Kyle Criscuolo held the silver trophy above his head like it was the Stanley Cup.
And, why not?
After all, Criscuolo was hoisting the Calder Cup.
Criscuolo, a native of Southampton in Burlington County, lifted the American Hockey League’s championship chalice in mid-June after his rookie season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the minor league affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.
“It's pretty much the second biggest trophy in hockey,” Criscuolo said. “I mean there's the NHL and then the AHL and the Swedish Leagues, so it's pretty much the second biggest trophy in hockey.”
The AHL is the same league as Flyers’ affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms play.
The Griffins rallied with a pair of third period goals for a 4-3 victory over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 6 to become only the fifth active AHL franchise to win multiple Calder Cups.
“I think this year they had the highest attendance of the Calder Cup playoffs as a whole,” said Criscuolo, who attended St. Joseph’s Prep School in Philadelphia. “ The fans were awesome, the atmosphere was always unbelievable and it was intense especially in the finals.”
The 5-foot-9 center, who signed a free agent contract, played in all 76 regular season games and collected 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points, which tied for seventh best on the team.
“I could not have asked for a better first year,” Criscuolo said.
Grand Rapids finished in second place in the Central Division with a 47-23-1-5 record for 100 points - just one point behind the division champion Chicago Wolves.
“It was a grind, it was a long season,” said Criscuolo, a two-time captain of the Harvard University hockey team. “So when it was over, it was a relief, it was awesome.”
Criscuolo, who attended St. Mary’s of the Lakes grade school in Medford, played in all 19 playoff games and scored five goals and had four assists for nine points, which was 10th best on the Griffins in the postseason.
“It was my first year so I first had to adapt to the league,” Criscuolo said. “After 20 games I got a little bit better and after 20 more games I got a little bit more comfortable and then the playoffs I thought I was playing the best I could be at that time a year.”
Before helping the Griffins to a 15-4 record in the playoffs, Criscuolo helped Harvard to their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance as a senior.
Prior to playing for the Crimson, Criscuolo was named Rookie of the Year for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, a junior league, during 2011-12 season.
He also played two seasons at Choate Rosemary Hall, a prep school in Wallingford, Connecticut, and three years at St. Joseph’s Prep, where he was the team captain during the 2008-09 season and was named the league MVP.
“I think with me I was an unknown, they didn't know a ton about me since I wasn't drafted,” Criscuolo said about turning pro. “I think I was a pleasant surprise for them and to be able to step in and contribute right away, I think they were pleased with me.
“We had a lot of veterans on the team so they needed some young guys to step in and play right away, so I think it worked out well,” Criscuolo said.
Criscuolo will spend the summer in Stamford Connecticut and train for the next step - the National Hockey League.
“That's the plan,” Criscuolo said. “I mean obviously there's a lot of guys, but I got a taste of the playoffs and I want to get to the next one.”
And then hopefully someday hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head like the Calder Cup.