Holmstrom brothers travel far, work hard for shot at college, pro hockey

Ben Holmstrom, shown playing for the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League, is only the second Colorado Springs native to play in the NHL.   COURTESY ADIRONDACK PHANTOMS

Here is my feature that appeared in Friday’s issue of the Woodmen Edition newspaper …

It may be across the country from their family, but Woodmen Edition area natives Ben and Josh Holmstrom are happy they chose to play NCAA Division I men’s hockey for UMass Lowell.

Ben took advantage of his four years to develop a promising professional career which young brother Josh hopes to emulate.

After fielding some offers from other schools, a season-ending knee injury left only the River Hawks interested in offering Ben a full-ride athletic scholarship.

“That made it an easy choice,” he said.

It proved to be the right one for Ben, 25, who served as a three-year captain for the River Hawks, before graduating and moving on to the professional ranks. That journey paid off with seven games with the Philadelphia Flyers spread out over the last two seasons, making him only the second Colorado Springs native to reach the NHL.

Former North Dakota standout defenseman David Hale was the first from the Springs to reach the bigs but has since retired. Ben and Hale played in what is now the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association and its club team, the Pikes Peak Miners, while Josh, 23, played with the Colorado Rampage and Denver-area Colorado Thunderbirds. The brothers went on to play for the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Stampede of the Junior A United States Hockey League before moving up to Lowell.

“He’s a guy I was always looking up to,” Ben said. “I got to play against him in his final year in (American Hockey League) Binghamton. To be only the second player from Colorado Springs to make (the NHL) is something I take a lot of pride in.”

“We’re all very proud of what he accomplished,” said Josh, a 2008 Doherty High School graduate, who followed his brother out to Lowell, after finding the school to be the right fit.  “It’s a great hockey program and a phenomenal school.”

Both players continue to work hard and improve as much as they can, taking advantage of playing in what they consider the toughest hockey leagues in Division I; Hockey East, which includes Boston College, winners of three of the last five national championships, and Boston University, which won in 2009.

“Certainly one of the selling points for Lowell is being in Hockey East,” Ben said. “It is a high level and I had a lot of opportunity to play as a freshman and sophomore. It definitely prepared me while I got bigger and stronger (in four years).”

But little prepared him for the day he got the call from the Flyers the morning of March 3, 2011 and had to travel from upstate New York to Philadelphia for a game that night after two players were too sick to play.

“That was a whirlwind, driving five hours to play in front of 17,000 fans that night,” he said. “I had a lot of excitement and nerves.  The captain took aside me and told me to make sure to enjoy it because playing your first NHL game can never be duplicated. I did enjoy it.”

He got in two NHL games during the 2010-11 campaign and another five last season.

“I played with a little more confidence and with more comfort being around the guys,” he said. “It’s still a learning process.”

UMass Lowell junior forward Josh Holmstrom celebrated his goal against Miami (Ohio) during last spring’s NCAA tournament. COURTESY UMASS LOWELL ATHLETICS

Josh is on his way to a professional career as well, serving as an assistant captain as a junior, garnering all-league academic honors (3.6 grade point average) and recording the primary assist on the game-winning goal at No. 19 Colorado College last weekend.

“Josh Holmstrom brings an intensity to each and every game whether we’re playing at home or on the road,” said River Hawks head coach Norm Bazin, who spent several years as an assistant at CC. “He is someone who continues to improve and develop his skills and he will be counted upon to contribute offensively.”

Josh is enjoying being part of the proud program’s resurgence. The River Hawks surprised most of the experts by making the NCAA Tournament last spring in Bazin’s first season. They are a preseason pick to place second this season behind BC.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “The key for us will be to keep working harder and getting better each day.”

It’s that kind of attitude that helped Ben go from a junior player with a knee injury to the NHL and his second year as captain for the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Phantoms, only a step below the Flyers. If the NHL lockout ends, the 2009-10 Hockey East Best Defensive Forward Award-winner will likely be a quick call-up to Philadelphia.

“I will never be a 40-goal scorer in the NHL,” Ben said. “I need to play my game, which is being good on faceoffs, on defense and finishing my checks. If I can do that and be consistent, I could have a good career.”

It’s an example Josh plans to follow to the pros just as he did when he took up ice hockey as a youngster  watching his older brother play in Colorado Springs.

“It’s great motivation for me,” Josh said. “He’s always pushing me and I am always pushing him. He has had a great hockey career. I just need to keep working and improving and hope mine goes as well.”

Thursday reading: UNO, CC, UND, Duluth, Hockey East, Mankato

Incoming Nebraska Omaha freshman goalie Anthony Stolarz, a 2012 second round draft pick of the Flyers, pictured, may be the key to the Mavericks’ success this coming season. Here is some more background on how far the NAHL standout has come.

