PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Dayton Bombers and Elmira Jackals goaltender Dan LaCosta became the 352nd player to play in the National Hockey League after playing in the ECHL when he played the final 13:09 and made five saves for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 3-0 loss at Nashville on Tuesday.
The winning goaltender for Nashville was Dan Ellis, who as a rookie with the Idaho Steelheads was voted the Most Valuable Player of the 2004 Kelly Cup Playoffs and selected to play in the 2004 ECHL All-Star Game. Ellis made 36 saves for his fifth career shutout and improved to 21-10-2 with a goals-against average of 2.38 and a save percentage of .922 in 40 games with the Predators.
LaCosta is the fourth player who has played in both the ECHL and the NHL this season joining Chris Beckford-Tseu (Alaska and St. Louis), Joe Jensen (Wheeling and Carolina) and Jonathan Quick (Reading and Los Angeles).
He is the 23rd former ECHL player to play his first NHL game this year and the 207th to make his debut in the past seven seasons. In each of the last nine NHL seasons there have been at least 20 former ECHL players who have played their first NHL game including 41 in 2003-04 and a record 47 in 2005-06.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the NHL, marking the 11th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams.
Selected by Columbus in the third round (93rd overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and in his second professional season, LaCosta is 7-4-1 with a goals-against average of 2.15 and a save percentage of .932 in 14 games with Elmira and 7-2-3 with a shutout, a goals-against average of 2.16 and a save percentage of .930 in 12 games with Syracuse of the American Hockey League.
LaCosta, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Friday, was 3-5-1 with a goals-against average of 3.45 and a save percentage of .874 in 10 games with Dayton as a rookie in 2006-07. He also played in Syracuse where he was 5-7-1 with a goals-against average of 2.82 and a save percentage of .894.
Twenty-six former ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2006-07 including two who played in both the ECHL and NHL. Yutaka Fukufuji played for Reading and Los Angeles while Bryan Young skated for Stockton and Edmonton. Dave McKee played for Augusta and dressed five games as the backup goaltender for Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim.
There are 15 coaches in the NHL who have ECHL experience including former Wheeling coach Peter Laviolette, who is head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, and former Mississippi coach Bruce Boudreau, who is head coach of the Washington Capitals.
The ECHL is represented for the seventh consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team in 2007 with Anaheim assistant coach Dave Farrish, players Francois Beauchemin and George Parros and broadcasters John Ahlers and Steve Carroll.
Former ECHL players that have played their first NHL game in 2007-08 are: former Peoria Rivermen and Alaska Aces goaltender Chris Beckford-Tseu (St. Louis on Feb. 21), former Florida Everblades center David Brine (Florida on Feb. 2), former Idaho Steelheads right wing B.J. Crombeen (Dallas on Jan. 19), former Gwinnett Gladiators left wing Kevin Doell (Atlanta on Jan. 4), former Alaska defenseman Zack FitzGerald (Vancouver on Feb. 5), former Columbia left wing Alex Foster (Toronto on Mar. 18), former Fresno goaltender Thomas Greiss (San Jose on Jan. 14), former Roanoke Express and Wheeling Nailers left wing Jason Jaffray (Vancouver on Dec. 12), former Wheeling Nailers left wing Joe Jensen (Carolina on Feb. 18), former Dayton and Elmira goaltender Dan LaCosta (Columbus on Mar. 25), former Toledo Storm goaltender Drew MacIntyre (Vancouver on Dec. 13), former San Diego Gulls left wing Cody McLeod (Colorado on Dec. 19), former Alaska Aces and Pensacola Ice Pilots center Chris Minard (Pittsburgh on Jan. 21), former Columbia Inferno center Brandon Nolan (Carolina on Dec. 22), former Johnstown Chiefs and Fresno Falcons goaltender Dmitri Patzold (San Jose on Oct. 7), former Gwinnett Gladiators and Louisiana IceGators left wing Pascal Pelletier (Boston on Jan. 17), former Reading Royals goaltender Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles on Dec. 6), former Stockton Thunder left wing Liam Reddox (Edmonton on Dec. 7), former Gwinnett Gladiators left wing Colin Stuart (Atlanta on Dec. 29), former Columbus Chill, Richmond Renegades and Trenton Titans left wing Pete Vandermeer (Phoenix on Feb. 10), former San Diego goaltender Tyler Weiman (Colorado on Oct. 4), former Charlotte Checkers right wing Craig Weller (Phoenix on Oct. 4) and former Phoenix RoadRunners center Daniel Winnik (Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 4).
Celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08, the ECHL is the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League and the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league with 25 teams playing 900 games in 17 states and British Columbia in 2007-08.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League in 2007-08 and for the past 17 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion.
In each of the last two seasons there have been more than 225 players who have played in both the ECHL and the AHL and there were over 800 call-ups involving more than 500 players.
In the last five seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,000 call-ups involving more than 1,000 players since 2002-03.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.