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West Chester Rustin captures record-setting 4th straight Pennsylvania Cup

West Chester Rustin captains Tommy Sloan and Jason Grande celebrate the Golden Knights’ fourth straight Pennsylvania Cup title Saturday.

West Chester Rustin made history Saturday afternoon, defeating Franklin Township 2-1 in overtime to capture its fourth straight Pennsylvania Cup title (Class A division).

According to Rustin head coach Nick Russo, no team from eastern Pa. has won four straight Pennsylvania Cups. Several teams from western Pennsylvania have done it, including Meadville (1993-1996) and Bishop McCourt (1994-1997).

Rustin had to really battle for this one. After West Chester East took the Golden Knights to four overtimes in the Flyers Cup final, Rustin fell behind Franklin 1-0 in the first period of the Pennsylvania Cup, held at Robert Morris University Sports Center in Pittsburgh. Franklin lost to the Golden Knights in last year’s state final, 6-0, and was aching for revenge.

Fortunately for Rustin, the Golden Knights’ Brett Turner scored at 14:26 of the second period to tie the game at 1-1, with an assist from Nicholas Ferraro.

“Brett’s goal was a huge lift for us,” said Russo. “We had been outshooting Franklin, but they were a good team, playing good defense. For one of our defensive men [Turner] to jump into the play and score was huge.

“I think we loosened up a little after his goal – it was like a weight off our chests.”

After the second period ended with the score tied 1-1, Russo gave his squad a brief oration in the locker room. It was a talk that sophomore Matt Owens, who scored the game-winner, remembered well.

“Coach Russo compared us to a lion, and told us that we won’t stop until we have it all,” said Owens, a big-game performer who scored a hat trick in the Golden Knights’ 6-0 in last year’s Pennsylvania Cup.

Rustin outshot Franklin for the game, 38-29, but the score still remained 1-1 at the end of regulation. Just before regulation ended, the Golden Knights were hit with a delay of game penalty.

“Going into two minutes of overtime down a man (5-4) is a tough situation,” said Russo. “But our team has a lot of heart, a lot of character, and I think our experience in big games pulled us through those two minutes. When those two minutes were over, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief, and then we started working on the game-winner.”

Just 3:07 into overtime, Owens scored the winning goal, with an assist from Ian Strasinski.

“I could see the [upcoming] goal developing with Owens,” said Russo. “It was like watching a slow-motion movie – once he split the defense, I knew it was over.”

Owens said, “After Ian passed it to me, I beat one defenseman, went to my backhand and knocked it in. When I saw it go in, I was really excited and my first reaction was that I wanted to hug Jason [Grande] – he saved a lot of shots for us in overtime.”

Grande, who saved 62 shots in the four-overtime Flyers Cup final against West Chester East, stopped 28 Franklin shots Saturday.

“It was a great feeling to win this game and get out of Pittsburgh,” said Grande, who pitched a 6-0 shutout in last year’s Pennsylvania Cup final. “We had a lot of new guys step up this year. Winning it for the fourth time is a good feeling – we have a powerhouse of an ice hockey team.”

Grande reflected on the Golden Knights’ penchant for winning in overtime down the post-season stretch: “I think it’s the [heightened] atmosphere of the games, and that we make the simple plays, we play simple hockey. We don’t make [big] mistakes.”

Russo said, “We had excellent leadership this season from guys like [senior co-captain] Tommy Sloan, [senior co-captain] Jason Grande, [senior] Matt Widdis and [junior] Connor Lapps. We’ve got seniors with lots of experience who don’t know what it’s like to lose.”

West Chester Rustin 2, Franklin Township 1
West Chester Rustin 0 1 0 1 — 2
Franklin Township    1 0 0 0 — 1
Goals: WCR: Turner, Owens. FT: Mauro.
Assists: WCR: Ferraro, Strasinski. FT: Huffman, Sliva.
Saves: WCR: Grande 28. FT: Soltesz 36.

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