This article can be found published on the ChesCo Hockey Haven‘s website.
WEST GOSHEN — The outcome felt all but decided as Brett Christie’s shot from the blue line slid under goaltender Connor Carroll and across the goal line just as the horn sounded for a three goal West Chester Rustin lead over rival West Chester Henderson.
And that was to end just the first period.
“I heard them counting down and shot it as fast as I could,” Christie said. “I saw it go in and asked the ref to see if it made it (in time).”
A four-goal second period from Rustin for a 7-1 win in the Flyers Cup A Championship game Monday night assured the Golden Knights of a return trip to State College for the Pennsylvania State Hockey Championships in four days.
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Winning the Flyers Cup and having the chance to win another state title just add to the long list of hardware Rustin has compiled the last few years.
“It still feels like my first (championship), honestly,” said Rustin captain Michael Grande. “You strive for that all year. We’re a dynasty. We’re never going to go away. Like coach says, we don’t rebuild, we relive.”
From 2009 to 2014, Rustin has won a Ches-Mont title, four Flyers Cups and two state championships.
This year, the Golden Knights have already brought home the trophy from the Ches-Mont and Flyers Cup Championships and are going for what head coach Nick Russo calls the “Triple Crown” of hockey by winning the third title — the state championship.
“I’m amazed,” Russo said. “I just steer the ship through the icebergs and let them do all the work. I think it’s almost expected (to win championships).”
But in order to get to Happy Valley, Rustin first had to get through a tough opponent in Henderson, a team which it couldn’t beat during the regular season as the two teams could only tie each other.
But it was also a rematch of the Ches-Mont Championship game from just over two weeks before where Rustin finally gained the upperhand and did so again in the Flyers Cup.
“The guys sacrificed more,” Grande said. “They knew what was at stake and they knew that they were doing it for each other and not just themselves. That was a big part of (the win).
“It was surprising, honestly. I wasn’t expecting it to be that great of a score, but we got it done.”
Russo credits Christie’s second goal — the buzzer-beater — as the point in which Rustin took complete control of the game.
“You don’t get great goals like that on a goalie like (Carroll),” he said. “That’s a gift. That was the nail, I guess.”
Christie, who had a hat trick in the game, wasn’t the only player to step up in the win as junior Eric Flynn also had two goals, which came 14 seconds apart and on two goalies.
“If you put guys that work hard on a line with Brett Christie, they’re going to produce,” Russo said. “He has been out there taking the physical play and just winning battles to the puck and he’s one of the smaller guys on the team. He just comes out with the puck all the time. It’s amazing.”
Last year when Rustin returned to its second state championship game in three years, it faced the same team from 2012, who the Golden Knights felt stole the title from them.
Now that they are the defending champs, that same feeling of having a title taken away is still there, though they’ll be facing a new team in Mars come March 21.
“It feels like they still took it away from us because it’s a different season,” Grande said. “We still have one more (game) to get it back.”