- On Monday, the Kansas City Smoke placed C Mike Rivera on the injured list. Rivera suffered a lower-body injury during Sunday’s 6-5 win over Portland. He is expected to miss most if not all of the rest of the season. Rivera was one of Kansas City’s leading scorers, leading the team in assists with 29 and being second in points with 43. To take Rivera’s spot on the roster, the Smoke recalled F Randy O’Connor from their CHL affiliate in Omaha. The Smoke sent O’Connor down during the All-Star break as part of a midseason roster shakeup. Prior to being sent down. O’Connor appeared in 6 games with Kansas City, recording a pair of assists. Omaha signed RW Red Bright to a short-term contract to replace O’Connor.
- Wednesday was the trading deadline. The following trades were consummated at the deadline:
- The Washington Galaxy traded G Buzz Carson to the Milwaukee Growlers for G Kelvin White and a 3rd-round draft pick. (More details here.)
- The Galaxy traded RW Brad Stevens to the Hamilton Pistols in exchange for RW Anders Pedersen. (More details here.)
- The Portland Bluebacks traded Ds Stan Gallagher and Wick Berman to the Anchorage Igloos for Ds Jackson Creed and Harold Braintree. (More details here.) After the trade, Portland called up D Gavin Umber from their CHL affiliate in Colorado Springs, and Anchorage demoted D Vitaly Dyomin to their affiliate in Minnesota.
- In a three-way trade, the Kansas City Smoke sent D Leonard Wright to Milwaukee, which sent D Geoff Moultrie to the Boston Badgers, which sent D Marshall Kreitzer and a 3rd-round draft pick to Kansas City. (More details here.) After the trade, Kansas City recalled D Lowell Sharkey from their affiliate in Omaha, while Boston demoted D T.K. O’Neill to their affiliate in Hartford.
- The Bluebacks traded RW Elliott Pepper and D Rusty Sienna to the Michigan Gray Wolves for LW Fendrick Scanlan, D Burton Cullidge, and a 3rd-round draft pick. (More details here.) After the trade, Portland assigned Scanlan to Colorado Springs and called up RW Holden Cadorette from Colorado Springs, while Michigan recalled LW Scot Davenport from their affiliate in Cleveland and demoted RW Rory Socarra to Cleveland.
- The Smoke traded LW Charlie Brooks and D Tuomas Nurmi to the Hershey Bliss for C Yegor Nestorov, D Knute Skoeglin, and a 2nd-round draft pick. (More details here.) After the trade, Kansas City promoted LW Aaron Knorr and D Stan Shakovich from Omaha, while Hershey demoted D Bruce Minnik and F Mason Kilborn to their affiliate in Virginia.
- On Saturday, the Galaxy recalled D Serkan Mratic from their CHL affiliate in Baltimore and demoted D Morris Starling to Baltimore. Starling appeared in 11 games for the Galaxy without recording a point. Mratic played 16 games for Washington earlier in the season, registering 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist).
Since Ron Wright took over as head coach and turned their season around, the Hershey Bliss have been staking their claim as a top contender in the East. With their competitors making only minor additions or none at all at the trade deadline, the Bliss made a bold move to bolster their depth for the stretch run.
The Bliss struck a deal with the fading Kansas City Smoke to acquire a pair of veterans, LW Charlie Brooks and D Tuomas Nurmi, in exchange for a pair of prospects and a second-round draft pick.
“We’re delighted at this opportunity to strengthen ourselves on both ends of the ice,” said Bliss GM Scott Lawrence. “Charlie and Tuomas are both strong, experienced players, and they make us even more dangerous now and in the postseason.”
Brooks was a highly-sought commodity at the deadline; there were reportedly as many as four teams negotiating with Kansas City to acquire him. The journeyman winger has been a reliable bottom-six forward throughout his career (6 goals, 16 assists in 37 games this season), and he’s known around the league as a positive clubhouse presence; he earned the nickname “Sunny” for his upbeat personality.
“I wish I’d had this many people fighting over me back when I was dating,” quipped Brooks. “Seriously, though, I think I’ve proven over my career that I’m a reliable player that can step into a situation and start helping right away. That’s what I want to do here. This is a really good team, so I don’t want to mess anything up, just keep the good times going.”
The trade is a homecoming of sorts for Brooks, who started his SHL career with Hershey in 2015.
The 35-year-old Nurmi is an offensive-minded defenseman (leading all Smoke blueliners with 9 goals and 30 points) who started his SHL career in New York before signing with the Smoke as a free agent last year. He seemed to punch his ticket out of town last week when he said to a reporter, “You know why they play hockey in Kansas City? Because water doesn’t freeze in hell.” The blueliner quickly apologized for the comment, but team sources reported that he was increasingly disenchanted with losing, and was reportedly mulling retirement.
