Dan LaCosta's stall is situated in the far corner of the Columbus Blue Jackets locker room, opposite of Jake Voracek's. When Voracek came off the ice after Thursday's practice, he wasn't able to sit down in his own stall because of the TV cameras hovering over LaCosta, the latest rookie goaltender to show his stuff between the pipes for Columbus.
"First Mase," Voracek says with a big smile.
And now LaCosta.
The quiet, lanky goalie is on his way back to Syracuse to rejoin the Crunch with Mason returning to the lineup (Friday) but he'll never forget this past week, one in which he made his NHL debut and helped earn Columbus four points that the team simply had to have.
He was solid in an OT win over San Jose last Saturday to snap a three-game Jackets' losing skid and closer to spectacular after stopping 31 shots in a shutout win over Colorado last Tuesday. Two games. Two wins.
And life for LaCosta has suddenly changed.
"I felt comfortable with my game when I came up," says the 22-year-old from Labrador City, Newfoundland, who was 15-14-2 with a 2.58 gaa in Syracuse before his NHL debut. "I didn't really know how it would translate to this level but I felt good in the games. The way the team plays defensively makes it easier on the goalies.
"It's definitely not what I would have expected to happen," he adds of the shutout performanc.
Head coach Ken Hitchcock knows how important the two wins were to Columbus. He says that LaCosta, coming in as an unknown quantity, did an excellent job in making believers out of his teammates.
"The big thing is he's confident," says Hitchcock. "He's confident in the fact that he can help us in the NHL. Hopefully, he takes this experience and really uses it to his advantage. Knowing who he is as a kid, I think he will."
LaCosta put in a lot of hard work to earn the opportunity. Drafted 93rd overall in 2004, he enjoyed a solid career in the Ontario Hockey League with the Owen Sound Attack and Barrie Colts. In 2005-06, he won 36 games with the Colts and got a taste of life in the minor leagues the following year, playing for the Crunch and the Dayton Bombers of the ECHL.
The next year proved to be a tough one for LaCosta. In November of 2007, while playing for the Elmira Jackals, the team bus was involved in a serious accident near Erie, Pa. LaCosta sprained his right ankle badly and suffered ligament damage but despite the traumatic experience, he came out of the wreck with a new attitude.
The bus hit a transport and went off the road but it landed in a safe spot. LaCosta says that just a little ways down the road, there were severe drops from the highway, lined with trees. He knew that he and his teammates easily could have been killed so he began to approach the game differently.
"I was more relaxed and more focused on just enjoying myself," he says.
The ankle injury kept him out two months and LaCosta believes he might have gotten a few starts in the NHL prior to this week had he not been banged up.
"It bothered me the rest of the season," he says. "It was frustrating. There were a couple of times that I would have been called up here. You never know what could have happened."
But there are no regrets. LaCosta has two big NHL wins under his belt, including his first shutout and he'll know exactly what to expect the next time he gets a shot.
"In the morning when I found out, I was pretty nervous," LaCosta says of his first start last week against San Jose. "But I told myself that it was a great opportunity. No one from my town has done something like that so I just wanted to go out and enjoy the experience and make the most of it.
"It was almost like a blur, the couple days. It was cool. It's nice for me personally to know I can play up here."