IGHL News: Sheppard to start for Jumpers in “unconventional” Atlantis lineup; Carter confident
Hockey fans in the City of the Ancestors are seeing some unusual changes this preseason. Followers of the Atlantis Puddlejumpers will remember forward John Sheppard, formerly alternate captain for the New York Supersoldiers, for his vicious and controversial fight with Jumper captain Marshall Sumner last season. Shep was fined and suspended, but Sumner’s declining health and waning success on the ice following the incident forced him into an early retirement.
Now, as the new season begins, Atlantis coach Sam Carter has announced that not only has her organization brokered a trade of two fourth-round draft picks for Sheppard, but that she plans to give him Sumner’s C.
Who will join him on the top line? None other than the Puddlejumpers’ first-overall pick, D-man Rodney McKay (playing forward for the first time in his IGHL career), and question-mark rookie Aiden Ford (who had been out with an upper body injury last season). McKay, whom the Atlantis organization prefers to keep isolated from the press after the Kavanagh incident, got in one remark. “If they’re going to play me forward, I would have thought they’d have the intelligence to put me at center,” he scoffed.
Despite derision from fans, the media, and even her own players, Coach Carter appears to have all confidence in her team. “I think I can safely say we’ve got one of the most…unconventional lineups in the league,” she laughs. “But the Jumpers have a history of that. We’re ready to play some great hockey and hopefully give the Bad Cops a run for their money.” Atlantis will host the defending Cup champions, the Bay City Bad Cops, to open their season next Thursday.
They’ll need all the help they can get from their stellar defense, now playing without Pegasus Trophy winner McKay. Luckily, Carter’s now-starting defensive pair, Evan Lorne and Teyla Emmagan, hold a franchise record for most goals scored by the D in two seasons running—and that includes the abbreviated season Emmagan had last year due to the birth of her son, TJ.
The Puddlejumpers will also have to hope that their goaltender, Ronon Dex, has fully recovered from the spinal surgery he underwent during the off-season. When asked how he was feeling, Dex responded in his typical long-winded fashion: “Great,” he said. Last year, Dex was one of only two netminders in the league to shut out the Bad Cops.
Sheppard has been taciturn about the fight that led to his suspension. “He dropped his gloves. He knew what could happen,” was all Shep would say about it at the time. “Hollie’s in the hospital after that slew-foot Sumner laid on him, I don’t know why nobody’s talking about that.”
Sheppard was referring to a collision between Sumner and Shep’s linemate Lyle Holland that occurred during an early-season matchup of Sumner’s Puddlejumpers and the New York Supersoldiers, for whom Sheppard and Holland had been playing at the time. Although no pentalty was called on the ice, Holland left the game with a concussion and Sumner was fined by the league the next day for slew-footing.
Little was it known that Holland had played his last game of professional hockey: he resigned from the Supes midseason due to undisclosed health complications, widely presumed to be related to the concussion. The Sumner-Sheppard fight took place during the next meeting of the two teams after Holland was concussed. Sheppard was ejected with a match penalty; Sumner left the building in an ambulance. The Jumpers managed to end the night with a 3-1 win, despite the absence of their captain.
“No hard feelings [between myself and the Jumpers],” asserted Shep. “Actually, I’m a big fan of Emmagan’s. I’m looking forward to playing with her instead of, you know, hoping she doesn’t come out when you’re on the ice. She’s, you know, she’s something else.”
“Something else” is exactly what Coach Carter seems to think Atlantis needs.
Tune in next Thursday for Bad Cops at Puddlejumpers, 1930 local standard time.