PRINCETON, N.J. – For the 14th straight year, a former ECHL player is a member of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Champion. Former Charlotte goaltender Johan Holmqvist was named the Most Valuable Player as Houston shut out Hamilton in Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals on Thursday.
Holmqvist allowed two goals or less in 17 of his 23 playoff games finishing with a 15-8 record, a 2.00 goals against average and a .928 save percentage while setting AHL playoff records for most games (23) and minutes (1,498) and tying the record for most wins (15). Assigned to Charlotte by Hartford of the American Hockey League, Holmqvist made 43 saves in the Checkers 5-2 win at Augusta on November 8 before being recalled to the New York Rangers on November 10. Selected by the Rangers in the seventh round (175th overall) in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Holmqvist spent the majority of the season with Hartford going 14-13-5 with a 2.65 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.
In addition to Holmqvist, former ECHL players on the Houston roster were Jean-Guy Trudel, Tony Tuzzolino, Sylvain Cloutier and Dieter Kochan while Matt Shaw, who coached Mobile in 1997-98, was an assistant coach for the Aeros.
Trudel, who tied for the Houston postseason lead with seven goals and ranked second with 18 points, scored 54 points (25g-29a) in 37 regular season games and 19 points (9g-10a) in nine postseason games for Peoria in 1996-97. Trudel was named First Team All-ECHL Right Wing and finished second in the ECHL with 113 points (39g-74a) in 62 regular season games for Peoria in 1997-98. Trudel still holds the Rivermen team records for assists (74) and points (113) while his record of 39 goals was broken by Tyler Rennette, who scored 42 in 2002-03.
Tuzzolino scored 15 points (8g-7a) in 12 regular season games with Louisiana in 2002-03, and scored 19 points (6g-13a) in 20 regular season games with Huntington in 1999-2000. Cloutier scored six points (4g-2a) in six games with Toledo in 1995-96 while Kochan was 7-9-2 with a 3.73 goals against average and a .891 save percentage in 18 games for Louisville in 1997-98.
Hamilton’s roster featured former ECHL players Francois Beauchemin, Mike Bishai, Sylvain Blouin, Benjamin Carpentier, Chad Hinz and Michael Ryder as well as Head Coach Geoff Ward, who coached Arkansas in 1999-2000, and Assistant Coach Greg Ireland, who coached Dayton from 1998-2003.
Bishai scored 29 points (12g-17a) in 25 games with Columbus in 2002-03 while Hinz scored 40 points (15g-25a) in 49 regular season games with Tallahassee in 1999-2000. Carpentier scored 10 points (4g-6a) in 23 regular season games with Charlotte in 1998-99 while also playing two regular season games with the Checkers in 2000-01.
Beauchemin scored four points (1g-3a) in seven regular season games with Mississippi in 2001-02 while Blouin scored 12 points (5g-7a) and had 280 PIMs in 50 regular season games with Charlotte in 1994-95. Ryder scored 27 points (14g-13a) in 20 regular season games with Mississippi in 2001-02 and had nine points (4g-5a) in five regular season games with Tallahassee in 2000-01.
The ECHL had affiliation agreements with 22 of the 28 teams in the AHL and there were more than 80 players in the ECHL on AHL contracts in 2002-2003. The ECHL has 450 call-ups to the AHL in 2002-03. The ECHL had 400 call-ups to the 27 teams of the AHL in 2001-02, the most since a record 453 call-ups to the 19 teams of the AHL and 13 teams of the International Hockey League in 1999-2000.