Some players go their entire professional hockey career without celebrating a championship.
Derek Grant, remarkably, already has a Calder Cup on his resumé. Not bad for three months’ work.
“It’s been crazy,” marveled Grant, whose Binghamton Senators clinched the American Hockey League title on Tuesday. “For my first half a year in the league, to go all the way is pretty cool.”
Grant, a fourth-round NHL draft pick by the Ottawa Senators in 2008, turned pro in March following his sophomore season at Michigan State University. The 21-year-old centre was sent to upstate New York to join Ottawa’s AHL affiliate.
Binghamton overcame the Manchester Monarchs, the Portland Pirates and the Charlotte Checkers en route to the Calder Cup final, where they knocked off the Houston Aeros in six games.
Grant only got into seven playoff contests – he suffered a separated shoulder in Game 7 of the Sens’ first-round series against Manchester.
But Grant made an impact in the limited action he saw. His lone post-season goal came at the 4:03 mark of overtime during Game 2 against the Monarchs, lifting Binghamton to a 4-3 win.
Grant called it the biggest goal of his life.
“I didn’t really know how to celebrate on it, because I was kind of shocked,” he recounted. “I couldn’t really believe it.”
Grant, who played one season with the junior B Abbotsford Pilots (2006-07) and two with the junior A Langley Chiefs (2007-09) before heading to Michigan State, said he learned a lot during his thrilling introduction to pro hockey.
“The group of guys we had was phenomenal,” he said. “We had just unbelievable team chemistry, and I think that helped carry us throughout.”
Tuesday’s series-clinching victory over the Aeros, by a score of 3-2, sealed Binghamton’s first Calder Cup in 29 years of AHL participation.
“We had a parade (on Wednesday), and the whole town was pretty crazy and ecstatic,” Grant said. “It meant so much to the fans.”