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WEST GOSHEN — Downingtown East High School ice hockey team coach Dave Hendricks pulled aside defenseman Ryan Knight before the game to have a 10-minute conversation with him on Friday night.
The senior wasn’t producing as he normally would through the first eight games of the season.
That all changed against West Chester Henderson in an Inter-County Scholastic Hockey League game, as Knight netted two goals to help lead the Cougars to a 6-4 victory.
“We literally challenged him before the game,” Hendricks said. “He’s been struggling this year and we know it’s there.
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“We told him, ‘ You need to do A, B, C and D.’ Well, tonight he did A, B, C, D, E, F and G. He did everything we asked him to and then more and we are so excited that he got to turn his whole season around in one game.”
Downingtown East also got a huge game from freshman forward Joe Kubachka, who scored three goals in the offensive explosion. Knight came very close to a hat trick of his own in the contest, but was stopped on a breakaway by the Warriors defense.
Downingtown East has been known in past seasons for being a defensive-minded team, but Hendricks has been preaching offense all year and it showed on Friday.
“We had to change and get used to a lot of new things,” Hendricks said. “It’s good to see that we’re finally coming around to it.”
Kubachka opened the scoring for the Cougars 38 seconds into the game by crashing the net and getting a rebound.
Knight followed up with a beautiful, turnaround backhander after a giveaway in his own end by sophomore defenseman Dylan Knox at 11:39.
Henderson was able to get on the board after freshman forward Dylan Teeter caught freshman goaltender Jeff Cummings off guard coming around behind the net with 3:17 left in the first.
However, another strong period from Downingtown East in the second resulted in two more goals.
Kubachka rang his shot off the post, but Knight took a shot of his own from along the right wall to increase the lead back to two 1:13 in. Another rebound led to a goal from senior forward Trevor Cohn 2:56 later.
However, Henderson was able to answer back once more late in the period, this time from senior forward Chandler Liero, who was waiting back door for a pass from sophomore forward Jarrett Slear with 23.2 seconds left.
Henderson tried to mount a comeback when they drew within one off a backhander from senior forward Kyle Wicka 4:01 into the third to make it 4-3.
But a power-play goal and a rip from the top of the right circle 3:26 apart from Kubachka sealed the win for Downingtown East.
Wicka added one more for Henderson at 10:33, but the Cougars were able to withstand the 6-on-5 with the empty net.
“The kids played really hard tonight and smart — smarter than they have all year in terms of locking onto players and locking onto positions,” Hendricks said. “The two seniors [Knight and Cohn] just absolutely led the team and carried the whole team tonight.”