“I was not intending to make a trade demand,” Nurmi said. “But at the end, I believe this is the best way. I am pleased to be going to Hershey.”
According to sources with knowledge of the deal, the Bliss and Smoke were originally negotiating for Brooks only, but were unable to agree on a price. Talks were on the verge of collapsing, but then the deal expanded to include Nurmi.
The deal cost Hershey a prime prospect in C Yegor Nesotorov, whom the Bliss drafted in 2018. He spent his first season in the SHL, but has been in the minors since. The 23-year-old Russian was a CHL All-Star the last two seasons, and was one of the league’s leading scorers this year, with 40 points (good for fifth). Additionally, the Bliss parted with D Knute Skoeglin, a 22-year-old with considerable defensive upside.
“Charlie and Tuomas both did a lot of good for us, and I’m glad we had them,” said Smoke GM Garth Melvin. “Unfortunately, it’s clear now that we’re not going to be in the postseason picture, and this was a good opportunity to pick up a couple of quality young players. I think Nestorov in particular might be on our roster as soon as next season.”
The Bliss are locked in a four-way tussle in the East, and are currently in the second and final playoff spot. With first-place Hamilton and fourth-place Boston making only minor additions and third-place Quebec standing pat, Hershey hopes to come out on top with Brooks and Nurmi in the fold.
“It’s going to be a tough race, but we have the talent to come out on top,” said Lawrence. “This deal just cements that.”
At last year’s CHL All-Star Game, the West walked into enemy territory and, seeming without breaking a sweat, lit the goal lamp again and again on the way to a blowout victory. This year, the East got a measure of revenge at Omaha’s Switching Yard, making the most of their opportunities and slamming the door late for a 5-2 win.
“I don’t really enjoy getting waxed two years in a row,” said West coach Jeffrey Marsh, who coached the East squad last year before his organization switched affiliations in the offseason. “But I prefer to think of it as a tribute to me, in a twisted kind of way. I sort of won by proxy.”
The action was slow to develop at first, as both teams struggled putting shots on net. But with four minutes left in the first, Halifax Atlantics RW Luc LePettier finally scored to put the East out front.
“It took us a while to get on track,” said LePettier. “I’m glad I could get us moving.”
The East broke the game open in the latter half of the second thanks to a pair of power-play tallies. Omaha Ashcats D Fabian Czerkawski was whistled for diving about a minute after the midpoint of the period, and Virginia Rhinos C Yegor Nestorov tipped in a shot from the top of the crease in the waning seconds of the power play. A couple minutes later, Colorado Springs Zoomies RW Mark Clark went off for slashing. This time, Rhinos rookie Dino Carlucci cashed in with a slapper just 35 seconds into the power play to make it 3-0.
“That kid’s really going to be special,” said East coach Caleb Ponder of Carlucci. “He’s still a teenager, but you’d never know it the way he comes through in big moments. He’s got ice in his veins.”
Carlucci scored again in the third before Indianapolis Redline C Dale Wilcox finally broke the shutout for the West with a tap-in. The pace picked up in the final period, but although the teams traded goals late, the East easily shut down any last gasps at Western momentum.
Ponder praised the performance of his squad, noting that many of them were also members of his first-place Rhinos. “If you’re wondering how we got off to such a hot start this season,” Ponder said, “look at the game today and you have your answer. Even though this was an exhibition game, our guys were still giving it everything they had.”
With two goals and an assist, Carlucci was the easy choice for All-Star MVP. In honor of the game’s location and the host Ashcats’ railroad motif, he received a year’s supply of Omaha Steaks and a deluxe model train set, along with a Polaris Sportsman ATV.
“I always wanted a model train set when I was a kid, but my parents never got me one,” said Carlucci. “So this is like a dream come true! I can’t wait to get it set up and start playing with it.”
The day after the SHL’s All-Star Game, their minor league will be holding its fourth annual All-Star contest. The game will take place at the Switching Yard, home of the Omaha Ashcats. The rosters for the game, along with each player’s current stats, are below.
