Wednesday, January 11, 2006

TC's Costello done for season

For the second time in about a week, the Traverse City North Stars have lost a veteran forward for the season to injury.

Zeke Costello suffered a fracture to a key wrist bone during Saturday’s contest at Mahoning Valley when he was checked from behind in the second period by Phantoms forward Mike Maltese. Costello was placed in a full-arm immobilizing cast and was officially ruled out for the rest of the season by the North Stars medical staff on Wednesday.

“It’s really unfortunate for him because this is it for him in his junior hockey career,” said Traverse City head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “But it’s like we told him: We’re on to Plan B now. We’re going to call as many schools as we can and he’s going to have to walk on wherever he goes.”

Costello, one of the few North Stars players with North American Hockey League experience under his belt, came to Traverse City from Texarkana this season. He registered five goals and 12 assists over the course of his 30 games with the Stars. In 2004-05, the 5-9, 175-pound front-liner netted five goals, nine assists, and 85 penalty minutes in 45 contests.

Costello says the timing of the injury couldn’t have been worse, but that he’ll continue to work toward his ultimate goal of playing collegiate hockey.

“It’s pretty hard to believe; I’ve been playing hockey for 16 years and with one of the biggest tournaments of my life coming up (the Jan. 19-22 NAHL Showcase in Boardman, Ohio), to end my junior hockey career like this is … pretty hard to take.

“But I’m not going to sit around and pout about it – I gotta deal with it. I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay in contact with schools and get better for next year.”

Costello had been contacted by a number of NCAA schools this season, and his play at the October showcase in Blaine, Mn. made him extremely visible to scouts. He says he harbors no ill will toward Maltese, a former teammate of Costello’s over the years.

“I talked to him (Maltese) after the game, and I know he didn’t mean to do it. It was just a battle for the puck. He’s a guy I have a lot of respect for, not the type of guy who would injure another player intentionally.”

The nature of the injury is perhaps the most troubling aspect of Costello’s situation. While the scaphoid bone – a kidney-shaped bone at the base of the thump which allows complex but delicate movements of the hand -- is a smallish component of the wrist, it is one of the most difficult skeletal areas to properly heal. When fractured, it eliminates the oxygen-rich blood flow to the area. North Stars medical director Eric Niezgoda says the injury can take as long as three months or more before a player can utilize any range of motion in the affected limb.

“It generally requires a long-arm cast for a period of 6-8 weeks, then they generally go to a short-arm cast for a minimum of four more weeks,” he explained. “It’s basically the lock-key to the wrist and is highly dependant on the blood flow.”

Costello says he’ll be sad when he takes his leave of Traverse City.

“I’ve loved my time here,” he said. “I’m not leaving right away, I’m gonna stay a couple of weeks and say my good-byes before I wear out my welcome, but the people here have just been unreal. From the fans, to my housing parents (George and Judy Prewitt), to people who just recognize you and say ‘hi.’ It’s been a great place to live and play and I will really miss it.”

ICE CHIPS: The North Stars are in the midst of a roster re-tooling in advance of the Jan. 15 trade deadline and Feb. 10 roster freeze. Forwards Marc Thompson and Danny Dries moved on to play midget major for the Soo Indians and Victory Honda, respectively, while Ryan Bond, Joe Schweiger, and Brett Englebright have settled into roster spots and could well sport the interlocking ‘TC’ for the residual of 2005-06.

Bond and Schweiger were linemates for the Motor City Chiefs of the Junior B Central States Hockey League, where they were among the league leaders in scoring. Bond amassed 14 goals and 28 assists in 23 games with the Chiefs, while Schweiger had 21 goals and 17 helpers in 24 outings.

The North Stars signed a second tender for 2006-07 in Soo Indians midget major forward Kory Kanuisto. Kanuisto played at Sault Ste. Marie Area High School and is a current teammate of local products Brian Banducci, Scott Ponstein, and Eric McClintock.

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