0

Gladiators keep MVP hardware

Brad Schell started out the season as roommates with Jeff Campbell.

Schell now replaces Campbell as the ECHL's Most Valuable Player.

For the second straight year, a Gwinnett Gladiator earned the league's highest honor. The honor, voted on by the ECHL coaches, was announced on Thursday. It's just the second time in league history that teammates have won the award in back-to-back

seasons.

Schell wasn't in Gwinnett to get the news. He remains on call-up to Chicago of the American Hockey League and has no idea when, or if, he'll be returning to the Gladiators.

"I just go to the rink," Schell said. "If they tell me something (that's fine, but) I don't want to be the one that goes in and asks what's happening."

Schell, who racked up a league-best 110 points in 63 games, is getting significantly less ice time in Chicago. Which is to be expected, he said.

"That's part of it," the third-year pro said. "They have a lot of good guys here with 100, 200 games played in the NHL."

Schell and another former Gladiator, Guillaume Desbiens, are playing together on the Wolves' fourth line. They're also rooming together.

"Dessie and I are the fourth forwards here, so we don't get a lot of ice time," Schell said. "But when we do, we try to make something happen.

"Dessie and I, we click. We both saw that last year playing on a line. Dessie can create all kinds of room for me to make plays. He's a hard worker, takes the body. I think we do well together. It's just a matter of working hard when we get the chance out there."

Schell has two goals and two assists in nine games with Chicago this season. Those numbers pale in comparison to those he put up in the ECHL.

His 110 points were 16 more than the next closest player, which happened to be Schell's linemate Scott Mifsud.

The 22-year-old was the first ECHL player in four years to eclipse the 100-point mark. He set career highs with a staggering 85 assists, which is also fourth all-time in ECHL history, and 25 goals.

"He sees the ice very well," said South Carolina head coach Jason Fitzsimmons, whose Stingrays play in a division with Gwinnett. "I think he's really, not only from an MVP standpoint, but he's improved this year.

"He really came into his own this year."

Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle has been charged with Schell's development since the beginning when the Atlanta Thrashers assigned their prospect to the ECHL in 2003. Pyle has similar sentiments to Fitzsimmons about Schell's progress this season.

"He was great; the first half of the season his line carried us," Pyle said. "He played every situation. He played every important situation there was. And because of it, because of him buying into the systems, this is the first year I can actually say ... he was smart enough to understand what was good for him. Because of it, he was successful."

Fitzsimmons said the absence of Campbell, who played just 11 games in Gwinnett before being called up to Grand Rapids of the AHL, would have affected Schell's numbers.

"Campbell's a guy you could get the puck to," Fitzsimmons said. "But that's maybe where (Colton) Fretter has stepped up or Mifsud. Sometimes it's a combination of what you're doing individually along with the teammates you're playing with. So you've got to give credit to them as well."

Schell was quick to do that. The Scott, Saskatchewan native with a ready, mischievous grin made that his first statement after hearing about the MVP award.

"It feels good," Schell said. "Again, you can't do it all alone. Obviously, my linemates, first (Campbell) then Miffer and Fretter, they make the players around them better. It's good to win an individual award, but you've got to give them a lot of credit."

Schell and Campbell have crossed paths a couple times since moving up to the AHL. The Griffins were playing a game in Chicago recently when Desbiens and Schell went out to, literally, face off against Campbell.

"It's weird seeing him across the ice," Schell said. "Dessie joked with him across a faceoff, 'Wouldn't like to be on this line?'"

Schell, captain of the American Conference All-Star team this year, was typically optimistic and relaxed about the rest of his season - where ever that might be.

If he stays in Chicago for the end of the Wolves' regular season and playoff run, obviously that's great, Schell said.

"On other hand, I've been in Gwinnett all year," he said. "And if I come back, would love to help here."

The Gladiators open their fourth straight postseason on Saturday at home against the Texas Wildcatters.

Pyle is working under the assumption that Schell won't be here.

"I'm happy for him that he has an opportunity," Pyle said. "Yeah, it leaves us with a big hole in our lineup, but we're proud of Scheller for the season he's had and he deserves to be up in the 'A.'"