NHL Central Scouting announced its preliminary 2013 draft watch list and CC 2013/14 defenseman commit Gustav Oloffson of the Colorado Thunderbirds and 2014 defenseman Teemu Kivilhalme were both rated. Kivilhalme is considered as a C-level prospect while Oloffson is  B-level.

Peter Stoykewych’s younger brother Paul was rated as was Jake Guentzel.

Former Merrimack commit and BCHL standout Wade Murphy visited North Dakota on Monday and soon committed.

The Karson Kuhlman commit continues a trend of northern Minnesota talent heading to Minnesota-Duluth.

As usual, there are plenty of impact freshmen joining Hockey East this coming season.

Former MSU-Mankato captain David Backes and North Dakota standout Jonathan Toews are featured in the NHLPA video concerning the lockout.

Ticket sales have been slow for Penn State’s first season of Division I hockey so far. A few wins will change that quickly.

Union received their 2011-12 ECAC championship rings.

In the pros: Schultz heads to ECHL Trenton

Former Tiger Stephen Schultz has signed with the Trenton Titans of the ECHL. He is entering his second full professional season, and spent the majority of his 2011-12 campaign in the AHL with the Texas Stars. No contract details were announced.

The 5-foot-11, 185 pound winger tallied 11 points in 34 games with Texas last season, and also had a brief two-game stint in the ECHL with Idaho. The 2011 graduate played in five AHL games after his senior season at CC ended but could not find a regular role in Texas. His AHL contract expired at the end of this past season.

Trenton is the ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers and the AHL affiliate of the Adirondack Phantoms where Mike Testwuide recently signed a two-way deal.

CS native Holmstrom signs two-way deal with Flyers

Colorado Springs native Ben Holmstrom, a former UMass-Lowell standout, signed a two-way deal with the Flyers organization for one year worth $550,000 if he plays the entire season in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL.

Holmstrom, 25, played five games with the Flyers as an injury call-up last season. In 67 games with the Adirondack Phantoms, Holmstrom scored 15 goals and 26 assists while compiling 134 penalty minutes. He was named Phantoms captain prior to last season and is a solid depth forward at the NHL level.

The contract comes after his two-year entry level free agent contract, signed with the organization in 2010. Holmstrom played at UMass-Lowell for four seasons before joining the organization. He is often a linemate  of former Tigers captain Mike Testwuide, who also signed a two-way deal recently with Philadelphia. They played together on the Pikes Peak Miners as youth players.

NHL free agency: Testwuide re-signs; eight Tigers remain available

Former Tiger captain Mike Testwuide re-signed with the Flyers on Tuesday morning.

That leaves eight former Tigers (as of 11 a.m. MT) weighing their free agency options.

They are (name, 2011-12 team):  Richard Bachman (Dallas): Brian Connelly (Calgary); Mark Cullen (Florida); Kris Fredheim (Wild); Trevor Frischmon, (Islanders); Richard Petiot (Tampa Bay);  Brett Sterling (Blues), and Colin Stuart (Sabres).

From NHL.com …

11:40 a.m. – DAY 3: FLYERS INK THREE
With the third day of free agency underway, the Flyers announced three signings. Defenseman Cullen Eddy and forward Mike Testwuide will return to the Flyers organization, as will defenseman Danny Syvret who enters his third separate campaign with the team.

Eddy attended Flyers training camp for the past two seasons and appeared in 54 games for the club’s AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, where he posted 15 points (2G-13A) and 130 penalty minutes. Eddy also recorded 14 points (4G-10A) in 15 games for the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL this past season.

Syvret played for the Flyers from 2008-2010 and part of the 2010-11 season.

He recorded his first NHL goal with the Flyers during the 2010 NHL Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park.

Overall, Syvret has four points (2G-2A) in 27 games with the Flyers.

With the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, Syvret has produced 27 goals and 79 assists for 106 points in 142 regular season games, including 57 points (12G-45A) in 76 games during the 2008-09 season to finish second among all AHL defensemen for the Phantoms during the team’s final year in Philadelphia.

Testwuide has spent the previous two seasons in Glens Falls with the Phantoms. He posted 29 points (12G-17A) in 66 games to go along with 79 penalty minutes.

Since signing with the Flyers on March 19, 2010 out of Colorado College, the 6-3, 220-pound Testwuide has recorded 30 goals and 38 assists for 68 points in 142 games with Adirondack.

Tuesday reading: Cecere, NHL free agency, Guentzel, Bjugstad, AFA

Future Tiger Garrett Cecere (2013 commit) is getting some attention from NHL scouts.

Seven former Tigers remain NHL/AHL free agents  (as of 10 a.m. MT) after Joey Crabb (Capitals), Curtis McElhinney (Columbus) and Toby Petersen (Dallas) signed on Sunday and Monday.

Jack Hillen joined Crabb on the Caps on Tuesday morning.

Here are some details about Crabb’s deal and the $200,000 pay raise from the Anchorage Daily News.

