West Goshen Twp. >> West Chester Rustin’s revelry broke the silence seeping from Springfield’s locker room. The Knights, 4-1 winners over the Cougars in the Flyers Cup A Final, congregated in the narrow hallway from both sides, each player punctuating his entrance with a shout. They’ve been through this routine before. This was Rustin’s third consecutive title and fourth in five seasons. The newest West Chester school is an established hockey dynasty.
“It was one of those games,” fourth-seeded Springfield coach Phil Eastman said. “They’re a terrific hockey team. They did a real good job getting back.”
The back-breaker came a little more than 10 minutes into the second period. Up 2-1 and on the power play, Rustin’s Derik Semetti and Hayden Karnick broke into the Cougars’ zone on a 2-on-1. Semetti faked a shot and feathered a pass to Karnick. Springfield goaltender Calin Losacco, who made 27 saves in defeat, read the play. He used every inch of his 6-3 frame to stretch across the goal line. Karnick’s one-timer hit his toe.
The play wasn’t over. Losacco scrambled to cover the puck, but couldn’t find it in a crowded crease. Brett Christie did. His turnaround wrist shot beat Losacco and spotted the Knights a crucial two-goal lead.
“It put us behind the 8-ball,” said Eastman, using a favored hockey cliche. “Sometimes the puck doesn’t bounce your way.”
The sequence epitomized the Cougars’ plight; they needed to be almost perfect Friday night.
For a while, they gave second-seeded Rustin a good run. The Knights took the lead 2:32 into the first period on Christie’s rebound goal. Springfield countered seven minutes later through its talisman.
Tyler Riddle circled Jason Grande’s net before throwing a no-look pass in front. Freshman Aiden Smith buried it on the backhand. The assist was Riddle’s 102nd, and last, point in his outstanding senior season.
He had his chances to build on that total. After the Knights struck twice in the second — first on Joel Sheriko’s marker, then on Christie’s second goal — Riddle nearly brought the Cougars within one. He found space at the Rustin blue line and took a Jimmy Schickling pass in on a breakaway with less than a minute to play in the period.
Whether it was bad ice or good goaltending, Grande thwarted Riddle’s deke. The break was Springfield’s lone odd-man rush of the evening. The Knights played airtight defense.
“They had a lot of good forecheckers,” Cougars defenseman James Spence said. “They pressured every puck. They just seemed to get the best of us.”
Still, Springfield clung to life between periods.
“We thought, even before the third, if we could just get the next goal,” said Eastman, “just get it to 3-2 we could have a chance.”
The Cougars responded with their best 17 minutes. They out-shot Rustin 9-6. Riddle fired just over the net on his first shift of the period. Another chance hopped over Andrew Astrino’s stick as he camped out in front. Mark Rodgers’ wrist shot took two deflections then trickled wide. Every attempt went begging and Springfield (20-4) soon paid for it.
Karnick scored off the rush to ice the game with 4:17 to play.
With seven goals and five assists in four games, Riddle collected Flyers Cup top-scorer honors. He returned to the Cougars last fall for nights like this if not results.
“Ty was everything,” Spence said. “He helped everyone out. All the little things he told us. He was the heart and soul of the team.”
Riddle was named to the All-Flyers Cup team as was Schickling. The Knights’ Christie received the Bobby Clarke Award as the most valuable player.
Springfield has now lost its last four trips to the Flyers Cup Final. Two years ago, the Cougars watched as Rustin started this run. They were witnesses again Friday as it continued.
“I told them there’s no shame in what you accomplished,” Eastman said. “They worked hard. And we gave ourselves a chance.”