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Letestu discusses postseason experience
Elk Point’s Mark Letestu of the Columbus Blue Jackets is back in his hometown following a first round exit from the NHL postseason at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We are going to be home for little under three weeks, we make this trip every year to wind down from a long season and to see our families and friends,” Letestu told the Journal. “The whole family comes . . . we all look forward to the short amount of time to be together as a family.”
The Blue Jackets may have fallen in Game 6 of the opening round, but this year’s postseason appearance didn’t come without its positives. Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio was buzzing with activity all throughout the series as the Jackets gave the powerhouse Penguins a run for their money.
Letestu said the exciting series was something the fans in Columbus deserved after a difficult start to the franchise.
“It's been a tough 13 years for the franchise as far as qualifying for the playoffs, so there is a void for hockey fans there to experience playoff hockey. It's good to hear that it came across on TV as a great atmosphere. It was the best atmosphere I have ever played in front of,” Letestu said of Nationwide Arena, adding the ferocity of the fans energized the team on home ice, especially in Game 4, which saw the Jackets overcome a 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 overtime victory. “The fans had waited a long time to show their support and they did themselves and the organization justice by what they provided for us. We didn't always make it easy to cheer for us by giving up big leads but they stood behind us when we were down . . . they energized our team to make comebacks.”
The best-of-seven series also saw Letestu pot his first career playoff goal in Game 1 to give his team a lead on the power play late in the first period, but as Letestu pointed out, celebrating personal achievements were the last thing on his mind.
“At the moment, it's a big moment just because of the timing of the goal, to regain the lead. It was a power play goal, which was something of a focus for our team, and goals are very difficult in the playoffs that every goal seems so important. But there was no extra satisfaction for me because it was against the Penguins or that it was my first playoff goal,” he said. “At that point in the year the personal achievements or accolades take a backseat and it’s all about winning as a group.”
While Letestu is still following the playoffs, he said his focus has largely shifted to the Blue Jays as the boys of summer have taken to the field, however he still does cheer on a few friends on other teams vying for the Stanley Cup.
“I do still watch or follow (the playoffs) but I am not glued to the TV like some. I am in baseball season now so the Blue Jays are getting probably to much attention if you ask my wife,” he said. “When I do watch hockey I don't cheer for any one team, I usually watch guys that I have met or friends on other teams and wish them to do well.”
Letestu reflected on his time playing as a member of the Elk Point Avalanche peewee team, and thanked all the parents involved in helping him, and his teammates, achieve success in minor hockey and beyond.
“I remember lots of great moments while playing in Elk Point, I was blessed to have countless parents volunteer to help drive to an from games, give up their own time to coach or manage, and obviously my own parents for giving me every opportunity, and then some to play,” he said. “In peewee we had a team make the provincial tournament in Fairview, AB, we didn't win but I remember it being a lot of fun playing for what it seemed at the time the biggest games we would ever get to play in.”