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West Chester Rustin’s six-year Flyers Cup reign ends in loss to Palmyra

Palmyra’s (17) Gavin Buck and West Chester Rustin’s (92)Justin Demyan exchange high sticks going for a loose puck behind Palmyra’s net in the first period of Flyers Cup semi-finals Monday evening at Ice Line. (PETE BANNAN/MEDIANEWS GROUP)

WEST GOSHEN – Dynasties rarely succumb easily, and there is no denying that West Chester Rustin hockey fits the definition of a truly dominant reigning champion. And the team certainly did not go down without a battle.

The last time the Golden Knights didn’t win the Flyers Cup was all the way back in 2013. But it isn’t going to happen in 2020 as Rustin stumbled in its quest to win seven in a row, falling 5-3 to Palmyra in a Class A semifinal on Monday at IceLine.

“I really felt this team gave it all they had,” said first year head coach Ken Sheriko. “We wanted them to play hard for the jersey, and they really did. We would have liked a better result, for sure, but I am proud of them.”

The Knights season ends with a 14-7-3 record. Palmyra (16-2-1) advances to the Flyers Cup final on March 17, and will take on Hershey, who ousted top-seeded West Chester East 6-3 in the other semifinal.

“It’s obviously upsetting, especially for our seniors,” said Rustin junior Evan Yori. “I feel bad for them, but it was a good run every year for a long time.

“I felt like we had a lot of pressure to keep the titles going. It was difficult to keep it going especially with all the guys we lost last year.”

Rustin had trouble killing penalties against the Cougars, who scored three times with a man advantage. And the Knights even surrendered a shorthanded goal, erasing their only lead late in the second period.

“Penalties don’t help and we tend to take a lot of penalties. It really hurt us today,” Yori said.

“I really liked our play five-on-five,” Sheriko added. “(Palmyra) has a heck of a team and their power play was deadly. I thought that was the difference in the game, quite frankly. We blocked a lot of their shots, but they got a few through.”

Deadlocked 3-3 heading into the final period, Palmyra grabbed the lead for good at the 11:03 mark with its third power play of the evening, and it came with just six seconds remaining on the man advantage. Defender Evan Saxman’s shot from near the blue line found its way past Rustin keeper Joel Keller.

The Knights had plenty of opportunities to get the equalizer, but Cougars’ goaltender Jackson Bell was up to the challenge. Rustin wound up with a 40-29 edge in shots on goal, but Palmyra ended any comeback hopes with an empty net goal in the final 10 seconds.

“The last time we took a loss like this, it propelled us to something really special,” Sheriko pointed out. “We will take this and build on it.

“Seven years ago we lost in double overtime to West Chester East with a very young team. Since then, we haven’t given the (Flyers Cup) title back. It was a heck of a run since then.”

The Knights parlayed a nice start into an early lead when Yori corralled a missed shot by Aaron King to open the scoring 2:44 into the first quarter. Rustin wound up with eight shots on goal before Palmyra had its first.

But the momentum waned when the Cougars scored a pair of power play goals just five minutes apart late in the period, to lead 2-1 heading into the second.

Yori notched his second goal midway through the second period on the power play, and then three minutes later, Rustin took the lead when Alex Crook exited the penalty box, got behind the defense and scored on a nifty breakaway move.

But Palmrya fought back to knot it at 3-3 with a shorthanded goal with 2:26 on the clock.

“It was a big moment in the game,” Yori said.

“It was just a broken play and they got an opportunistic bounce,” Sheriko added. “If there was one play in the game, that’s the one we’d like to have back.”

There were a lot of long faces in the Rustin locker room, and more than a few tears were shed. But afterwards, Sheriko made it a point to praise his seniors, who helped the Knights win state crowns in each of the previous three seasons.

“I am proud of our seniors,” he said. “They had an unenviable task. We graduated a big class last year, and as a result this was a very young team. They’ve been part of a really great run.”

Palmyra 5, West Chester Rustin 3

Palmyra                                2 1 2 — 5

W.C. Rustin                          1 2 0 — 3

Palmyra goals:  Ziemba, Saxman, Page 2, Schmidt.

W.C. Rustin goals: Yori 2, Crook.

Goalie saves: Bell (P) 37; Keller (WCR) 25.

 

 

 

 

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