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Hockey: Springfield’s first loss a humbling one

ASTON >> One of the most anticipated contests of the high school hockey season failed to live up to its billing. Instead, it served as a reminder that there’s West Chester Rustin … and there’s everybody else.

That group would include previously unbeaten Springfield. The four-time defending Flyers Cup A champion Golden Knights struck 1:55 into the game and didn’t stop scoring, on their way to a 10-2 non-league victory Monday night over the Cougars.

“I think we approached it as a big statement game,” Rustin captain Connor Lapps said. “That even though Springfield was (unbeaten), we can still compete with teams like that. We’re going for another Flyers Cup, and this is the way to do it.”

The Knights simply possess more depth than any rival. Eight different players found the back of the net against the Cougars. Consider that Bryan Widdis opened the scoring at 14:05 of the first period, then, thanks to penalties, didn’t see the ice again until late in the frame. He scored on the first shift of the second off a slick pass from Justin Demyan.

It doesn’t matter who Rustin coach Nick Russo throws out there; they all can play.

“We made it difficult on ourselves to compete and things started snowballing,” Springfield coach Phil Eastman said. “But, with that said, they’re a terrific team. They move the puck well. They all skate. They make it difficult to get anything going. We learned a lot tonight.”

The Cougars (13-1) struggled to match the Knights’ pace from the get-go. They were hemmed in their zone for nearly two minutes before Widdis’ opening marker. Soon Willem Einthoven added a second — his first of the year — and Demyan started to put things out of reach with a breakaway goal. It came shorthanded, a back-breaker.

“I think it was a little of both,” said Eastman, when asked if it was more Rustin’s dominance or Springfield’s struggles that led to the lopsided score. “I don’t think that we handled things too well. I think we got on our heels early, did a little too much watching the puck instead of trying to make things happen.”

The Knights (10-1-1-2) pounced on every opportunity, and not only with their big guns. Sure, top-scorer Nicholas Ferraro bagged his 23rd of the campaign on the power play, but he was aided by a seemingly endless supporting cast. Widdis’ goals were his fifth and sixth. Robert Crook scored his fifth when he converted unassisted in the second period. John Harkins added his fourth and fifth goals of the season and defenseman Jack Page got his third.

“It’s really good,” said Evan Greenberg, who had a goal and two assists. “We don’t always rely on our big players, which makes it tough for teams to defend. We strive and feed on the fact that they can’t just cover one person and lock one person down.”

“Being able to compete with a really good team,” added Lapps, “and for our third and fourth line to be able to skate with them, compete with them and put pressure on their defense, is really impressive.”

The result was a total demolition. The Golden Knights outshot the Cougars 52-13. Geno Romolini and Dan Barrett each scored to give Springfield some sort of consolation. And Lachlan Plummer mixed in some excellent saves among his 42. But it’s back to the drawing board for the Cougars.

“First thing is, we have to have the right mental approach,” Eastman said. “We have to go into it knowing we have to compete. Everyone has played teams that are better than they are. So what do you have to do? You have to rely on your strengths.”

To be fair, Springfield was without Kevin Brown and his 23 goals due to illness. Still Eastman won’t let his team forget this result. He won’t “burn the tape,” in coachspeak.

“We remind them,” Eastman said. “Part of it is we play St. Joe’s Prep on Friday. It doesn’t get any easier. You have to learn from this, so we come back out. We got humbled. Now what do we do? The issue is not you got humbled. It happens to everybody. (It’s) how do we approach the next game?”

Rustin, on the other hand, will look ahead. The Knights are still the best team around. And there’s a reason why.

“We take it for what it is,” Greenberg said. “We played a good team. We beat a good team. You can’t look too far forward.”

In the South Division:

Delaware Military Academy 6, Bonner 1 >> Alex Maglio scored twice in a 1-minute, 44-second span in the first period to stake the SeaHawks to a 3-0 lead. Maglio also had on assist. Lukas Cook led DMA with two goals and two assists.

Jakob Moleski convered a pass from Pat Jensen for Bonner’s lone goal.

Girls Hockey

Kaila Booth and Sarah Peichel tallied two goals each in the first period as Penncrest-Haven rolled over Rustin, 10-0.

Booth and Peichel finished with three goals apiece. Maeve Hiehle added two goals and one assist and Kristin Pennoni chipped in with two goals. Goalie Riley Harkins made seven saves for the shutout.

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