WEST GOSHEN >> The stats were almost overwhelming. The Unionville girls ice hockey team came into Thursday’s ICSHL girls championship game against Downingtown West with 18 straight wins, eight by the 10-goal mercy rule. Their lowest margin of victory was four goals and their lowest goal total in a single was six.
But, that didn’t matter to Downingtown West. Despite having lost twice before to the Indians by a 14-6 margin, the Whippets put up a valiant fight that nearly culminated in a shock upset.
Kaitlyn Anderson broke a tie with an early third-period goal and Unionville withstood a power play late in the stanza to hold on for a 3-2 victory over the Whippets in the championship game at Ice Line.
The Indians captured their second straight title, and go into next week Flyers Cup with a perfect 19-0 mark.
“Holding the trophy is very nice,” said smiling Unionville senior Madison Doucette as she carried the team trophy into the locker room.
But, as they say, it wasn’t easy.
The game was knotted at 2-2 when Hannah Close and Kaitlyn Anderson broke in on a 2-on-1. Close held the puck until the last possible moment, then fed Anderson, who beat West goalie Tamara Boboige.
Unionville held West at bay until a golden opportunity for the equalizer presented itself, as Doucette was whistled for a penalty with 3:45 left. Despite having four shots with the extra skater, West was unable to score as the Indians killed off the penalty.
“Sitting in the box, I was having a lot of anxiety there,” said Doucette. “Definitely not a position I wanted to be in. It wasn’t the best penalty to take. I really give it to my team for killing that off.”
“It was obviously our closest game of the season,” added Doucette. “To be that close was kind of uncomfortable. They gave us a great game. They have a really balanced team.”
The best chance came as the penalty expired when Jordan Hower ripped a shot that met the crossbar with an emphatic clang.
Unionville held the puck in West’s end for most of the last minute, denying them a chance to get an extra attacker on the ice until the final seconds.
“This is exactly what we strive for from the beginning of the season,” said Unioville coach Dave Elvin. “We wanted to be here and this was just a magical season. This is team is so deep, it doesn’t matter what players we have on the ice, we have full confidence in them. Hats off to Downingtown West. They did a great jod preparing for us, but in the end, we’re very glad that Unionville reached our goal for the season, to defend the league championship from last season.”
Early on, Unionville was sneaking a player behind the Downingtown West defense while the puck was in their end. It didn’t work the first few times, but the third resulted in a goal as Kaelen Speck was all alone in front and tapped in the backdoor pass past Boboige for a 1-0 lead.
That lead barely lasted a minute, however, as West captain Delaney Carle came streaking down the left side, and snapped a shot over goalie McKenna Myles’ left shoulder to tie the score.
It was the first time all year the Indians were playing without the lead.
Their advantage was restored with 6:23 left as Claire Donovan flipped a rebound over Boboige.
The Indians started to assert themselves more in the second, as they started to control the puck more and gained a territorial edge. But, West kept them off the scoreboard, and took advantage of some sustained presuure.
After a couple of keep ins at the blue line, the puck found its way to Julia Barbato alone in front. She made no mistake in sniping a shot past Myles for a 2-2 tie with 5:17 left.
Being in an unexpectedly close game didn’t just make the Unionville fans jittery.
“That’s probably the most I ever had anxiety sweats in my life,” said Myles. “It was very intense.”
Now, though, with a close win under their belts, the confidence level for the Indians is through the roof.
“I love a good game,” said Allie Ward. “This is fun. And I love playing Downingtown because of that. I love the intensity they always bring for us. I’m grateful that we were able to get the win.”
Unionville 3, Downingtown West 2
Downingtown West 1 1 0 – 2
Unionville 2 0 1 – 3
Downingtown West goals: Carle, J. Barbato.
Unionville goals: Speck, Donovan, Anderson.
Goalie saves: Boboige (DW) 28, Myles (U) 19.