Moment in the Sun
Florida-born Freshman Has Come A Long Way
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
TAMPA, Fla. Playing in the Frozen Four is special for any college hockey player, but this year's event will be a little extra special for Union's Shayne Gostisbehere. The freshman defenseman is the only player among the final four teams playing in his home state this week; he grew up four hours away in Margate, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale.
"It's amazing. I have a lot of family coming," Gostisbehere said of the experience. "There's actually a lot of people who follow hockey in Florida. It's fun to be here and fun to come down here to play hockey for once."
More and more college players are coming from Florida, just like more and more are coming from places that are similarly new — like Southern California and Texas. But Gostisbehere wasn't inspired by Sun Belt NHL hockey teams like Tampa Bay and Florida, but rather by his older sister's figure skating exploits.
While Gostisbehere has grabbed some headlines simply because he's from Florida, his on-ice performance is much more noteworthy. As an 18-year-old true freshman, he has compiled five goals, 17 assists and a plus-17 rating to establish himself as one of the best rookie blue-liners in the country.
Gostisbehere went through a bit of an adjustment period early in the season, which was to be expected not only because he was a freshman, but also because he came straight from South Kent School in Connecticut and didn't play any juniors.
He moved to Connecticut in high school in order to go to a good school that also had a good hockey team. Union was one of the first schools to recruit him, and Gostisbehere said he decided almost right away that it was the place he wanted to go.
"It's definitely a big difference," Gostisbehere said of the jump to Division I. "You can get away with things in prep school that you can't get away with here. That's what they changed when I first got here, was the defensive side of my game. That was the first thing they fixed. They didn't touch my offense. That was the biggest thing I needed, was to work on my defense. The coaches have just stuck with me throughout the season and taught me what to do."
Gostisbehere, whose strengths are his skating and passing, has also gotten plenty of help from some of his veteran teammates. He has played next to junior Greg Coburn — one of Union's best defensive defensemen — pretty much all season. On road trips, Gostisbehere rooms with senior captain Nolan Julseth-White.
"They're definitely big brother figures, both of them," Gostisbehere said. "They've supported me all year. They've taught me everything."
Julseth-White said that teaching Gostisbehere has been easy, because the freshman has been receptive and willing to listen. In fact, he called Gostisbehere "one of the more mature guys on the team" despite his age.
"He brings a lot of energy, that young love for the game," Julseth-White said. "He brings it to every practice, every game. Just rooming with him on the road all year, he's matured into quite the young hockey player. When we started out, he was very quiet. Once you get him talking, now he doesn't stop. But he's definitely matured a good amount as the season's gone on. He's made a great impact on the team."
That impact has only increased down the stretch. Gostisbehere has 13 points in Union's last 15 games and has become a player that coach Rick Bennett can rely on in any situation — be it power play, penalty kill or the final minute of a close game. As a result, Gostisbehere finds himself playing a big role in the first-ever Frozen Four in his home state.