6-5 overtime win over the Idaho Spuds on Sunday.

It was unusual enough that Francis was the first one on the board, receiving a pass at the blue line from RW Mickey Simpson and firing a slapshot past Idaho goalie Kelvin White less than 2 minutes into the game.  His tally was quickly forgotten, though, as the Spuds beat Utah netminder Corey Franklin-Lee three times in a five-minute span to take a two-goal lead at the first intermission.

The Owls quickly erased the deficit with a pair of scores early in the second period, only for D Brady Prussian’s slapper to put Idaho on top again.  But just past the halfway point of the second, Utah generated some pressure in the slot in front of White.  Francis crashed the net, picked up a deflection from C Gilles Valmont, and stuffed it over White’s catching glove for his second goal of the game, tying it at 4.

“At that point, I was just focused on the fact that we’d tied it up,” said Francis.  “I wasn’t even thinking about [a hat trick].”

At 1:25 in the third period, Francis fired another blue-line shot that RW Harris Wondolowski redirected into the net, giving the Owls a 5-4 lead, their first edge since Francis’ opening tally.

“A three-point game?  That was huge for me, probably my first one since high school,” Francis noted afterward.  “And it gave us the lead, which was great.”  Little did he know that the best was yet to come.

The Spuds didn’t go away quietly, as Prussian went five-hole on the power play to equalize the score again.  Somewhat surprisingly, neither team scored again in regulation, sending things to overtime.

About a minute into the extra session, Francis joined a three-on-two rush for the Owls.  “Usually on an odd-man rush like that, I don’t have the speed to be part of it,” he explained.  “But I happened to be in a good spot when Gilles picked it off and started going the other way.”

Valmont found RW Jake Grifka below the hash marks.  Grifka faked a shot, then slid a pass to Francis, who went top-shelf over a sprawling White to win the game as the crowd at Wasatch Arena exploded with delight.

It wasn’t until their hats began hitting the ice that Francis realized what he’d done.  His mouth flew open as his teammates lifted him up and carried him off the ice.

Francis still seemed in shock as he talked to reporters after the game.  “In my whole life, I never imagined I’d get a hatty,” he said.  “It never even crossed my mind, not in my craziest dreams.  It’s a good thing I didn’t know it was happening at the time, or I’d have shot it fifty feet over the goalie’s head.”

Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie was delighted by the unexpected achievement.  “Ed’s the kind of guy who really deserves a moment like this,” Kiyotie told reporters.  “He’s paid his dues, and he works his butt off and never complains.  A guy like that ought to get to be the hero once in his life, at least.”

Once his postgame interviews were over, Francis pulled out his phone and called home to Judy, the wife who’d agreed to stay back in Michigan with the kids while her husband chased his dream for one more season.  When she answered, Francis exclaimed: “Honey, you’ll never believe what just happened to me!”

Continue reading “CHL Update: Utah’s Francis Nets First-Ever Hat Trick”

2018 CHL All-Star Rosters

This year, the SHL’s minor league will also be holding an All-Star Game.  The game will take place at Waterfront Center, home of the Virginia Rhinos. The rosters for the game, along with each player’s current stats, are below.

EAST ALL-STARS

Coach: Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh (Virginia)

 

First Line

LW: Norris “Beaver” Young, Oshawa (15 G, 27 A, 42 Pts, 10 PIM, +19)

D: Gary Hermine,  Oshawa (11 G, 28 A, 39 Pts, 16 PIM, +20)

C: Pat “Stoner” Collistone, Oshawa (17 G, 26 A, 43 Pts, 8 PIM, +19)

D: Rennie Cox, Virginia (15 G, 20 A, 35 Pts, 4 PIM, +7)

RW: Anders Pedersen, Oshawa (12 G, 25 A, 37 Pts, 23 PIM, +19)

 

Second Line

LW: Yuri Laronov, Virginia (17 G, 19 A, 36 Pts, 16 PIM, -2)

D: Blake Blacklett, Virginia (14 G, 19 A, 33 Pts, 26 PIM, +7)

C: Cyril Perignon, Virginia (17 G, 24 A, 41 Pts, 0 PIM, +2)

D: Ambroz Melicar, Baltimore (12 G, 21 A, 33 Pts, 8 PIM, +3)

RW: Chris Quake, Virginia (6 G, 24 A, 30 Pts, 20 PIM, -2)

