LaCosta made his dad proud

Tom Reed
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Labrador City native will make his second NHL start tonight

Cellphone in hand, Dan LaCosta debated whether to call his father Saturday afternoon on his way to Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The 22-year-old goaltender from Labrador City had learned hours earlier he would make his first National Hockey League start that night for the Blue Jackets against the San Jose Sharks., the top team in the NHL's Western Conference.

Columbus Blue Jackets' goaltender Dan LaCosta makes a save against the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton early in the overtime period of their NHL game in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday. The Blue Jackets went on to defeat the Sharks 3-2, giving the 22-year-old La

Cellphone in hand, Dan LaCosta debated whether to call his father Saturday afternoon on his way to Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The 22-year-old goaltender from Labrador City had learned hours earlier he would make his first National Hockey League start that night for the Blue Jackets against the San Jose Sharks., the top team in the NHL's Western Conference.

No way was he phoning his buddies back in Lab City.

"I didn't want too many people knowing in case, you know, I got lit up," LaCosta said.

But LaCosta decided his dad deserved a call. Harry LaCosta had been his biggest supporter, the man who never lost faith, even when his son found himself mired in the ECHL, two leagues removed from NHL.

Still, Harry's remarks did not exactly allay Dan's jitters.

"When I told him I was starting against the Sharks, the first thing he said was, 'Geez, they're the best team in the league,' " LaCosta recalled. "But he told me to go out there and leave it all on the ice."

LaCosta made his parents and Labrador City proud. He stopped 28 shots in helping the Blue Jackets to a 3-2 overtime win before a sellout crowd of 18,144.

Two things were gleaned from his performance: LaCosta looked like a pretty good goalie, and his father can't keep a secret.

"Everyone back home found out," LaCosta said. "I had 10 voice mails and about 20 text messages waiting for me in the locker room.

I guess some people ordered the NHL Center Ice package just so they could watch the one game."

They will get another opportunity to see LaCosta. Jackets' coach Ken Hitchcock says the young six-foot-two goalie will start again tonight against the Colorado Avalanche because he merits another shot.

"Danny has been very good every time we've used him," Hitchcock said of LaCosta, who also has two NHL relief appearances - one earlier this season and one in 2007-08. "He has talent and he has athleticism, and when he's aggressive and focused like he was (Saturday), he can really help us."

During training camp, nobody envisioned the Jackets starting a goalie who has struggled with his consistency and spent parts of the past two seasons with the ECHL's Elmira Jackals. But injuries and illness have given LaCosta his opportunity.

Rookie sensation Steve Mason was placed on injured reserve Saturday because of mononucleosis, leading to LaCosta's recall from the AHL's Syracuse Crunch, where he had a 15-14-2 record and a 2.58 goals-against average. He had expected to be backing up Wade Dubielewicz, who had been picked up on waivers by Columbus three weeks ago after former Blue Jackets No. 1 goalie Pascal Leclaire was sidelined - perhaps for the season - after ankle surgery. However, Dubielewicz came down with the flu and LaCosta was given a starting assignment that, a year ago, seemed improbable.

LaCosta had been a No. 1 midget draft pick of the Ontario Hockey League's Owen Sound Attack in 2002; he was member of Newfoundland and Labrador's 2003 Canada Winter Games team (Ryan Mior was the other goalie), and in 2004, was selected in the third round of the NHL's Entry Draft by the Blue Jackets. But after leaving the junior ranks in 2006, he had a tough time moving up the Columbus depth charts and found himself bouncing between the AHL and ECHL. Then, 14 months ago, LaCosta found himself rehabilitating a badly damaged right ankle after a bus crash involving the Jackals. He recovered, but might still be serving as an minor-league backup in Syracuse if Mason had not seized his opportunity in a Nov. 4 promotion to the Jackets. And he climbed another notch on the Blue Jackets' goalie ladder when Fredrik Norrena, who had started the season as Leclaire's backup in Columbus, refused a conditioning assignment to the AHL and was released. Norrena is now playing in Russia.

After LaCosta was recalled last week, Blue Jackets' developmental coach Tyler Wright picked the young goalie up in Syracuse and drove him to Pittsburgh, where he caught a flight to Columbus.

"I told him 'You never know when you are going to get your chance,'" Wright said. "He has bided his time and been a good pro, biting his tongue when some things didn't go his way."

The injury to Leclaire, the release of Norrena, Mason's bout with mono and, finally, Dubielewicz's illness made Wright's statement all the more telling. Now Lacosta, who started the season as a No. 2 goalie in the AHL behind Mason, has become the fifth netminder to play for Columbus this season and has earned-back-to-back big-league starts. He is also the first goalie from Newfoundland and Labrador to make an NHL start since Corner Brook's Doug Grant played for the St. Louis Blues in 1978-79. In fact LaCosta and Grant - whose last NHL win came in '77-78 with St. Louis - are the only netminders from this province to ever play in the NHL.

"I can't get too far ahead of myself. My situation here is day to day," said LaCosta, who nevertheless had much to savour Saturday night, including a splendid shoulder save on Joe Thornton in the first minute of overtime.

Fifteen minutes after the game, he sat in front of his locker, still in his goalie pads and in possession of the game puck, given to him by Columbus forward Jason Chimera, LaCosta was surrounded by well-wishers, but alone in his thoughts.

He thought about his girlfriend and his parents, Harry and Sarah, both educators, and the strange, circuitous journey that brought him to Columbus.

Few moments have ever felt so gratifying, he said.

Then, LaCosta picked up his cell phone. He never thought twice about who would receive the first call.

Organizations: National Hockey League, Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks Harry's NHL Center Ice Colorado Avalanche Ontario Hockey League St. Louis Blues

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Columbus, Lab Syracuse Canada Russia Pittsburgh Corner Brook St. Louis

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Recent comments

  • Bill
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I don't think Dan know's how many people actually keep track of his career. I played against him in Major Midget years ago... he was only about 14 at the time. Never met the guy, but do know most of his friends from Lab City. I was glued to the computer all night during his game, keeping up on his stats, watching highlights and hoping that he did well. He ended up doing better than that... he played awesome. I hope this is only the start for him. Good luck!

  • Carlson
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Way to go Dan. A few months ago I remember reading a story about Dan just wanting to make the NHL. Great job! Beating the Sharks at that!

  • Debbie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I love it when The Telegram see fit to print a good news story.

    It is right that this young man and his family be acknowledged for his accomplishment. I'm sure like all our young guys in the NHL, he will be followed closely by those at home.

    I wish him every success and remember Keep your stick on the ice .

  • Bill
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    I don't think Dan know's how many people actually keep track of his career. I played against him in Major Midget years ago... he was only about 14 at the time. Never met the guy, but do know most of his friends from Lab City. I was glued to the computer all night during his game, keeping up on his stats, watching highlights and hoping that he did well. He ended up doing better than that... he played awesome. I hope this is only the start for him. Good luck!

  • Carlson
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Way to go Dan. A few months ago I remember reading a story about Dan just wanting to make the NHL. Great job! Beating the Sharks at that!

  • Debbie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    I love it when The Telegram see fit to print a good news story.

    It is right that this young man and his family be acknowledged for his accomplishment. I'm sure like all our young guys in the NHL, he will be followed closely by those at home.

    I wish him every success and remember Keep your stick on the ice .