Crunch tandem ready to push each other

by Maggie Walters || AHL On The Beat Archive

When Kevin Lalande found out he had been traded from the Calgary Flames organization to the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was just a few minutes before the NHL trade deadline for the 2008-09 season.

The call came so late in the day that Lalande began to believe he wasn’t going to be traded, despite the personal inkling that he was on the move due to Calgary’s organizational depth at the goaltending position. When the call finally did come, one of the first people he shared the news with was his good friend, Crunch goaltender Dan LaCosta.

LaCosta, who met and befriended Lalande three years ago, had been talking to Lalande just a few minutes before he received the news. Although it looked as though he would not be traded, LaCosta remembers telling Lalande to remain optimistic, since he was hoping for a better opportunity to prove himself with a different team.

“You never know what might happen,” said LaCosta. “The deadline hasn’t passed yet.”

Just 15 minutes later Lalande not only learned that he had been traded, but that he was now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets organization and more specifically after being assigned by the big club, part of the Crunch roster, where he would join his comrade in the nets for Syracuse. He quickly called LaCosta back and told him what had transpired, but LaCosta didn’t take the news quite like Lalande expected he would.

“He thought I was playing a joke on him,” said Lalande. “He made a few phone calls and didn’t believe me until he saw it on the internet.”

When Lalande officially joined the Crunch, it was the second time he and LaCosta donned the pads for the same team. Although they had played against each other frequently in the Ontario Hockey League, they met for the first time when they were both selected to play for the Eastern Conference squad at the 2006 OHL All-Star Classic. After rooming together at the All-Star game, the two continued to keep in touch.

“We found out that we both spent our summers in Ottawa,” said LaCosta. “We started getting together over the off-season and eventually became pretty good friends.”

Despite playing on different teams, the two continued to keep in touch through the season. Both LaCosta and Lalande are familiar with the ups and downs associated with the rigors of being a goaltender. Their careers have taken a very similar path, leaving them with much in common.

LaCosta had been playing in the OHL when he was selected by Columbus in the third round, 93rd overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. After being drafted, he played out the rest of his junior career with the Barrie Colts, turning in a solid final junior campaign in 2005-06, where was among the OHL league leaders in wins (36 – 2nd), goals-against average (2.55 – 2nd), save percentage (.915 – T-4th), and shutouts (6 – 2nd).

LaCosta joined the professional ranks in 2006-07, splitting time between the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers and the Crunch. Since then, the native of Labrador City, N.L., has been a constant presence between the pipes for Syracuse at the War Memorial, compiling a cumulative 36-33-7 record with a 2.89 GAA and .909 save percentage in 90 career games.

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Just like LaCosta, Lalande was also playing in the OHL when he was selected by Calgary in the fifth round, 128th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. While his buddy LaCosta was getting his feet wet in his first professional season in 2006-07, Lalande put together a fine final junior year of his own with the Belleville Bulls, going 27-17-3 with a 3.01 GAA and .919 save percentage, the third-best save percentage in the league that season.

The Kingston, Ont., native made his professional debut in 2007-08, splitting time between Quad City and Calgary’s ECHL affiliate, the Las Vegas Wranglers. The 2008-09 season was a breakthrough campaign for Lalande, as he went a combined 13-5-1 with a 2.17 GAA and .928 save percentage in 21 combined AHL games with the Crunch and Quad City.

“We went through a lot of the same things, I was just a year behind,” said Lalande. “It’s never easy your first year as a pro, there’s a learning phase and Dan really helped me get through it. He had been through what I was going through, he was a big help.”

LaCosta continued to be a big help to Lalande even after his arrival in Syracuse, when he challenged LaCosta’s spot as the club’s starting goaltender. Lalande played 15 games down the stretch for the Crunch last season, going 9-5-1 with a 2.26 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Despite the competition between the two netminders, they did not let it affect their friendship.

“He was a great support when I came at the end of the year,” said Lalande. “It just shows the kind of character he has; he always shows support for his teammates.”

LaCosta calls Lalande a positional or percentage goalie, who reads the game really well.

“He always seems to be in the right position,” said LaCosta. “He makes it look easy most of the time. I’m bigger and maybe a little quicker, that’s how I make up for his positioning being better than mine.”

Regardless of the style of whomever is in net, both goalies have come into the 2009-10 season with the same goals: improving as individuals and to give the team a chance to win every night. They are both also committed to keeping their friendship intact despite going head to head to earn the Crunch’s number one goaltending slot.

“We discussed after I got traded that competition for time wouldn’t affect our friendship,” said Lalande, “we’ll push each other to be better but the competition will stay at the rink.”

It’s clear that regardless of who starts in between the pipes for the Crunch this season, these two friends will have each other’s support no matter what.