Downingtown East avenges last year’s upset loss to Downingtown West

DOWNINGTOWN — Mike Risser felt the pain of losing to Downingtown West last season.

In one of the biggest upsets of 2014, the Whippets rallied to upset Downingtown East in the fourth quarter, capped with an amazing save in the final seconds by West goalie Alex Ataaiifar to preserve the win.

Risser and the rest of the Cougars sought revenge against their crosstown rivals since the loss. Thursday night, the Cougars finally earned vengeance.

“We had a bitter taste in our mouths all year,’ Risser said. “It didn’t matter if the win was big or small, we beat West. This is a night I’ll remember forever.’

Risser certainly had a night to remember with two goals in leading Downingtown East to a 5-3 win over Downingtown West in a Ches-Mont League showdown at DiSerafino Stadium.

The win keeps the Cougars (4-1 league, 5-3 overall) a game behind Bishop Shanahan and Avon Grove for first place in the Ches-Mont. The Whippets (4-1 league, 5-4 overall) fell into a tie for third with East, but the Cougars hold the tiebreaker via the head-to-head win.

Brody Wilson had another supurb effort in the cage for East with 10 saves, seven of which came in the second half. Wilson did not allow a goal in the final 17:01, which gave the Cougars the opportunity to take the lead and hold it.

According to East head coach Todd Cliggett, it was just another big night for his top goalie.

“He’s a big kid so he’s big every night,’ Cliggett said with a laugh. “When we break down on defense, every time Brody bails us out. He’s unbelievable.’

While Wilson was strong in the cage in the second half, his one blemish forced East to take a timeout with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Dave Gallagher fired home his second goal of the night as the Whippets rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to tie the game 3-3. After Gallagher’s 23rd goal of the season, East huddled before the ensuing faceoff to remain calm as its lead was swept away.

“We just told ourselves to keep pushing and playing our game,’ Wilson said. “The only thing we were doing wrong was making some sloppy mistakes. We just need to clean those up.’

The huddle worked as the game did not remain tied for long. Eight seconds to be exact.

Nolan Little won the faceoff and tossed the ball over to Drew Rafferty, who fired a shot past West goalie Carson White to give East the lead for good at 4-3 with 4:53 left in the third.

Minutes later, the Cougars earned a man up from a West penalty. Risser made sure they took advantage.

Jack Mulachy fired a sensational cross-field pass from the right of the cage to Risser. Once the pass split between three West defenders, Risser fired the one-timer past White to make it 5-3 with 2:30 left in the third quarter.

Once Risser scored his 14th of the season, he fired up the East sidelines with jubilation of his goal. He admitted that goal was enough for the Cougars to finish the job.

“That was a big momentum swing for us,’ Risser said. “After they went three unanswered, those goals were able to drive us the rest of the game. When you got the best goalie in the Ches-Mont (Wilson) holding teams to under five on most nights, it’s big. It’s amazing when you have him and our defense to finish it.’

The Whippets were able to muster seven shots for the rest of the game, but had trouble getting a clear look with Jake Peden, Saunders Healy and the East defense providing constant pressure with that two-goal lead.

“In my opinion, I got the best back four in the state,’ Cliggett said. “With three Division I players and a Division I goalie back there, it doesn’t get much better than that. It helps when you have a lead.’

West showed its determination to get back in the game midway through the second quarter with Carson White. White had two huge saves in the first half to keep the Whippets down three goals. As the score remained 3-0, that was a deficit West could overcome with Gallagher and Conner Leahy providing the offense.

The Whippets comeback fell just short in the end, but they are one of the biggest surprises in the Ches-Mont this season. West already has one more win than 2014 (five) and are in contention for a district playoff berth.

East is also in contention for a district berth along with the title as well.

For one night, Wilson and the Cougars were not thinking about those goals. Just the one game that’s been in their heads since last season.

“We definitely got some revenge tonight,’ Wilson said. “It’s always great to best West anytime.’

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