The Ghost is a Phantom.
Shayne Gostisbehere had one more sweet move, and will haunt Messa Rink no more.
The defenseman who dazzled the Minnesota Golden Gophers with an array of deft skating skill and legerdemain with his stick on Saturday pulled the plug on his Union College career on Tuesday.
It was time.
All doubt about whether the 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior should return for one more season to further his development went out the window when Gostisbehere toyed with the Gophers, who have 14 NHL draft picks on their roster.
Gostisbehere surely would have benefitted from one more year of college hockey, enhanced by the fact that he could have had a shot at another national championship and the Hobey Baker Award.
But the Philadelphia Flyers’ third-round draft pick made the right call by choosing to leave now.
Aside from putting on a few more pounds of muscle, he’s ready for the pros.
It remains to be seen how soon that will result in a callup to the big club, but Gostisbehere brings a skill set that many NHL teams covet these days.
That will be on display in a pro setting for the first time on Friday, when he debuts with the Adirondack Phantoms at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
His talent is undeniable and never was more evident in full than on Saturday, when he finished the 7-4 victory with an absurd plus-7.
The Gophers tried to get a handle on Ghost and were left clutching air.
Justin Kloos skated forward to challenge Gostisbehere on a breakout, and Ghost got around him untouched and without breaking stride by faking a pass to the middle of the ice and pulling it back.
He performed a 360 to get around someone on another play that drew a loud “Oooh” from the crowd of 18,742.
He maneuvered through the defense on a solo mission and ripped one past Adam Wilcox to tie the game at 1-1.
And to show how far he’s come since his freshman season, perhaps his best play was on defense and still managed to help set up the back-breaking goal of the game.
The Gophers were on the rush, Mat Bodie missed a check, and Ghost bailed him out with a sweeping stick check while sliding on the ice. The puck came right to Bodie for the chip ahead to Kevin Sullivan and the goal that made it 6-4.
As coach Rick Bennett revealed on Tuesday, Gostisbehere was playing with a clear head because they had had a crucial conversation about him leaving well before not only the Frozen Four, but the East Regionals.
“It wasn’t a pleasant one,” Bennett said. “This is an ownership that you have to make for your personal life after this game. And he was great about it. And once he knew that he had the backing of our coaching staff, I think his play . . . he just took off.”
“People would think that I’m leaving because there’s nothing left to prove, but it’s not that at all,” Gostisbehere said. “I sat down with my family after, and it came down to where my development would be and what I had to do to get better and go to the next level. Right now, it was just the right time. Of course, I want to make everyone happy, I wish I could, but for my sake, it was time.”
Gostisbehere and senior captain Bodie are similar types, defensemen who aren’t big but can get involved in the offense and run a power play.
What they lack in size is certainly balanced by hockey smarts.
“I think Brian Rafalski started it with Detroit, with those type of defensemen,” Bennett said. “Now you have Torey Krug. Even the Flyers have one or two guys like that. So the NHL has changed. This is the way it’s going, and it’s for the better, to watch these types of players.”
“I’m just going to bring whatever I can to the table, whatever they need,” Gostisbehere said. “If they need a little guy to block shots, I’ll do it. I’ll puck-move, whatever I can to crack the lineup or to help the team.”
Gostisbehere, who plans to return to finish his degree, also played this right from a timing standpoint.
He didn’t let the story fester all week, and by returning to campus he’ll be able to enjoy all the post-championship celebrations with his teammates.
So the Ghost hasn’t really disappeared yet, but when he does, it probably won’t be difficult to conjure his image.
“I don’t really see them not making it. I don’t,” Bennett said. “They both have an inner drive, an inner pride. I think we’re going to be watching them on TV.”