West Chester >> Less than an hour after top seed West Chester East’s 6-3 loss to No. 5 seed Hershey in the Flyers Cup A semifinals Monday at Ice Line, Viking head coach Eric Wolf reflected on his team’s memorable season.
“I talked to our team after the game about the season, and the pride they had in what we were doing, the way they battled tonight,” said Wolf. “They came back from a [2-0] deficit against a very good team, that just kind of shows the heart they have, and they showed it all year long. And that’s all you can ask as a coach.
“We dealt with a lot of injuries late in the season, and we pushed through. Not many teams expected us to win our league, with the injuries we had. Winning the Ches-Mont League [title] was big for these guys, and it gave us a lot of confidence going into the Flyers Cup. We rode that wave a little bit, and tonight we ran into a team that maybe, pound for pound, was a little more talented and a little bit deeper than we were.”
In the first 13 minutes of the game, Hershey controlled the puck, enjoyed an 8-2 advantage in shots on goal and a 2-0 lead. But just 34 seconds after Hershey’s Jake Klass was called for slashing at 13:22, East junior John Conlon scored on the power play, with assists from sophomore defender Michael Cardarelli and sophomore forward Chase Becnel.
Conlon’s goal seemed to change the momentum in West Chester East’s favor. The Vikings began to control the puck in Hershey’s end, taking numerous shots on goal. At 5:04 into the second period, Becnel tied the score at 2-2 with a shot in front of the net, assisted by junior defender Joey Vagnoni.
“When we were down 2-0, we wanted to simplify,” said Wolf. “We were trying to do a little too much, trying to be a little too perfect. We thought we could move our feet a little bit better below the goal line, we thought we could cause them problems all night below the goal line. When we did that, we had success. We just didn’t do enough of it [in the first 13 minutes].”
The score remained 2-2 for the next five minutes, and just 10 seconds after West Chester East goalie Jake Godshall made a nice save, Hershey’s Hank Reed fired in his second goal of the game to put the Trojans ahead 3-2. Four minutes later, Hershey’s Jake Kloss scored to make it 4-2.
“Hershey is a very talented group, they have a very talented center in [Jason] Rippon, and we respect Kloss just as much,” said Wolf. “So we knew it was going to be difficult to go against a very talented team [in Hershey].”
West Chester East kept battling, controlling the puck in Hershey territory enough to make a number of tantalizing shots at the net (the Vikings finished with a 32-25 advantage in shots on goal), and when the Vikings’ Luca Touring fired home a scoring shot with a little over six minutes remaining, East was still in the hunt.
But just 76 seconds later, Rippon scored (his seventh goal of the Flyers Cup tournament) to put Hershey ahead 5-3. The Vikings soon pulled their goalie in an all-out effort to score, and Rippon scored a short-handed goal (his eighth goal of the tournament) with 1:43 left to make it 6-3.
Wolf said, “[Our players] never, never got too down on themselves; they battled through, and when we got it to [4-3] I felt we had the momentum, but we just got a little bit unlucky on an odd-man rush, but you can’t fault effort and you can’t fault the heart we had. We dealt with a lot of injuries late in the season, and we pushed through [tonight].”
For the Flyers Cup tournament, scoring leaders for West Chester East included Becnel (three goals, seven assists). Conlon (three goals, two assists) and Tristan DElia (three goals, three assists).
“I’ll remember how this team battled all season long,” said Wolf. “We play in the toughest division in the state, pound for pound. And to come out of that and go wire-to-wire – we were in first place [in Ches-Mont] the whole way – that’s not an easy task. It would have been great to put the bow on it and go all the way through the Flyers Cup, but it’s tough. You’ve got the bulls-eye on you for the whole season, it’s tough.”
Hershey 6, West Chester East 3
Hershey 2 2 2 – 6
West Chester East 1 1 1 – 3
Hershey goals: Kloss 2, Reed 2, Rippon 2.
West Chester East goals: Conlon, Becnel, Touring.
Goalie saves: HER – Larkin 29. WCE – Godshall 19.
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