 

Third Line

LW: Rex Batten, Baltimore (11 G, 21 A, 32 Pts, 31 PIM, Even)

D: Kirby Hanlon, Maine (6 G, 12 A, 18 Pts, 20 PIM, +1)

C: Phoenix Cage, Cleveland (7 G, 17 A, 24 Pts, 6 PIM, -9)

D: Hampus Olsson, Maine (6 G, 8 A, 14 Pts, 6 PIM, +1)

RW: Felix Delorme, Hartford (11 G, 12 A, 23 Pts, 6 PIM, -12)

 

Goalies

Jonathan Crane, Maine (10-8-3, 2.06 GAA, .917 save %)

Hector Orinoco, Oshawa (15-6-0, 2.75 GAA, .896 save %)

 

WEST ALL-STARS

Coach: Wiley Kiyotie (Utah)

 

First Line

LW: Diego Garcia, Utah (8 G, 23 A, 31 Pts, 10 PIM, -1)

D: Steve Cargill, Milwaukee (7 G, 23 A, 30 Pts, 48 PIM, +8)

C: Dale Wilcox, Colorado Springs (12 G, 19 A, 31 Pts, 29 PIM, +13)

D: Georg Ochre, Muncie (5 G, 21 A, 26 Pts, 49 PIM, +12)

RW: Philippe Durien, Colorado Springs (24 G, 22 A, 46 Pts, 22 PIM, +13)

 

Second Line

LW: Veikko Sikanen, Omaha (15 G, 15 A, 30 Pts, 23 PIM, +5)

D: Brian Coldivar, Minnesota (12 G, 14 A, 26 Pts, 18 PIM, +6)

C: Tanner Everest, Minnesota (7 G, 24 A, 31 Pts, 18 PIM, +7)

D: Rudolf Kerasov, Minnesota (8 G, 17 A, 25 Pts, 22 PIM, +6)

RW: James Clay, Milwaukee (8 G, 22 A, 30 Pts, 16 PIM, +3)

 

Third Line

LW: Jean Pierre Fleury, Minnesota (14 G, 11 A, 25 Pts, 14 PIM, +8)

D: Trevor Lockwood, Omaha (7G, 17 A, 24 Pts, 53 PIM, -1)

C: Vance KettermanMilwaukee (11 G, 15 A, 26 Pts, 12 PIM, +3)

D: Duncan DeShantz, Colorado Springs (4 G, 18 A, 22 Pts, 45 PIM, +17)

RW: Mark Winters, Minnesota (7 G, 20 A, 27 Pts, 24 PIM, +7)

 

Goalies

Sonny Kashiuk, Colorado Springs (20-3-1, 1.57 GAA, .943 save %)

Kelvin White, Muncie (12-10-0, 1.85 GAA, .937 save %)

CHL Update: Owls Shock Rhinos in 5 To Win Championship

Coming into the first-ever CHL playoffs, no one gave the Utah Owls much of a chance to win.  Although they had been hot during the last month of the season, they only finished a few games above the .500 mark.  They had few players among the league leaders in any category, and they were better known for their wacky hotel escapades than for anything they did on the ice.  The smart money suggested that the Owls would be easily knocked out by the Omaha Ashcats in the Western Division playoff; failing that, they’d be taken down by the high-scoring Virginia Rhinos in the finals.

By the time the playoffs were over, however, the smart money wasn’t looking so smart.  Utah stunned Omaha by winning the division finals in four games and making it look easy.  Then in the Finals, with barely more drama, the Owls defeated the Rhinos 4 games to 1 to claim the inaugural Howard Trophy as CHL champions.

“Nobody believed in us,” said Owls C Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax.  “Everyone was just standing around, waiting for us to fail.  But we showed them!  We showed everybody that we’re the best there is!”

In Game 1, Utah walked into Waterfront Center and pushed the pace, with the teams combining for 85 shots.  The Owls hammered the Rhinos 6-2, with six different players scoring goals for the Owls.  “I absolutely did not see that coming,” said Virginia goalie Shawn Stickel.  “We’d heard those guys liked to play fast, but we weren’t expecting that kind of crazy speed.  It’s like they had rockets in their skates.”  Not only did the Rhinos lose the game, they lost winger Nick Krombopoulos for the series with an upper-body injury.

