'Ghost' shows he belongs
GLENS FALLS His buddies were all there.
He heard the “U!” shouted over the word “you” in the national anthem.
And the spin-o-rama in the first period … that was vintage Shayne Gostisbehere.
The jersey was unfamiliar, the building was much different from Messa Rink and the game had an undercurrent of finality for the fans, who watched their team for the last time.
The stranger wearing No. 14 on Friday night, though, felt right at home under all these circumstances, because Gostisbehere finally got to show that he is pro hockey material in an actual pro setting.
The Union College junior, fresh off a national championship last weekend, played regular shifts with his new team, the Adirondack Phantoms, in a 3-2 overtime loss to Bridgeport at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
It was an intersection of a player’s career just pushing up through the ground, and an AHL franchise being buried in it. The Philadelphia Flyers affiliate played its last home game before relocating to Allentown, Pa., which probably won’t mean much to Gostisbehere. If first impressions mean anything, he won’t be seeing a lot of Allentown next season.
“They’re definitely faster than college and stronger, but it’s a fun game out there, and I learned from it,” Gostisbehere said. “Some things I would do in college wouldn’t necessarily work. I adjusted a little bit and played my game.”
On an emotional night when the sellout crowd of 5,568 was frequently prompted to cheer farewell, by far the loudest cheer came in the third period, when the PA announcer recognized the national champion Dutchmen, who were in one end zone to watch their boy.
Another loud unsolicited response came in the first period when Gostisbehere got around a Sound Tiger with a spin move.
Phantoms coach Terry Murray was left impressed by what he saw from the 5-for-11, 172-pound defenseman.
“The Ghost shows a lot of high-end skill,” Murray said. “Very mobile, great agility and mobility and vision of the ice. I think he had a great first night out.
“The jump is big to the pro level. The American League is a good league. You’ve got men out there. Physically, he looks very comfortable matching up one-on-one. He’s got such quickness with his hands and his stick that he’s able to recover a lot of pucks under pressure.”
That's not to say it was perfect.
Gostisbehere was back facing a 2-on-2 in the second period while Bridgeport was short-handed, and he was unable to check away a cross-ice pass from Aaron Ness to Josh Holmstrom. Holmstrom returned it to the other side, where the trailing Scooter Vaughan buried it.
"That was definitely my fault," Gostisbehere said. "I lost my guy and he initially passed the puck back door."
Still, he didn't just look like he belonged out there, he looked like a player who, with experience, won't belong at this level forever.
"It's just playing with confidence," he said. "I wasn't going to change my game, and it felt good to get out there and do some things. There's areas that need to be cleaned up, but it was a good experience."
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 395-3146 or mikemacdailygazette.com. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.