By JORDAN OZER
ECHL Communications Intern
Chemistry is key in hockey. Finding the right combination of players to pair together can make a huge difference in the success of both the individual and the team. Scoring may be the result of a great individual effort, but is more often the result of great passing and teamwork. Nowhere in the ECHL is that premise more evident than in Colorado.
When looking at the individual leaders scoring leaders, a trend appears fairly quickly. The Eagles’ Jack Combs and Chad Costello occupy the top two spots in points. Combs is second among ECHL players in goals, while Costello leads the league in assists. The two are paired together on the team’s first line, and display a superb chemistry that has spurned incredible success for both players. Despite their big numbers, each player is quick to defer credit when asked about their success.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my linemates,” Combs proclaimed. “I think any guy could step in and lead the league in points playing with these guys.”
“The key is having good chemistry,” Costello said. “Having played with Combs last year, that chemistry has rolled right into this year. That’s helped for our great start.”
Last season, Combs and Costello were linemates in the CHL with the Tulsa Oilers, where they developed their unique chemistry en route to very strong seasons. Each finished in the top 10 of the league in points, with Combs recording 40 goals and 42 assists in 64 games and Costello tallying 34 goals and 50 assists in 54 games. Wanting to keep the connection going, while also looking to move to a higher level, the two spoke daily over the offseason, and each signed with Colorado as the Eagles entered their first season in the ECHL. They have been catalysts this season in helping the Eagles get off to a strong start in the Western Conference.
“I thought it was something we needed to do for our career,” said Costello. “Colorado has been the best place that I’ve played so far; from the organization to the coaching staff, the trainers, the fans, the rink, the town, everything is first class. And the ECHL is in the same boat as the Eagles, they seem to be a little more first class and treat the players very well.”
The adjustment to the level doesn’t seem to have fazed either player. In making the jump to the ECHL, each has raised their game.
“The ECHL is the best ‘AA’ league,” Combs surmised. “Guys are a little younger, little faster. It’s a tough game every single night, so you can’t take any time off.“
“On the ice it’s a little faster, a little stronger,” Costello agreed. “Lots of the players in this league have aspirations to play in the American Hockey League and the NHL, so the effort and hard work is also evident in the ECHL more so than the CHL.”
Of the two, Costello appears to be the set-up man, with his assists outweighing his scoring, and his passing helping Combs shoot up the goal scoring leader board. Those skills have served Costello well this season. He is currently riding a 14-game point streak, with eight goals and 16 assists over that span, the ECHL’s longest this season. Last week, he recorded three goals and two assists in three games against Idaho, leading to him being named ECHL Player of the Week.
“I try and be a pass-first playmaker,” Costello says of his playing style. “I just try to find my open teammates, and use my speed and skill to find the open guy.”
Jack Combs is the goal scorer and finisher of the duo, receiving Chad Costello’s passes and sending them into the back of the net. He has scored with regularity in the ECHL before, tallying 24 goals with the Trenton Devils and Alaska Aces in the 2009-10 season, and his play recently earned him a promotion to the AHL’s Worcester Sharks.
“I like to use my teammates,” Combs said. “Playing with (Costello), usually if you have your stick on the ice, he’s going to find you for some tap-ins. I’ve definitely have a lot of those this year. I just try and go out there and create some chances and score some goals.“
The pair are good friends, and are equally happy no matter which one of them is doing the goal scoring.This has benefited the Eagles this season, as both players have truly bought in to the team mentality and making winning the top priority.
“We’re both not selfish guys,” said Costello. “If (Combs) scores five goals and I have zero it doesn’t bother me, and if I score five goals and he scores zero it doesn’t bother him. It’s making the right plays and finding the open guy and working together. And helping the team win is number one. Recording points and our individual success comes second.”