University of Maine senior right wing and center David deKastrozza is not one-dimensional. According to Black Bears’ men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead, “He’s good at everything.”
A big, power forward not previously known for his scoring touch, deKastrozza already has three goals and six assists and serves on both special teams units as well as taking faceoffs.
“He’s really emerged for us as a complete player,” Whitehead said. “He’s really come into his own this year.”
DeKastrozza is a bruising forechecker and a formidable presence at the net front on the power play. His six-foot-three-inch frame allows him to screen the opposing goaltender and finish rebounds.
“He’s most valuable because he can effectively wear a lot of hats for us,” Whitehead said.
After helping the Black Bears to their most recent Frozen Four appearance as a freshman, the Toms River, N.J., native lost most of his sophomore season to a torn ACL and struggled to contribute consistently as a junior.
DeKastrozza carried a positive outlook into his final season as a Black Bear, despite still searching for his first career goal. DeKastrozza wasted no time getting that monkey off his back as he found the back of the net in UMaine’s home opener against Michigan State University.
“I really wanted to leave everything on the ice this last year,” deKastrozza said. “Just to get one goal this year was a little higher than my expectations. To get three, it’s been a really good year.”
The goal was particularly significant for deKastrozza because Michigan State was the team that eliminated UMaine from the NCAA Tournament when he was a freshman. DeKastrozza said the Frozen Four was his fondest memory as a Black Bear.
“I look back on that and that was the best couple of games of my life,” deKastrozza said. “Hopefully we can get back there this year.”
DeKastrozza’s success as a senior comes as the culmination of three seasons of determination to make the most of his ability. Even as a junior he was in and out of the lineup and notched just one point, an assist, in 20 games.
“He’s had some tough breaks, and he’s fought through them,” Whitehead said. “It didn’t come easy for him.”
DeKastrozza played in 21 of 40 games as a freshman, topped only by former classmate Teddy Purcell who played in all 40 games. He contributed three assists, including one in the NCAA East Regional.
DeKastrozza’s knee injury knocked him out early in his second season and required season-ending surgery. He finished with just eight games under his belt.
“That was definitely one of the hardest years,” deKastrozza said. “I had some friends off the team that helped me get through it.”
DeKastrozza is comfortable in his role as a checking forward and was not concerned with the elusive first career goal or that his offensive stats were not progressing. He maintained a positive attitude despite his misfortune.
“It was kind of on my mind every game I played,” deKastrozza said. “But I’m not really a point producing player, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
The four members of UMaine’s senior class — deKastrozza, Brett Carriere, Kevin Swallow and Dave Wilson — have all overcome adversity to earn lineup spots. Carriere and Swallow have battled injuries and Wilson has served mostly in a backup role all four years between the pipes. None have emerged as a headline player of the team, but all thrive in their responsibilities and add experience and knowledge to the young nucleus of the Black Bears.
“I’m really proud of our senior class this year,” Whitehead said. “They’ve really established themselves each in their own way with significant roles on our team.”
DeKastrozza said he looked up to seniors Michel Leveille, Keith Johnson, Josh Soares, Brent Shepheard, Mike Hamilton and Mike Lundin when he joined the Black Bears and said each member of that group brought something different to the team.
“I definitely learned a lot of leadership skills,” deKastrozza said. “Not just hockey, but life lessons also with school.”
DeKastrozza feels his actions on the ice have a greater impact than his words in the locker room. Whitehead agreed that deKastrozza’s leadership style is fitting.
“You’ve got to be true to your personality,” Whitehead said. “Dave’s doing exactly what he should, which is leading by example. He’ll speak up every once in a while, and when he does, guys are listening.”
Whitehead saw unpolished potential when he recruited deKastrozza out of Culver Military Academy in New Jersey. DeKastrozza was the team captain in his final year at the prep school and scored 45 goals in 87 games spanning two seasons. DeKastrozza also considered the University of Massachusetts and West Point.
“He caught my eye right away as a guy who was oozing of potential,” Whitehead said. “We felt that in the right program he would keep developing and improving like he did at Culver.”
DeKastrozza is unsure if more hockey is on the horizon after he graduates in May or if he will utilize his degree in Finance. Whitehead has noticed a progression in deKastrozza’s discipline to balance a challenging major with his hockey commitments.
“David has made a tremendous commitment to improve his GPA and his perspective on college academics,” Whitehead said. “I’m really proud of him.”
DeKastrozza said he is grateful for the opportunity to play for the Black Bears.
“It’s definitely an honor to say that I played here,” deKastrozza said. “The friendships that I’ve made are going to last a lifetime.”