This article can be found published on the ChesCo Hockey Haven‘s website.
After building big leads, both the Indians and the Cougars suffered collapses on the ice which cost them on the scoreboard, though each did gain a point in a 5-5 finish in a EPIHA Ches-Mont game Monday night at Ice Line.
“We didn’t lose our work ethic, we just played stupid and lost down on defensive zone coverage and really broke down down low and just let them score,” said Unionville senior forward Matt Kowash, who had a hat trick in the game.
After trailing 2-0 very early into the second period, Unionville (5-2-2, 5-4-2) mounted a comeback which featured five unanswered goals to carry a 5-2 lead late into the third.
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The fifth goal prompted Downingtown East (5-4-1, 6-5-1) head coach Dave Hendricks to call timeout with 5:55 left in the game.
“We (told) them they have to get back to basics,” Hendricks said. “A lot of these kids come from these club teams and they think they’re these amazing players because they’re playing against guys their own age. With a young team like this, they run into a couple seniors on the other side that are bigger, stronger and faster and you can’t skate through them.
“You have to move the puck. The thing we kept telling them was to get the puck off their stick and put it on net. Things happen when you get it off your stick. Win as a team rather than as a group of individuals.”
From that timeout, Downingtown East made its push on Unionville, scoring three goals in the span of 3:53.
The tying goal came off the stick of sophomore forward Joe Kubachka with 24.4 seconds left in the game while on a 6-on-5 with goaltender Jeff Cummings pulled.
“We just got unmotivated, but we got it back,” said defenseman Luca Pisani, who notched a hat trick in the game. “(Kubachka) is really good. It was amazing.”
For the Indians, however, giving up three goals in the closing minutes of the game left quite a bitter taste in their mouths.
“It’s definitely tough to swallow, especially blowing a lead like that in the last five minutes,” Kowash said. “It’s tough to do in the whole game, let alone the last five minutes. We came back after 2-0. We were short on the bench, but we still worked hard, but in the end we let down.”
Unionville, who is still dealing with injuries and sickness amongst players, had to switch up a few positions.
“We threw forwards back on ‘ D’ that aren’t used to playing defense,” said Unionville head coach Bill Hammond. “It’s tough when you’re throwing kids back on ‘ D’ that are normally playing offense and they’re some of our better offensive players.
“You make mistakes and that’s what happened. All their goals were screened shots except maybe one. You can’t have that. You have to clear kids out and our forwards aren’t used to having to do that in front of the net. It’s a shame. You’re up 5-2 on a team, you should finish it.”
Though Downingtown East was able to battle back in the game, it was overall still frustrating to have put themselves in the position to have to fight.
“They played great for the first 10 minutes and played great for the last five and everything in between was just a crap sandwich,” Hendricks said. “They’re better than that and they know they’re better than that. The reaction that I got at the end was a, ‘ Phew, we got out of there.’
“They all know they didn’t play their best. They had to rely on skill at the end rather than heart. That’s frustrating at times, but they all know where they need to go next. They know the next step. It’s going to be if they can take it.”
Even after it all, and though there isn’t too much to be happy about, Hendricks could leave the game and his players on a good note.
“I’m proud of them for coming back (and) tying it up,” Hendricks said. “But that’s a game you prefer to get two points out of instead of one, especially with the way the league is this year.”
Unionville isn’t as positive heading home, regardless of the tie.
“It feels like a loss,” Hammond said. “We have a lot of talent in that locker room. The kids play hard and we can obviously score goals, even with being down so many of our key players. It’s something you learn from for the future and that’s what they’ll do. They’ll take it and learn from it, but it just feels like a loss.”