Coach: Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh (Idaho)
LW: Chuck Alley, Utah (11 G, 16 A, 27 Pts, 22 Blk, 8 PIM, +1, 51.0 iCF%)
D: Gray Torian, Indianapolis (8 G, 22 A, 30 Pts, 75 Blk 18 PIM, +1, 54.2 iCF%)
C: Edz Zalmanis, Omaha (14 G, 20 A, 34 Pts, 25 Blk, 16 PIM, +3, 51.3 iCF%)
D: Stan Shakovich, Omaha (9 G, 20 A, 29 Pts, 36 Blk, 34 PIM, +7, 51.9 iCF%)
RW: Alberto Fedregotti, Indianapolis (15 G, 18 A, 33 Pts, 16 Blk, 18 PIM, +1, 54.6 iCF%)
LW: Mark Clark, Colorado Springs (5 G, 21 A, 26 Pts, 13 Blk, 16 PIM, -10, 48.2 iCF%)
D: Fabian Czerkawski, Omaha (5 G, 15 A, 20 Pts, 63 Blk, 22 PIM, -1, 53.9 iCF%)
C: Dale Wilcox, Indianapolis (9 G 17 A, 26 Pts, 14 Blk, 18 PIM, +7, 55.3 iCF%)
D: Kaylen Pinkerton, Utah (15 G, 16 A, 31 Pts, 49 Blk, 16 PIM, +3, 51.7 iCF%)
RW: Holden Cadorette, Colorado Springs (13 G, 18 A, 31 Pts, 11 Blk, 14 PIM, -6, 47.0 iCF%)
LW: Ethan Charland, Minnesota (13 G, 11 A, 24 Pts, 19 Blk, 4 PIM, -4, 49.0 iCF%)
D: Rusty Sienna, Colorado Springs (8 G, 16 A, 24 Pts, 62 Blk, 17 PIM, +6, 47.7 iCF%)
C: Per Olesson, Idaho (9 G, 13 A, 22 Pts, 23 Blk, 2 PIM, +9, 50.9 iCF%)
D: Pierre Chappelle, Idaho (11 G, 4 A, 15 Pts, 37 Blk, 6 PIM, +3, 49.6 iCF%)
RW: Rene Courcel, Utah (15 G, 11 A, 26 Pts, 11 Blk, 19 PIM, +14, 50,9 iCF%)
Eric Middleton, Omaha (10-8-1, 2.66 GAA, .902 sv%)
Quentin Chislic, Idaho (11-6-0, 2.47 GAA, .917 sv%)
Coach: Caleb Ponder (Virginia)
LW: Sergei Tarisov, Virginia (17 G, 12 A, 29 Pts, 17 Blk, 12 PIM, +22, 50.8 iCF%)
D: Fraser Story, Virginia (7 G, 19 A, 26 Pts, 38 Blk, 30 PIM, +19, 49.3 iCF%)
C: Vance Ketterman, Virginia (16 G, 19 A, 35 Pts, 27 Blk, 6 PIM, +22, 50.7 iCF%)
D: Mikl Hedlund, Baltimore (2 G, 17 A, 19 Pts, 61 Blk, 14 PIM, -2, 52.1 iCF%)
RW: Dino Carlucci, Virginia (15 G, 26 A, 41 Pts, 17 Blk, 42 PIM, +22, 50.7 iCF%)
LW: Valdemar Sorensen, Cleveland (12 G, 15 A, 27 Pts, 15 Blk, 16 PIM, +5, 49.4 iCF%)
D: Shayne Margara, Cleveland (6 G, 13 A, 19 Pts, 56 Blk, 10 PIM, -2, 47.7 iCF%)
C: Yegor Nestorov, Virginia (14 G, 19 A, 33 Pts, 12 Blk, 10 PIM, +4, 48.9 iCF%)
D: Conrad van Rijn, Virginia (3 G, 16 A, 19 Pts, 45 Blk, 15 PIM, +5, 50.8 iCF%)
RW: Luc LePettier, Halifax (13 G, 7 A, 20 Pts, 18 Blk, 4 PIM, -4, 48.8 iCF%)
LW: Maurice Coutard, Baltimore (9 G, 15 A, 24 Pts, 5 Blk, 12 PIM, +14, 53.1 iCF%)
D: Axel Borgstrom, Halifax (8 G, 6 A, 14 Pts, 52 Blk, 26 PIM, -7, 49.5 iCF%)
C: Pat Collistone, Baltimore (8 G, 23 A, 31 Pts, 14 Blk, 18 PIM, +15, 52.5 iCF%)
D: Russ Klemmer, Oshawa (3 G, 8 A, 11 Pts, 28 Blk, 11 PIM, -7, 43.7 iCF%)
RW: Elmer Sigurdson Jr., Hartford (6 G, 9 A, 15 Pts, 24 Blk, 24 PIM, -6, 51.3 iCF%)
Hobie Sanford, Virginia (17-6-1, 2.19 GAA, .925 sv%)
Versan Dusic, Baltimore (14-8-2, 2.10 GAA, .921 sv%)