In Game 2, Virginia seemed to restore order, downing Utah 3-1.  But both sides wound up losing a defenseman to injury; the Rhinos lost Ivan Ackler, while the Owls saw Boris Badenov go down.  The series shifted to Wasatch Arena for Game 3, where the Owls turned the tables with a 3-1 win of their own.  In Game 4, Virginia took an early 2-0 lead, only to see Utah tie it up with a pair in the second period.  RW Colton Jabril put the Rhinos back up with a tally two minutes into the third period, and it looked like his team was about to tie the series up again.  But Owls LW Mickey Simpson banked one in off the crossbar with 12 seconds left to send it to overtime, and then C Remi “Roadrunner” Gallert nabbed the game-winner 2:05 into OT to give Utah a 3-1 series lead.

“After that, we knew we had it,” said Banjax.

The Owls took care of business in Game 5, with F Diego Garcia scoring two goals to lead his team to a 4-1 win.  The infamously boisterous team managed not to lay waste to the arena; instead, they formed a dogpile on the ice and soaked in the joy of an unexpected victory.

Utah’s secret?  Goalie Sherman Carter.  The top prospect started the season with the Owls before earning a quick call-up to the New York Night, before being sent down for the final games of the CHL season.  He was the key to the Owls’ postseason success, putting up a 1.99 GAA and a .949 save percentage against the league’s highest-scoring team.  Unsurprisingly, Carter was chosen as the Finals MVP.

“Sherm has been nothing short of awesome for us,” said Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie.  “The only sad thing is that he’s probably not going to be back here next year.  He’s headed to the pros to stick next year, and I know he’s going to be special.”

In the midst of the postgame celebration, Banjax was asked whether he thought his team could repeat next year.  “Probably not,” said the Utah center.  “But then, no one thought we’d win it this year.  So who knows?  I can’t wait to find out.”

CHL Update: Owls’ Hotel Hijinks Earn Ban from Muncie

The Utah Owls have had a number of challenges as they’ve sought to compete in the CHL’s Western division this season.  They are geographically remote from most of the other teams in the league, which means that they’ve had to travel more than any team other than Albuquerque.  They suffered a blow early in the season when their parent club, the New York Night, promoted several of their best players.

Now the Owls face a new challenge: finding a place to stay when they play the Muncie Squirrels.  The hotels in Muncie issued a joint statement today banning the Owls from staying at their establishments due to “a pattern of disruptive and inappropriate behavior that has left us unwilling to host them going forward.”

The statement, which was signed by the management of every hotel in Muncie, provided a lengthy list of the many, many hijinks the Owls had committed during their stays in the city. Some of the highlights included:

  • Placing wake-up calls at odd hours for guests in other rooms
  • Holding water-balloon fights in the halls
  • Stealing the maid’s carts and using them to hold drag races in the lobby
  • Making mass quantities of waffles and then using them to play Ultimate Frisbee in the dining room
  • Falling asleep on the front desk
  • Holding howling contests in the stairwells in the middle of the night

The statement noted that the managers of several hotels where the Owls stayed had attempted to work with the team to get their players to cool it, to no avail.  They also noted that the Owls had refused to pay bills for cleaning services or damage caused by some of their more adventurous escapades.

“While we would like to be able to welcome the Owls to our hotels, we have learned the hard way that housing them will only lead to chaos in the halls, angry guests, and a very real risk of serious property damage,” the statement continued.  “Therefore, we have no choice but to bar the Owls from staying with us.”

By all accounts, the Owls are a rowdy traveling crew, and they have reportedly been barred from individual hotels in other places.  However, this is the first time that a team has been banned from staying in an entire city.

“This is just crazy,” said Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie.  “I know our guys like to have fun, and sometimes it gets a little out of hand.  But come on, you can’t kick us out of the entire city!”

Utah C Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax shared his coach’s outrage at the move.  “It’s not like there’s anything to do in Muncie,” said Banjax.  “So yeah, we usually wind up hanging around the hotel and raising a little hell.  But it’s not like we’re throwing our beds out the window and into the pool or anything.  Okay, there was that one time.”

Assuming the ban holds, the Owls have some lodging options, which Kiyotie said the team is considering.  They could stay in Indianapolis, which is about an hour away from Muncie.  They could rent a bus and have the team sleep there.  “And of course,” said the Utah coach, “there’s always Airbnb.”