In the 29-year history of the ECHL, there have not been many players as proficient at passing the puck and setting up goals than Allen Americans’ forward Chad Costello.
The 30-year-old playmaker is in the midst of his seventh ECHL season and in 286 career ECHL games he has posted a remarkable 317 assists, which ranks him 24th in League history. His average of 1.11 assists per game is third all-time, and his 84 assists during the 2014-15 season are tied for the fifth most in a single season in League history.
Costello has had the fortune of playing with talented teammates throughout his career in the ECHL, which includes back-to-back scoring titles the last two seasons, as well as being the only player in League history to win the Most Valuable Player award on multiple occasions, capturing the honor with Colorado in 2011-12 and with Allen last season.
“A lot of my success is my teammates and the coaches I’ve played for,” Costello said. “A lot of my points are assists, so someone is putting the puck in the net. Our coach (Steve Martinson) allows us to play a style that’s fun and obviously breeds winning and anytime you’re winning games you want to keep it going.”
Developing chemistry with his linemates has always been at the forefront of his game.
“Early in my career, I played with a guy, Jack Combs, and we had good chemistry, and then he went overseas and now it’s (Greger) Hanson, (Spencer) Asuchak and (Dyson) Stevenson. Guys like that have been around a long time and we’ve developed good chemistry, both on and off the ice. If you care about each other off the ice it seems to relate on the ice.”
Gary Steffes has played with Costello in several stops over the last 12 years. The two have teamed up in Cedar Rapids (USHL), Tulsa (CHL) and for the last three seasons, in Allen. Playing with such a gifted passer has been one of the highlights of Steffes’ career.
“Chad is one of the most fun players I’ve had the chance to play with,” Steffes said. “He’s got a unique style. You play with different guys in different ways. The way that Chad plays is drastically different than the way that a power forward would play. When Chad has the puck he’s really fun to play with because he sees the ice incredibly well. Honestly, you give him the puck and then you get away from him and you just try to get open. You always have to be ready. Just about every single situation you have to be ready because he probably sees you and you have to be ready to shoot at the time you least expect it because the puck is probably coming on your stick.”
This season has seen Costello shoot the puck more often than in previous seasons. After posting 24 goals in 72 games last season as part of his 103-point campaign, Costello has already potted 24 goals in 49 games this season.
“I like to overpass and Marty yells at me all the time and tells me to shoot the puck and call your own number every once in a while,” he said. “I’ve done that a little more recently here and trying to shoot the puck more and put it on net more and keep it simple. I like to pass the puck so I’m going to do that until I’m done playing.”
Martinson has seen his share of talented players in 19 seasons as a professional head coach. In his three seasons coaching Costello, he has seen the talented forward do just about everything.
“I’ve seen so many plays by him that we just kind of turn and look at each other on the bench and think did that really just happen,” he said. “He’s able to find guys through traffic. That’s what Chad does. He makes plays and leads by example.”
Despite his success on the ice, Costello is still an easily coachable player.
“Chad is real coachable,” Martinson said. “Obviously he comes in with a ton of skill and vision and a proven track record of making plays. Over the years, we’re trying to win championships here so I’ve asked him to do some things differently and he’s responded really well and it’s one of the reasons we’ve given him one of the ‘C’s’ because he’s been our most consistent player game in, game out the last two years that he’s been here and done an outstanding job for us.”
Winning championships is becoming a rite of spring for the Americans. The club has captured the Kelly Cup title the last two seasons, part of four straight championships overall for the organization. Chasing the unprecedented feat of a third consecutive ECHL title is driving Costello, and the rest of the team, as the 2016-17 regular season enters the home stretch.
“We learned that early that we were going to be the hunted and get every team’s best every night,” Costello said. “We got our butt kicked early, and a lot of the new guys and even the core guys were surprised that the teams were coming and gunning for us and we were seeing their best game. You get used to those big, hard battles, when the other team wants to knock you off.
“I think that helps us, and every team is going to go through their battles and ours was early and hopefully we move past those. I would say the pressure is there a little bit to win three in a row in the ECHL and five in a row overall for the Allen Americans’ organization but that’s kind of what you want. You don’t really want to sign with a team that doesn’t have pressure to win, you want to sign with a team that the goal is to lift the Cup again and that is what we have in Allen.”
Steffes has seen that drive in Costello all the way back to their conversations during the off-season.
“Going into this year, Chad really opened up to me about some things and he shared that his big motivation is just for this team to win,” Steffes recalled. “When you win two in a row it’s incredibly exciting but the thought of doing something that’s never been done before is just incredible. So to share with him in that, and to think how cool it would be to win again, I know it just drives him and it’s a big passion in his heart. He’s very, very passionate about the team and that’s one thing I respect about him.”
In addition to sharing a playing relationship going back over a decade, Costello and Steffes also share leadership duties with the Americans as they serve as co-captains of the club. Knowing one another so well certainly makes those duties easier for the two of them.
“I think he and I really complement each other incredibly well,” Steffes said. “We’ve talked about it in the past, I think the way our personalities are and the way that we kind of just work together, I bear more of the head coach responsibilities so to speak, he bears more of the assistant coach responsibilities, but we totally work together and have each other’s back.”
Martinson believes Costello’s will to win is what allows him to thrive as a team leader.
“I think he wants to win. Chad always feels like he needs to score so he puts a lot of pressure on himself to make plays to help the team win. He’s a personable guy, he’s not a selfish guy. He wants to score and make plays. He has the capability of doing that. He leads by example.”
With Costello leading the way, the Americans’ hopes of that third straight ECHL title are coming into clear vision.