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Year-End Question and Answer Interview with Allen Coach and General Manager Chad Costello

Monday, May 22nd
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– I had a chance to sit down with coach and general manager Chad Costello to get his thoughts on the just completed 2022-23 season and his plans for the 2023-24 season. Costello will be starting the second year of the three-year contract he signed when he was hired a year ago. To say it was a challenging year would be a gross understatement. The obstacles Chad had to overcome from the day he moved from the locker room to the coach’s room to the final game of the season were off the charts. Over and over again he had to deal with major issues on and off the ice. It is a tribute to Chad and the team how they stuck together as a family and overcame all of the obstacles to make it to the final eight teams in the playoffs. A job well done!

Q: What are your thoughts on the series loss to Idaho?

A: I liked our chances going into the series. I thought with a full lineup and how healthy we were we could give them a run. We were the better team in game one of the series but ended up losing 5-4. If that game had gone our way, it is a different series, but we lost. We handed them two or three goals and we should have won that game. Game two was canceled because of the tragic shooting in Allen and to be honest I still haven’t really processed that with the impact on the families and the Allen area. I think I was protecting myself in not letting that in but will be thinking a lot about that this summer.

When the series shifted to Idaho for four games, I knew it would be a tough task. We hadn’t beaten them all year. I had confidence we could beat them, and our goal was to get the series back to Allen. Trailing 0-2 in the series we knew we had to turn the series physical. It was very clear we had to be a much more physical team to be successful. With our penalty kill being so good I thought it would be a good idea to go after them a little more, within the rules. We didn’t want to hurt anyone, but we wanted to hit, finish our checks and play more north-south with speed. The team bought in, and it worked with the 7-2 win in game three.

What we noticed is the way the games were being officiated it was very difficult to keep playing that way. We were taking penalties; we were short players and it slowly added up to what I consider is a terrible way to go out of the playoffs.

I wish we could have made Idaho earn it a little more, but at the same time our players were very tired. They did not give up. The scores may have looked like that, but they did not give up.

In the final game I thought we were playing well until we were called for several questionable penalties that resulted in six minutes of 5-on-3 time for them. At one point the penalties were 9-1 against us. I have never seen that before. I wish they would have given us a fair opportunity to win that game but in my eyes they did not. What can we learn from that experience? We need to adjust to the officiating.

Q: Is there anything you learned this season in dealing with the referees that will change your approach next season?

A: I wanted to be known as a coach that stood up for the players every time. Out of respect for Idaho and respect for the game and the series and given what the score was at in the last game, I opted not to stick up for the players with the referees and it haunts me to this day. After telling the players all season I would stand up for them and have their back every single time, I did not do that in the last game. I didn’t want to be ejected out of respect for the game of hockey where you shake hands at the end of the series. I wanted to show respect for Idaho because they had a great season and they beat us.

As a coach and general manager will I look at how I treat referees and the league and officials differently, absolutely, I will look at everything. However, I will not stop standing up for the players. I would say for the most part I am respectful with the referees and talk to them kindly. In reflecting on the entire season, I will look at it as more of a process. If you continually fight for every single call it is exhausting. Maybe picking your battles is a better approach. That is something I have learned this season because otherwise it wears on you to be upset on every penalty.

I will say in the last game in Idaho, it wasn’t just all of the questionable penalties, it was the way we were being treated. The referees are in a position of power and the way they talked to our players was disrespectful.

Q: Despite the ending you have to be pleased with the season overall?

A: I truly thought we would win the whole thing. Even when we went down 2-0 in Idaho, I thought that if we could just get the series back to Allen we would win. I am thrilled from where we started, we were able to get to the division finals. I learned so much because we had so many injuries early in the season and rather than find replacement players, I tried to find players to fill in until injured players returned. That didn’t work as we lost at an incredible rate. What I learned is you have to try and win every single game. You can’t have the approach of let’s just get through this week or this month until the players return. You have to find good replacements right away and figure it out later when the injured players are healthy and return. I tried to buy time for injured players to get back and that is not how it works. You have to replace injured or suspended players right away or you are going to lose hockey games.

Q: How many future consideration trades do you have to settle before the June 20 deadline?

A: Two, Savannah owes us a defenseman and we owe a player to Norfolk.

Q: Did you do exit interviews with the players and what do you cover in exit interviews?

A: Yes, we did do exit interviews. The first question is always their summer plans, where they are going to be. Second question was what they liked about the season and what things did they wish went differently. It included everything from what happened on the ice to what happened off the ice from housing to the coaching staff and whatever else was on their mind. The third question was whether they would like to return or not and if we would like them to return or not. We also went over our plan to win the whole thing next year. We will be in contact with all of them during the summer. I can’t sign players until June 23.

Q: What are your thoughts as you build your team for 2022-23?

A: I hope to have a core group of 10-12 players back and work with our affiliate to increase the number of players assigned. If we can get the assigned players number up to just five it will be a big help in getting some good players but will also be a big help with the salary cap, which will help in recruiting. Our number one priority is defense. Our goal will be to find that 50-point defenseman that can control the game offensively and defend. The way we play and guys that want to return we won’t have any trouble with forwards that can find the back of the net. We do need to get faster, bigger and younger, no doubt about it. We can learn from Idaho who has a lot of players that can play different styles. Their leading scorers play very hard defensively, play fast and are big hockey bodies. In the playoff series their heaviness, hard work and grit outmatched our skill.

Q: How do you see Ottawa/Belleville fitting into your plans next season?

A: They have a plan and hopefully we will be part of that plan. The great thing is we built a good relationship with them this season. We would have had more players assigned, but they had an unusually large number if players injured. They visited Allen during the playoffs and the group included Ryan Bowness who is an assistant general manager for Ottawa and in that role is the general manager for Belleville. Bowness was very complimentary when he visited and thought the product in Allen was very good. The crowd that night was packed, the atmosphere was great, he liked our locker room, he liked our staff, he liked our pregame board, our meetings and he liked how Mandolese played. He seemed pretty impressed at what we have at this level.

Q: How do you plan to use you four veteran spots next season?

A: I plan on using all four spots. Veterans are a big key to success. They have to be good in the locker room and productive on the ice. We will look at our returning vets but also players around the league that become veterans after this season that will become free agents. There will be a lot of tough decisions with the veterans. With Hargrove now a vet we have five from last season ( Asuchak, Combs, Fournier, Hargrove, Saucerman,).

Q: How will your 3ICE season be different this season. It was a great networking and recruiting source last season. Do you expect the same this season?

A: I am really excited about it. There are a lot of new faces this year. Last season there were a lot of older retired guys. This year the lineups are very active players that are playing right now with a lot of them from Europe. I am excited to see them and expect to take a shot at a few of them. I am also excited to play because you never know when your last opportunity to play something like this will come along.

Personally, I am playing for a specific reason. My dad wanted me to play 3ICE one more time. If it wasn’t for that I may not have done it because I have a lot of stuff I need to work on. The season is shorter this season. It will be only four weeks (five if you make the finals) and the games are on Wednesday, so it works good with my coaching/general manager job. I will be hands-on in watching every single game and following all the players to see who might fit in. One cool thing is the week in Grand Rapids (July 12). All the players from Allen that are playing 3ICE will be in Grand Rapids (each week only half the teams play) plus myself so I will try and fight a few of those guys. haha

Q: What are you most looking forward to this summer away from hockey?

A: I have to go home to Iowa and see my dad’s stuff, clean up his life and his business. Not to get too personal, but I put that part of my life to the side during the season. I had to do that for the players, the job and my protection. It is now time to face the music so to speak, walk the streets we used to walk together and go over the memories with my siblings. All of the stuff I put to the side I am excited to face. I don’t know if I was scared to face them, or I was just too busy, but it is obvious to me and my family I buried those feelings and I am now excited to face them and see where I sit with the thought of my dad not being here anymore.

I am also excited to hang out with Ashley and the kids. It is weird because when I was a player I thought now that I am a coach, I will have more time but that was a false reality. The fact is during the season you have the same schedule as the players plus all the thing you have to do other than playing the game.

We are not the type of family that flies somewhere like the beach for a week. Too many activities in the summer for that. I am sure we will take weekend trips with the family to Colorado and/or the Ozarks.

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