WEST GOSHEN >> Winning a fourth straight Pennsylvania Cup title has been like a carrot dangling in front of West Chester Rustin. The Golden Knights are now, not only close to getting the carrot, but the entire salad as well.
Rustin accomplished one more step in that procession as the Golden Knights cruised to their fourth straight Flyers Cup A division title game with a comfortable 5-1 victory over Hershey in the semifinals at Ice Line on Wednesday.
“We see Hershey every year, it seems like,” said Rustin coach Nick Russo. “They’re a really good team. They’re always well prepared and their goaltending is excellent. They have some real quality players.
“I think we just wanted to come in and play our game, but we just stuck to the gameplan and wore them down late in periods.”
The top-seeded Golden Knights will skate against a very familiar foe in second-seeded West Chester East in the final at Ice Line on Friday.
Rustin didn’t take very long to have its top line stamp its superiority in the contest. A little less than two minutes in, Matt Owens was sprung for a breakaway after corralling a pass from Tommy Sloan. He faked goalie Aaron Dobrolsky to the backhand side, then slipped the puck past him to take the quick 1-0 lead.
The backbreaking sequence came late in the period. First up, Ian Strasinski put Rustin ahead, 2-0, as he streaked in off the left wing and fired a shot past Dobrolsky. Then a mere 13 seconds later, Nicholas Ferraro knocked home a rebound off a Stravinski shot. Instead of the Trojans feeling they were in it down just 1-0, they were gasping for a lifeline going into the second.
“Those are gifts,” Russo said of the two late-period goals. “The first minute and the last minute of a period is the time you don’t want to give up a goal. And to get two of them in that time is a gift.”
Rustin continued to smother Hershey, though goals were harder to come by.
Both goalies made timely stops to keep both teams off the scoresheet. Jason Grande, who wasn’t very busy on the night, recording 13 saves, had his best sequence midway through the period. He came up with a clutch two-save sequence, the second of them was a right pad save off Brady Bowman, who was wide open in the middle, about 12 feet from Grande.
“We played really good team defense, that’s been our secret during our run,” said Russo. “Defense wins championships, its pretty simple.”
The Golden Knights got on the board on a Benjamin Meisinger wrist shot with more than five minutes left.
The Trojans averted the shutout as Sammy Steele, who was frustrated by Rustin for most of the game, dented the net on the power play to make it 4-1 with 12:33 left.
“Christian Juliana really contained Steele pretty well,” said Owens.
Owens’ second goal of the night late in the period capped another impressive performance from Rustin, and from his line.
“We moved the puck pretty well,” Owens said. “We cycle it well, get it out of the corner and look for a shot.”
Their march to history continues Friday. They have won four of the last five Flyers Cup titles. The one year they were beaten out for it — 2013 — it was East that hoisted the trophy.
“We just want to be there,” Owens said. “Hopefully, we’ll win.”
West Chester Rustin 5, Hershey 1
Hershey 0 0 1 – 1
W.C. Rustin 3 1 1 – 5
Hershey goal: Steele.
W.C. Rustin goals: Owens 2, Strasinski, Ferraro, Meisinger.
Goalie saves: Dobrolsky (H) 32, Grander (WCR) 13.