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Holmstrom is Phantoms' MVP

2011-03-31T23:02:00Z 2011-03-31T23:16:22Z Holmstrom is Phantoms' MVPBy Tim McManus -- Commentary Glens Falls Post-Star
March 31, 2011 11:02 pm  • 

There have been players who've owned pieces of the Adirondack Phantoms season.

Who can forget that stretch in November and December when Denis Hamel carried the team? The Phantoms were two Hamel slapshots away from a 20-game losing streak.

Erik Gustafsson had a magical start to his rookie season, putting up 25 points in the first 32 games of the season on his way to an all-star nod and league all-rookie honors.

Michael Leighton is the man of the moment, the NHL-quality goaltender who keeps the Phantoms in every game he plays and steals a few they have no business winning. His goals-against-average is more than a goal lower than anyone who's played more than 10 games with the team this season.

Other have had their moments, too.

No one makes it look easier than Eric Wellwood when he gets rolling. Mike Testwuide finally found his offense and is plus-6 on a team when the next best player is minus-7.

Ben Holmstrom has been the one constant. From the worst moments of the season to the recent better times, Holmstrom has played in every game, taking all the tough shifts and carrying an inglorious load during an inglorious season.

That's why he's my choice for the Phantoms Most Valuable Player.

Holmstrom is the one guy I felt the Phantoms couldn't afford to lose this season. Fortunately, he hasn't missed a game, appearing in all 73 the Phantoms have played.

That's remarkable for the way he plays.

Holmstrom is a guy who makes a living killing penalties, taking the body in front of the net and throwing himself in front of shots.

His value can be seen in the way his coaches have used him.

If there's an important faceoff to win, he takes it. Protecting a one-goal lead late? You better believe he's on the ice. Need a goal late? He's out there.

How many players can lay claim to being the center of the shutdown line and the team's best scoring unit?

At the NHL level, Holmstrom won't be asked to score a ton of goals. But he's shouldered his share of the offensive load here.

If you haven't glanced at the statistics in a while, you might be surprised. Holmstrom has climbed to fourth on the team in scoring, just four points behind Hamel for the team lead.

His 16 goals are third on the team and leads all rookies. He's become an integral part of what the Phantoms do offensively while still holding down his defensive responsibilities.

Holmstrom has worn the ‘A' designating him as an alternate captain since Greg Moore departed in a February trade. That shows the respect his teammates have for him.

Consistency doesn't always draw the headlines. It doesn't always sell tickets. But seldom was there an important occasion when he wasn't on the ice.

That's why he's the most valuable.

Stewart excelling

When Leighton came to town, Brian Stewart ended up being the odd goaltender out. He's made the most of his time in Bakersfield.

Stewart was named this week as the goaltender on the ECHL's All-Rookie Team and the league's goaltender of the week.

He has a team-record 10-game winning streak. He's 19-6 with a 2.30 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage in 28 games. Bakersfield is in second place in the Western Conference.

There's a chance that Bakersfield could meet Phantoms affiliate Greenville in the Kelly Cup finals. Greenville, which is in second in the east, includes familiar names like Andrew Rowe, Shane Harper and Nic Riopel. Marc-Andre Bourdon is also likely to join the Road Warriors for the playoffs.

Tim McManus covers the Adirondack Phantoms. He may be reached at tmcmanus@poststar.com. Follow him on Twitter (@PSPhantoms) and read his Phantoms Forum blog on www.poststar.com.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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