Minutes after Downingtown East captured its first-ever Pennsylvania Cup (Class AA), defeating Plum 3-1 in the championship final Saturday afternoon at Robert Morris University Sports Center in Pittsburgh, D-East head coach Dave Hendricks talked about what it meant to him and the rest of the Cougars.
“When the game ends, you try to hold back your tears of joy, but they came out anyway, flowing like rivers,” said Dave Hendricks. “Winning the first state title for Downingtown [East] means everything to us.
“I feel [happy] for all of our kids, the sacrifices that they made all season long to get to this [championship]. There is no classier group of players and coaches that I’ve ever worked with than this group.”
It was the third time in the state finals for Downingtown East, which lost to Greater Latrobe in 2010 and fell to Erie Cathedral Prep in 2015.
Saturday, the Cougars took a 1-0 lead nine minutes into the game and led the rest of the way. Downingtown East led 3-1 at the end of two periods, and outshot Plum 32-24 for the game.
The victory capped a dominant post-season by the Cougars in which Downingtown East outscored its four Flyers Cup opponents by a combined total of 30-4.
Downingtown East’s high-scoring senior forward Collin Harple said, “Winning the state title is really a cool feeling, particularly as a senior. It’s been a great season for us – we won ChesMonts, then the Flyers Cup and now this.”
Nine minutes into Saturday’s state final, East’s Justin Cohn scored, with assists from Harple and Alex Fox, to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
“It was a clean breakout,” said Harple. “I got the puck to Alex, who gave it to [Cohn] in the middle. We felt sure that we were going to score [soon], that it was just a matter of time.”
At 10:33 of the second period, Cougar senior Jonathan Carreiro scored an unassisted goal to put Downingtown East ahead 2-0.
“I think the most exciting goal of the game was Carreiro’s,” said Harple. “Even though he hasn’t scored a lot of goals for us this year, he’s been getting the job done for us, he grinds, and he does well defensively. It was good to see him score, particularly in a game like this.”
Hendricks said, “We received very good, strong leadership from all six of our seniors, who all contributed to our success – Collin Harple, Jonathan Carreiro, Matt Hall, Harrison Layne, Patrick Sterritt and [goalie] Jeff Cummings.
Cummings, who came into the contest with a 1.36 goals-against average in the post-season, made 23 saves Saturday.
“Jeff is the glue that has kept our team together for the past four years,” said Hendricks.
At 13:04 of the second period, Plum scored its lone goal of the game, tallied by Nolan Puhala and assisted by Dillon Joyce (his 10th assist of the post-season).
Just three minutes later, Downingtown East regained its two-goal lead when Cougar junior Luca Pisani scored on the power play, assisted by Layne and Eric Stankiewicz. It was Pisani’s 10th goal of the post-season.
“Luca has been huge for us in the post-season, he keeps producing in the clutch,” said Hendricks.
Downingtown East shut down Plum the rest of the way, and picked up its first state title.
“We have a deep squad,” noted Harple. “We have three lines that we can run, and everybody on our team buys in defensively.”
Downingtown East 3, Plum 1
Downingtown East 1 2 0 — 3
Plum 0 1 0 — 1
Goals: DE: Cohn, Carreiro, Pisani. PL: Puhala.
Assists: DE: Harple, Fox, Stankiewicz,, Layne. PL: Joyce.
Saves: DE: Cummings 23. PL: Benitez 29.