Rookie Making Big Strides at Canisius

Power-play goal. Check. Even-strength goal. Check. Short-handed goal. Check. Game-winner. Check.

In his first seven games with the Canisius Golden Griffins, freshman Dave Kostuch had done it all except score on a penalty shot. But when his first opportunity arises, chances are he will deliver for his team.

After earning accolades in October as national Rookie of the Month as well as Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Month, and adding Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Week honors for November 17, Kostuch has continued his strong play for the Griffins well into November.

“I felt really surprised at first,” Kostuch said about the national rookie award. “It’s a great honor. I didn’t expect it but now that it happened I feel really great.”

“It was a tremendous honor,” Canisius head coach Dave Smith said. “It was a nice reward for all of his diligence in the weight room. On the ice he works extremely hard so we were very happy for him and very happy for our league and very happy for our program.”

Thirteen games into his collegiate career, the Richmond Hill, Ont., native had amassed a team leading seven goals, added six assists and was a plus-9. He potted his second game-winning goal of the season in overtime for the Griffs in a come-from-behind victory over Connecticut on Nov. 16 and tallied an assist on the tying goal in Canisius’ comeback, overtime win over Clarkson.

Kostuch describes his game as “a little rough, a little tough” and he looks to always “put pucks in the net,” much like Alex Ovechkin.

Those around the team rave about the player and person he is.

“Dave’s a wonderful guy off the ice and a great player on the ice,” linemate Josh Heidinger said. “He’s got a knack for the net and is a great player. He’s always there, always ready.”

Kostuch also spoke highly of his two linemates, both juniors. “Playing with Heidinger and [Jason] Weeks, they are gonna give you that puck in the right spot,” he said, “and I just gotta put it in the net for them. They definitely are a big source of my points.”

Those three have combined for 35% of the Griffins’ goals on the season with 14, and their 31 assists account for 42% of the team’s helpers.

Before joining the Griffins, Kostuch played for four years with the Markham Waxers of the OPJHL. He captained the team in 2006-07 and 2007-08 and led the team in scoring while earning MVP honors for both seasons.

Rick Cornacchia, his Waxers coach, is not surprised by Kostuch’s success in Division I hockey. “We really enjoyed having him in Markham,” Cornacchia said. “He was a leader. He played real well offensively, defensively, worked real hard, scored goals and was very creative with the puck. He worked hard achieving his goals so that he could go to Canisius. He’ll be a very, very good player for Canisius.”

Kostuch’s best game came on Nov. 15 against UConn where he posted four points in a 6-0 win. The four-point game ties him for team lead for most points in one game this season with Heidinger.

“The sky could be the limit,” Smith said. “He has terrific skill and he has terrific work ethic and hockey sense and all the tools. He just needs to keep learning the college hockey game and it would be somewhat limiting if we put boundaries on him right now as to how far he could go.”

Kostuch noticed the difference, especially in speed, at the collegiate level. “I expected it to be a different game — like it is — a lot faster,” he said. “I expected everyone to be a lot better and I thought it would be a lot of work and that’s what happened when I came here.

“Just the speed of the game is so incredibly faster and it’s a lot different.”