This article can be found published on the ChesCo Hockey Haven‘s website.
HATFIELD — Friday the 13th will never be known as bad luck for Downingtown East as the Cougars — who were, coincidentally, the 13th seed in the tournament — claimed the Flyers Cup AA Championship Friday night at Hatfield Ice World.
A three-goal third period lifted the Cougars to a 4-1 win over No. 3-seed North Penn for their first Flyers Cup title since 2010.
“It’s unreal right now — it still hasn’t kicked in,” said D-East captain Bobby Kiefer. “We had a rough first two periods, but we found ourselves there in the third period.”
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Even though Downingtown East was out-shooting North Penn 25-11 through two periods, the game was only tied at 1.
“We had control, but we weren’t the team we were these past couple days,” Kiefer said. “We found ourselves in time (and) put a couple quick goals in.”
Head coach Dave Hendricks credits the longer intermission between the second and third to helping his team regroup.
“We came out a little slow, but the ice cut was a blessing for us,” he said. “We had a chance to refocus. The guys that scored just came through in the clutch. They played great team defense and this is the first time we’ve really played true defense this whole entire tournament.”
And the clutch players who came through Friday night weren’t the names you typically see on the scoresheet, such as Joey Kubachka and Jack MaGee.
Instead, the hockey gods called upon players such as Justin Cohn and Luca Pisani, who both scored their first goals of the tournament.
“We win and lose as a team,” Hendricks said. “You can’t go any other way. If you’re going to win the Flyers Cup and win at States, you can’t just do it with one line. I’m proud of all the guys.”
It can be hard to believe that, while standing on the ice holding the trophy and banner, Downingtown East got off to a bit of a rough start at the beginning of the season, losing four of its first six games.
“It’s crazy,” Kiefer said. “We knew what we were capable of all along, but it took a while to finally get the wheels turning. Now that we finally did it, it’s incredible.”
Goaltender Jeff Cummings said he could sense a change in the locker room around the turn of the year when the wins started to pile on.
“The feeling definitely changed,” he said. “We did start off a little slow, but once we got a rhythm, we didn’t stop.”
You could easily say the Cougars were able to get hot just at the right time and then hit the ground running once they entered the tournament playoffs.
So much so, in fact, that they were able to score six goals in every round before the championships while giving up just two or less.
“We worked hard all season long and it just comes to show how hard we worked in these playoffs and how we’ve been beating all the teams,” Cummings said.
Being in the AA bracket, Downingtown East was viewed as one of the outsiders, since the majority of the teams in the tournament are from Bucks County.
It could be part of the reason why the Cougars were seeded so low, forcing them to have to not only get out of the play-in round, but face top teams the whole way through.
“We proved everything,” Hendricks said. “You can’t beat a 1 seed, a 3 seed, a 4 and a 5 seed without proving something. A lot of kudos goes to our Ches-Mont league — playing West Chester East twice, Rustin twice, Henderson twice, Unionville twice. All these great teams, playing them over and over again helped us be ready for playoffs.”
To prepare for the State Championships in a week, Hendricks will make the long, almost five-hour drive to Pittsburgh to watch the Penguins Cup Championship game between Cathedral Prep and Armstrong to see who their opponent will be.
The kids, however, will take that time to focus on setting a new goal — one which Downingtown has never achieved before.
“At the beginning of the season we said our goal was to win the Flyers Cup,” Hendricks said. “We’ve been slowly building, slowly building and slowly building. Even though we took a couple steps back (during the season), tonight we achieved our goal. Now we get to set another one a week from now.”
Note: Flyers Cup MVP Kubachka, the tournament’s leading scorer, was named to the all-tournament team along with fellow Cougars Pisani, Cummings and David Rosati, along with Alex Peterson and Jake Heckenberger from North Penn.