Each gave their thoughts on the other three candidates and then selected the player they felt was most deserving of the honor. Lewis and Clifford both received one vote and the other two claimed it was a three-way tie.
On the same subject, coach Terry Murray was very complimentary of Bernier, especially his play in the second half. Yet, ultimately, he went with Clifford as his pick.
Now, let’s talk to the team captain, Dustin Brown. First he sizes up the play of all four rookies before choosing his winner…
Brown on Bernier – “He’s probably in the toughest position of them all, not only from a positional standpoint, but back-up goaltender is not an easy position – let alone goaltender. There have been times where he’s had to go two or three weeks without playing a game. Then, he stepped in and played tremendous for us. He’s been doing it all year.”
Brown on Clifford – “He’s a 20-year old trapped in a 30-year old body. He’s a man. He steps up when it needs to be done, fighting wise. He’s scored some big goals for us and he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty – which is nice to see, especially out of a 20-year old. It’s not easy to come into the league and play the way he does.”
Brown on Lewis – “He’s one of those guys, playing a fourth line role, he’s had a little bit in higher roles. But, he’s probably one of our best skaters on the team. He has a really good skill level. So, when you put him on the fourth line, he can really make things happen. He’s played well for us all year.”
Brown on Martinez – “I’m not exactly sure when he got called up, maybe around 20 games into the season [21 actually], but he stepped right in and earned his spot on the team – which says enough about him. He moves the puck and he’s a really good skater. One thing that stands out about him is he keeps it pretty simple, from that he creates a lot of offense on the power play too.”
Finally, his choice for ‘Rookie of the Year’ on the team…
“I’d probably go with Cliffy. He brings so much to the table physically. We have a pretty physical team, but he’s a big part of that -fighting, hitting, etc. I’m not sure how many points he had , but I’m not sure his game is all about getting points. He does a lot of really good things out there. And I don’t know anybody who really enjoys doing what he does…”
We laughed a little and I replied ‘Well, nobody except Clifford.’ To which Brown responded, “He’s pretty good at it too, so that might be the difference for him.”
Summing it all up, Clifford wins the award after being endorsed by one of his fellow rookies, the coach and team captain - a different sort of hat trick and another knockout for the Colonel.
If you missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can read the comments from all four candidates by simply clicking the name of the player here: Bernier, Clifford, Lewis or Martinez. Each article has them talking about the other rookies and trying to identify who was the best.