They are (name, 2011-12 team):

Richard Bachman (Dallas): Kris Fredheim (Wild); Trevor Frischmon, pictured, (Islanders); Richard Petiot (Tampa Bay); Brett Sterling (Blues), Colin Stuart (Buffalo), and Mike Testwuide (Flyers).

Colorado Springs’ Ben Holmstrom (Flyers) is also available.

Jake Guentzel, younger brother of former Tiger Gabe, is considering Colorado College. Nice kid. I met him during his visit while he was watching a practice last November. He is forgoing his senior year of high school to go to the USHL which means he could develop more quickly.

Former Badger Justin Schultz hates how Lebronesque his decision became.

Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad will decide after the Panthers’ development camp if he will return to the Gophers.

UMass fans lick their wounds after being turned down by the Quinnipiac coach.

From  the academy …

The Air Force hockey team is proud to announce the five members of the Class of 2016, as announced Monday by head coach Frank Serratore. The class of 2016 includes two forwards and three defensemen.

26, Ben Carey, F, 5-11, 160, Centennial, CO / Wenatchee Wild (NAHL)

Played two years of junior hockey for the Wenatchee Wild of the NAHL … Led the Wild in scoring in 2011-12 with 57  points (27-30-57) in 60 games … led the team with 14 ppg and was second with a +16 … tied for 11th in the league in goals and 16th in points … third in the league in power-play goals … scored six points (2-4-6) in eight playoff games … in 2010-11, was fifth on the Wild with 43 points (19-24-43) in 57 games … fourth on the team in goals and fifth in points in 2010-11.

44, Max Edson, F, 5-8, 170, Hermosa Beach, CA / Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)

Played two years of junior hockey for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL … Played 33 games in 2011-12 at forward and scored 15 points (6-9-15) … In 2010-11, played 54 games at forward and scored 19 points (10-9-19).

8, Max Hartner, D, 6-0, 195, Greenwood Village, CO / Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)

Played three years of junior hockey for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL … Played in 38 games in 2011-12 on defense and scored 10 points (1-9-10) … Played in 44 games on defense in 2010-11 and had 12 points (6-6-12) in 44 games … team captain in 2011-12 and 2010-11 … helped lead the Gamblers to the USHL regular-season and playoff championships twice … In 2009-10, scored three points (1-2-3) in 24 games.

10, Jesse Ramsey, D, 5-11, 175, Rogers, MN / Kenai River Brown Bears (NAHL)

Played three years of junior hockey with the Kenai River Brown Bears of the NAHL .. the top scoring defenseman, and third overall on the team,  with 38 points (11-27-38) in 60 games in 2011-12  … ranked fifth in the league in points by a defenseman … 11 goals tied as the second most in the league by any blueliner … played 57 games at forward for the Brown Bears in 2010-11 and had 21 points (5-16-21) … began his junior career in 2009-10 with the Wenatchee Wild of the NAHL and played 16 games, scoring four points (3-1-4) … played the final 38 games of the 2009-10 season with the Brown Bears at forward and scored 19 points (3-16-19) in 38 games.

77, Trevor Waldoch, D, 6-2, 175, Forest Lake, MN / Austin Bruins (NAHL)

Played two years of junior hockey for the Austin Bruins of the NAHL … Played in 60 games on defense in 2011-12 and scored 27 points (9-18-27) in 60 to rank third on team among defenseman … Played 48 games in 2010-11 on defense and scored 25 points (5-20-25) in 48 games.

Wednesday reading: Future Wisconsin at CC nonconference games, Hillen, Schultz, Prosser video, Rau, Fredheim, UND, Minnesota, NMU

Chad Rau is joined by Wild teammates to celebrate his goal during the second period on January 21, 2012 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. It was Rau’s NHL debut. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Wisconsin’s nonconference schedule is coming together with plans for single road games at CC and Denver during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons and a two-game road series during the 2013-14 season. Do not be surprised to see either Minnesota or Air Force as the other opponent on those single-game weekends. Either way it is a great weekend for ticket sales at World Arena. Here is the 2012-13 Tigers schedule.

Former Tiger Jack Hillen did not receive a qualifying offer from Nashville and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie listed Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Philadelphia and the N.Y. Rangers as the most likely landing spots for free agent Justin Schultz, who may decide as early as today.

Nate Prosser was a crowd favorite during the Wild road tour. He is interviewed in this video as is former Pioneer Jason Zucker.

Chad Rau has signed a two-year deal with the Wild while RFA Kris Fredheim did not get a qualifying offer. Here is the team’s contract chart.

Minnesota will host North Dakota as part of Hockey Day Minnesota. The retiring Gophers AD had hoped Penn State would join the CCHA and avoid the conference shakeup the sport has experienced the past two summers.

The Mining Journal outlines how Northern Michigan administrators juggled their duties over the past 19 months.