(BEN NELMS for UBC)

UBC Thunderbirds forward, Emily Costales. Photo Credit: Ben Nelms for UBC.

VANCOUVER, B.C – In a season full of new faces the UBC Thunderbirds are a team looking to connect, and find the right chemistry as they gear up for the second half of the Canada West season in January. The 10-6-0 Thunderbirds haven’t quite hit their stride yet, but they are working hard, and building towards what could be a long playoff run.

One of the new faces this season is Emily Costales, a transfer from Syracuse University, the hometown winger is trying to fit in with a UBC team that has been there, and done it before. It has taken time for the Canada West rookie to find a role with the team, but Costales is finally settling in and contributing on and off the ice.

“I’m feeling a little bit better, I feel like coming in as a transfer, it’s kind of hard to find your role on the team,” Costales admitted. “I feel like the past few weeks, I’ve been able to grasp where I’m at on the team. Hopefully it just keeps building from there. I feel like I’ve just got to stay out of the penalty box, and play the role that I’ve developed here.”

When she is staying out of the box, Costales has been a special teams spark plug for UBC. Not only is she an asset when the team is killing a penalty, but she is tied for first overall in Canada West short-handed goals. Costales is always looking to dig out a loose puck along the boards, or battle for possession below the hash-marks. More often than not, she’s winning those battles, and helping UBC in transition.

“I try my hardest to be one of the grittiest players out there,” Costales said. “Just grind, and win every battle I can, just trying to bring a calming presence, and make the right plays, at the right time.”

Her dogged determination, and compete level have helped her rack up 4 goals, and 3 assists this season. UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas, isn’t surprised by what Costales has been able to bring to the team. He first coached her as an assistant coach when Costales was on Team B.C. in grade 12.

“She’s really coming on right now,” Thomas revealed. “She’s finding her game, and she’s playing confident. She plays with a lot of power, and energy. A power forward, but can also be shifty. We’re going to need her to continue to play the way she’s playing, and lead by example.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Emily Costales.

The support network for Costales was a big factor in her decision to move from ‘The Orange’ to the Thunderbirds program. Playing so far away from home was a new experience for Costales. In the end it made more sense to return home to her familiar roots on the west coast.

“I had a great time out in Syracuse, but I got pretty homesick,” Costales revealed. “There was some family issues and stuff. I decided to come back home, and play with some of my close friends, Celine Tardif and Brielle Bellerive. I’m living at home right now so, it’s really nice to settle back home and been with the family.”

Being able to play in her own backyard has helped Costales settle into her new surroundings with Thunderbirds. She has a huge family support network that you can often hear at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre cheering her on, and giving an earful to the referees.

“My mom, and dad are pretty much my biggest fans. I feel like my dad kind of brought me to where I am, he’s such a big support network, just himself. He’s a huge reason why I feel like I’m very succesful in sport. He’s just there whenever I need help. It’s just so nice to play in front of him again. I feel like I get extra hyped, because I know that they’re watching. It means the world to me, I love it so much.”

The Costales family will next have an opportunity to watch UBC on January 5 – 6 when the Thunderbirds host the Calgary Dinos at UBC’s Father David Bauer Arena. UBC will be hoping to start the new year on a positive note as they push towards Canada West playoffs and perhaps another trip to USports nationals.

“We kind of play it day, by day, because there’s so many new faces,” Costales said, when asked about USports nationals. “We’re trying to be true to the Thunderbird mentality, and whatever comes with that. That’s pretty much the end goal, to make it to nationals, but we’ve got to take it step by step.”

Costales and the ‘New Kids’ on the Thunderbird block will indeed be taking it, ‘Stept by Step’ this season.

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