WEST GOSHEN >> The sports landscape is littered with examples of teams having trouble backing up their performance quickly after an emotional win. The West Chester East ice hockey team added one more piece of evidence to that testimony.
The Vikings, coming off their upset win over top-seeded West Chester Rustin in Wednesday’s semifinals, had to come right back and face a team that was just as hot as they were in Downingtown East. Both teams were coming in fashioning lengthy winning streaks.
Alex Fox broke a scoreless tie in the second period and Jeff Cummings recorded 34 saves as the Cougars blanked West Chester East, 3-0, to capture the ICSHL Ches-Mont League title Thursday at Ice Line.
“Really excited, I’ve waited four years to get one of these,” said Collin Harple. “Was runner-up my freshman year and its been a long time coming. Everyone in that (locker) room deserves it.”
“It’s vindication for a lot of hard work and a lot of great leadership by our seniors,” said D-East coach Dave Hendricks. “I think these kids have been on quite a journey this year with ups and downs, but I really think we’re getting hot at the right time of the year.”
The win was the ninth in a row for the Cougars (15-3-2) and snapped a six-game streak for the Vikings.
“It is tough to get up night after night like that,” said W.C. East coach Eric Wolf. “We don’t have a lot of times during the season where we play back-to-back nights let alone three in four nights. Obviously with the emotion of beating Rustin, these guys used a lot of energy in that game. But, you have to tip your hat to our opponent. They’re a very deep, very skilled team. Our effort and desire were there. I can’t fault our effort at all.”
Despite having three power plays in the first period, the Vikings couldn’t score as the Cougars weathered the storm behind their goalie Cummings and strong team defense.
The Cougars received their first power play when Shane Stefani went off for hooking early in the second. The man advantage bore fruit when a Vikings defenseman fell trying to bring the puck out of his end, Justin Cohn scooped up the puck and found Fox alone in front. His 15-footer beat W.C. East goalie Joe Galitski inside the post on his left side for his 20th goal of the season, and a 1-0 lead, 2:36 into the period.
“The last two times we played them were very tightly contested games,” said Hendricks. “Just the sound of the puck rattling against the back was a very good sound to hear.”
D-East almost made it 2-0 later in the period in a fluky fashion. Eric Stankiewicz’s point shot went high off the end glass, but the rebound bounded out in front of Galitski, who had to be very alert to Stankiewicz on the follow.
Off they went into the third, and the Vikings had one of their best flourishes early as Nicholas Castura had two chances on Cummings, which he stopped first with his pad, then his left shoulder.
“The whole team played a great defensive game,” said Cummings. “I couldn’t get the shutout without these guys.”
The backbreaking goal came with 8:22 left, shortly after the Vikings killed off a penalty. Cohn got his second assist of the evening as he slipped a pass from left-to-right to a wide open Dan Stankiewicz, who slid it into the gaping net for a 2-0 lead.
A third came nearly two minutes later as Michael Bolger snuck a 15-footer through the arm of Galitski.
Cummings made 37 saves to tie a bow around the shutout.
“Jeff was absolutely astounding out there,” said Hendricks. “I think we played great, great team defense. That’s been our motto all year long, defense isn’t just two players, it’s not five players or six players, it’s the entire team.”
Both teams now head into the Flyers Cup next week, the Vikings will be the second seed in the A division, behind Rustin.
“I do,” Wolf said when asked how he liked his chances. “We got a No. 2 seed. We fought very hard for that seed and we like the draw. We’re ready to go.”
Downingtown East is seeded third in AA, behind Central Bucks West and Central Bucks South, but the Cougars enter with soaring confidence.
“These boys are confident but not cocky,” said Hendricks. “They are strong of mind, strong of body and strong of constitution. They are ready to go as far as they want to go.”
Downingtown East 3, West Chester East 0
West Chester East 0 0 0 – 0
Downingtown East 0 1 2 – 3
Downingtown East goals: Fox, D. Stankiewicz, Bolger.
Goalie saves: Galitski (WCE) 34, Cummings (DE) 34.