This article can be found published on the ChesCo Hockey Haven‘s website.
WEST GOSHEN — It may not be as sweet as winning another State Title, but West Chester Rustin will still relish being able to call itself the 2015 Ches-Mont Champions after beating rival West Chester Henderson 4-2 Thursday night at Ice Line.
“It was a pretty hard game,” said Rustin forward Tommy Sloan. “We all played well though and we put it together and did what we had to do to win. It feels amazing to be champions again.”
Just as the first game of the playoffs, Rustin had to fight back in the game after going down just 53 seconds into the game after a goal from freshman Tommy Aughey.
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But Rustin didn’t let it rattle the bench, though they trailed until early into the second period.
“It’s always difficult when you’re playing a West Chester team because there’s always a lot of energy going in there and a lot of emotion, but I though we performed well out there,” said Rustin forward Kyle Mullin. “We played good team defense and good team offense.”
It was the perfect match-up for the Ches-Mont title as it pitted the defending State Champs in Rustin against the defending Ches-Mont champs in Henderson.
Not only that and the fact they are West Chester rivals, but in both regular season games between the two, each match ended in a tie.
“Tying a rival team is not fun — you always want to win,” Sloan said. “Winning a championship game is always the best. The team played well and came out with the win.”
After knotting the game up at off a goal from junior Eric Flynn, senior defenseman Michael Grande had two chances to give his team the lead, but each time caught nothing but iron.
The third time, however, was the charm for him as a shot from the blue line 34 seconds into the last period gave his team a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game.
“Our kids played really well,” said Rustin head coach Nick Russo. “(Henderson) got off to that first goal, but we bounced back and fought hard. It was two great teams who are well coached. I’m proud to come out the winner.”
Though things did become a little hairy in the dying minutes of the game as Henderson’s Jarrett Slear pulled his team to within one just as goaltender Connor Carroll was being pulled for the extra attacker with 1:26 left in the game.
“I try to stay pretty calm (on the bench),” Russo said. “I try to keep the same pose, tone and posture the whole game. I think it’s important because I think the kids look at that.”
The calmness worked as Rustin sealed its win and the championship with an empty-net goal from Sloan.
It’s just another step for Rustin as the team looks to repeat as State Champions starting next week with the Flyers Cup tournament.
“We have five more (tough games) now, hopefully,” Russo said. “It’s going to be like that all the way through. There’s a whole new season now.
“Before the game, we talked a little about horse racing and the Triple Crown. The Ches-Mont is part of the Triple Crown. The Flyers Cup is another leg and then the State Championship is the third. Affirmed is the last horse in 1978 to do that and we’re actually the last team to do it in 2009. It’s hard to do.”
It may be hard to do, but Rustin is now one step closer than anyone else this season.