Phil Anastasia: Eustace goalies have a symbiosis

Football teams can have two good running backs.

No problem.

Basketball teams can have two good guards.

No sweat.

Baseball teams can have two good outfielders.

No issue.

But it's different when it comes to ice hockey teams and goaltenders. It's one position that isn't designed for two good players.

"There are certain positions in sports when it isn't easy to coexist," Bishop Eustace Prep ice hockey coach Mike Green said. "Quarterback. Softball pitcher. And usually, you would say goalie in ice hockey."

It's a special season for the Crusaders for a lot of reasons, from a deep, talented forward line to a sturdy set of defensemen to the presence of 12 seniors with a strong commitment to the program.

But perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the No. 1 team in the state is the goaltending situation: The Crusaders have two sensational seniors who are unfailingly supportive of each other.

"We're such good friends," said Nick Casella, who made 20 saves yesterday in Bishop Eustace's 10-0 victory over Don Bosco Prep in a Gordon Conference game at the Flyers Skate Zone in Pennsauken.

Casella is one half of the Crusaders' goaltending combination. Kyle Van Osten is the other.

The goalies start every other game. And when one is between the pipes, the other is on the bench, banging the wall in support of good saves and offering between-period advice.

"We always have each other's back," Van Osten said. "We pick each other up. It's not a rivalry. It's a competition, but in a good way."

Great goaltending is one reason the Crusaders are 13-1, with a 13-game winning streak, and a 10-0 mark in conference play. The team has allowed just 13 goals all season, and is working on an active, four-game shutout streak.

"We're trying to keep it going," said Casella, who will move to the bench and cheer for Van Osten when Bishop Eustace takes the ice today against Seton Hall Prep in West Orange.

The unique arrangement could be a problem for a team with the talent and experience to win the state championship. It's easy to imagine some possible issues: jealousy, resentment, a splitting of the team into opposing camps.

But the Crusaders have turned the situation into a team strength.

"It's really helped team chemistry, because they basically are best friends," Bishop Eustace senior defenseman Sam Gerulsky said. "We've got two great goalies, and they both stand on their heads. But the big thing is that they always support each other."

Van Osten transferred from Eastern to Bishop Eustace as a sophomore. He didn't play much at first, but it was clear to Green last season that the team had two standout goaltenders, and that both deserved to play.

Van Osten was hurt a bit last season, and Casella ended up being named the goalie of the year in the Gordon Conference. But the two split time through the end of the regular season, and in the state tournament, and the rotation has continued.

"I don't mind," Casella said. "It's a good situation. We push each other to play better, but in a good way."

Casella was sharp yesterday, especially in the first period. Don Bosco Prep generated 12 shots and had some good chances on the power play, especially a five-on-three advantage.

But Casella made save after save, and Van Osten banged the wall and yelled "Yeah, Casella," after the best ones.

"I love it when he makes a great save," Van Osten said. "He's the same way with me. We're goalies. We have that in common. We like the pressure.

"But we also like to see our team do its best and our teammates do the best they can, and that's why we support each other so much."


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia

at 856-779-3223