Gostisbehere’s balanced approach to defense paying dividends for Dutchmen

By DJ Powers

Shayne Gostisbehere - Union College

Photo: Union Coillege junior defenseman and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Shayne Gostisbehere ranks sixth in scoring for the Dutchmen with 31 points in 41 games (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has been a big reason behind the recent success of Union College. The Margate, FL native currently ranks second on the Dutchmen roster in scoring by a defenseman with 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 41 games to date. Gostisbehere also is tied for second on the team with a +26 rating. He logs among the most minutes of any player on Union College’s roster and plays in all situations.

Hockey’s Future caught up with Gostisbehere after practice on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA to discuss a variety of topics, including being a prospect of the 2014 Frozen Four host city’s NHL team.

Q: You guys beat Boston College on Thursday to advance to the National Championship game on Saturday night where you'll be meeting Minnesota. How did it feel to beat Boston College and what are your thoughts on playing Minnesota next?

SG: It’s definitely an honor to be in this situation (Frozen Four) because you never know when you’ll be back in this same situation again. My team’s been here twice and didn’t do too well the first time, but now we have just one more game and that’s for the National Championship. As a team, we’ve been taking it game-by-game and shift-by-shift. We know that Minnesota is a great team and has a lot of history. They haven’t been the number one team for the whole year for nothing. They’re a great team and we’re looking forward to playing them. It’ll be fun on Saturday night.

Q: In watching the team in this year’s Frozen Four compared to 2012, one of the things that I’ve noticed about the team as a whole is how much more cohesive you guys are. What I mean by this is that you guys play like a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows their role and what they need to do to help Union College win. Would you say that the experience has not only made the team better but also made the team that much closer as a group, as well?

SG: Oh definitely! We’ve been through some highs and lows this year. I remember being in the Frozen Four as a freshman in 2012 and I’d say that we were definitely a tight-knit group, but none of us had that experience before. Everything was new and just happening for us. Now, we have great leadership this year. Most of us have been here before and we have three ECAC Championships under our belt. The feeling here is just different because it’s more of a business approach. I don’t think we’ll be satisfied or celebrating until we have that (NCAA) title.

Q: One of the things that I’ve noticed in watching you play since arriving at Union College is how you’ve been able to develop a balance between your offensive contributions and taking care of the defensive side of the puck. Can you talk about how your game has evolved that has allowed you to find that balance?

SG: I feel that my game has matured because I’ve learned when to pick my spots. In my freshman year I would just jump in there whenever I could and my coach would call me “the renegade” (Laughs). Now, I’m just picking my spots in when it’s the appropriate time to jump up into the play, when to make an offensive play and when to make a defensive play. I think my game has just matured that way.

Q: In what area(s) do you feel you have made the greatest strides in your development since arriving at Union College?

SG: I’d say that it’s been in the defensive side of my game. My coaches have helped me tremendously with the defensive side of my game, especially when I first came here to Union College. They didn’t even touch the offensive side of my game. They worked with me on taking care of the defensive zone, defensive zone coverage and neutral zone play. It was just everything having to do with defense. I can’t thank them enough for it because it has really helped my development. My development as a defenseman is attributed to them because without them I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.

Q: When you first came to Union College, there had been some questions about your skating. Obviously, it’s vastly better now. Can you talk about the things that you’ve done since coming to Union College that has allowed you to significantly improve your skating?

SG: When I was little, I had a skating coach who was Russian and a lot of my skating early on was based on what he taught me. But these last four summers or so, I’ve been working with Paul Vincent in Massachusetts. He has really taken my skating to the next level. One of the things that we’ve been working on is not crossing over when I’m going backwards and going one-on-one. He also works a lot with me on keeping my feet together in an exercise called “steer step”. So I’m very thankful for what he’s been able to do for me and my development.

Q: I know that you’re a prospect of the Philadelphia Flyers, which of course is the (NHL) home team here. Did you attend their prospect camp last summer?

SG: Yes. I’ve actually attended their last two camps.

Q: What were some of the things that you learned from those camps that you’ve been able to bring back to Union College with you that has made you a better player?

SG: At these camps, you’re mostly learning about how to be professional. But some of the things that I’ve picked up are just some little things that you don’t normally pick up that have helped the defensive side of my game such as knowing if the forward you’re playing one-on-one with is left-handed or right-handed. It’s just those types of little things that you may not normally think about.

Q: Do you plan to attend their camp again this summer?

SG: Yes

Q: Have you had any contact with the Flyers this season?

SG: Oh, of course. Their (developmental) guys check in on me here and there and will congratulate me on games. They just check in on me to see if I’m healthy and if things are going well. Just stuff like that. They always tell me to just keep my focus on the team and just worry about what I have to do here. I really appreciate that.

Q: So it sounds like the Flyers are keeping a close eye on you but at the same time they’re also not getting in the way of what you need to do with Union College right now.

SG: Definitely. They just let me do my thing and do what I need to do to help my (current) team. It’s great having that kind of support from the Flyers organization.

Q: One of the unique situations for you being here as a Flyers prospect is that I’m sure there’s been a lot of attention thrust upon you since your arrival. Has it been easy or difficult for you to block that out and focus on why you’re here?

SG: I think it’s been pretty easy because I’ve got the best teammates in the world that just keep me grounded. They don’t let my head get too big (Laughs). The coaches definitely help me with that too. I’m grateful to all of them because I don’t know what I’d be doing right now without them. They all keep me humble and grounded.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF