After playing their 29th game Saturday night, the Idaho Steelheads will enjoy a break for the Christmas holiday.
Their next game is Saturday at Bakersfield.
The break will allow forward David de Kastrozza to fulfill an important mission: Hes going home to Seaside Heights, N.J., to visit his father, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in late November.
Ive been looking forward to it since I heard the news, de Kastrozza said. I wasnt planning on going home, but once I found out that news, I definitely had to get back there.
Coach Brad Ralph said de Kastrozzas teammates have rallied around the forward in the wake of his news.
Obviously, thats a pretty big blow to Dekes family, Ralph said. I like to think we all pick each other up in down times, and I think thats been the case with him.
De Kastrozza, who played four years of college hockey at Maine, considered returning to New Jersey immediately after hearing his fathers diagnosis.
I think he wanted to go home, but his dad told him to stay and play, Ralph said. And I think hes played with another gear to his game.
The numbers back that up. De Kastrozza had one goal and two assists in 16 games prior to Dec. 1. Since then, hes tallied five goals and two assists in the eight games prior to Saturdays 2-1 shootout loss to the Las Vegas Wranglers.
Its nice to finally contribute, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound 26-year-old said. I feel like Ive been getting the chances the whole year, but its nice to actually start burying them and get on a bit of a roll.
The timing of his offensive surge is a bit of a curiosity.
Im definitely not as focused on hockey as I maybe should be, de Kastrozza said. But that could be a plus: Maybe Im not overanalyzing everything.
Either way, Ralph said de Kastrozza has been earning his keep.
Hes been the consummate team player, Ralph said. Hell do anything. Hell play defense, hell pitch in with scoring and hell do whatever he can to help our team out.
For the next few days, however, de Kastrozzas goal is to help his family out.
Im going home to try to lift (his fathers) spirits a little, he said.
Said Ralph: Im glad he can go home and see his dad and just have some good family time over the holidays.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424