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INSTANT CLASSIC: Prestayko’s goal in 5th OT lifts Downingtown East to another state title

WEST GOSHEN >> It was the longest game of Ryan Prestayko’s life, he said.

It was the greatest game they’d ever seen, everyone said.

By the time Prestayko settled matters with a long blast from above the faceoff circle at 2:34 of the fifth overtime, sending Downingtown East to a 3-2 victory over Penguins Cup champion Armstrong for the Cougars’ second consecutive Class AA state hockey title, no one had played a longer game in Pennsylvania state championship history.

Prestayko’s blast was the 46th shot of the game for the Cougars — and most importantly, the last for either side.

“I got a pass from Eric (Stankiewicz)… he set that all up,” said the sophomore Prestayko.

Prestayko didn’t seem able to say much else, except that the game was a highlight of his career and life to this point.

“Ryan doesn’t have any idea how big a goal he just scored,” said Downingtown East coach Dave Hendricks. “Might take a while for that one to sink in.”

For the Cougars, it was the fourth consecutive overtime victory as well, dating back to the Flyers Cup quarterfinals. They finish the campaign with a record of 20-5.

For everyone else in attendance, it was an event they’ll remember for years to come.

“I’ve been in hockey for 35 years, coaching for 20… and I have never seen, or been a part of a game like that one,” said Hendricks.

Downingtown East weathered most of the third period without captain Luca Pisani — off for a misconduct penalty for head contact — and withstood the first nine minutes of overtime without registering a shot on goal.

By the second overtime, the Riverhawks of Armstrong began to tire as well — but they weren’t alone. The period was highlighted by several discussions between officials, players, and coaches attempting to decide just how much time they would have to get fresh players on the ice. As the game pressed on past the 70-minute mark, the answer inevitably seemed to be “not enough.”

“There comes a point as a coach where you can’t say anything else,” said Hendricks. “All you can really say is ‘We gotta make a play.’”

And yet they played on, through a third and fourth overtime that featured opportunities of varying degrees for both sides. At the start of the fifth OT, Downingtown East nearly ended it, as a shot hit Armstrong goalie Ryan Bowser’s pads and caromed over the crossbar.

Just a minute later, Prestayko left no more to chance when his blast ended the longest game in Pennsylvania Cup history.

Both goalies turned in yeoman efforts, with Bowser stopping 43 shots for Armstrong and Matt Shandler stopping 50 for Downingtown East.

“I felt like it was a matter of time the whole overtime period — but we weren’t capitalizing,” said Shandler. “When we finally did… it’s amazing.”

It may have seemed like days ago, but in reality it had been only a few hours since Luca Pisani got the Flyers Cup champs off on the right foot, making the game’s first shot count at 2:55 for a 1-0 Downingtown East lead.

Armstrong needed only about five minutes to respond, as senior forward Easton Hooks fired a shot from just inside the blue line past East goalie Matt Shandler to knot the score. A fairly even first period saw Armstrong come away with slightly higher-quality scoring chances and a 9-4 edge in shots on goal.

Downingtown East got the game’s first power play early in the second period, but the teams went to 4-on-4 after East’s Pisani took an interference penalty to thwart a shorthanded breakaway opportunity. 27 seconds later, Armstrong captain Jacob Gross struck to give the Riverhawks a 2-1 advantage.

In the meantime, the stifling Armstrong defense was busy holding Downingtown East to one shot of net over a 15-minute stretch of play that started after the Riverhawks’ first goal. Downingtown’s best opportunity was called back after the net came off its moorings a split second before a Dan Stankiewicz wrist shot found the twine.

When East did break the slump, they did so in grand fashion, as Jack Barton redirected Max McAllister’s point blast past Armstrong’s Ryan Bowser, knotting the score at 2 a little more than halfway through the period.

Bowser bounced back quickly, robbing Mike Bolger from the slot and turning away an Eric Stankiewicz blast on the power play just before the team headed to the locker rooms.

From there, the two teams would battle through over an hour’s worth of hockey with nary a goal registered—and they did so with everything on the line.

“All I told my players is that I’m proud of them,” said Armstrong coach Lee Grafton. “They gave it everything they had today. We just didn’t want to see our season end like this.”

On the other side, Hendricks expressed compassion for Grafton and the Riverhawks, fully acknowledging how easily the roles could’ve been reversed.

“They have a heck of a team, and they played a great game,” he concluded. “But from where we started, to where we are today — the sky is the limit for this program.”

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