WEST GOSHEN — It was exactly the type of game you'd expect from two 5-2 teams with a consistent high-intensity pace and hard hits, but it was West Chester Rustin who triumphed over Downingtown West by a score of 5-4 in an Inter County Scholastic Hockey League game Friday night at IceLine.
"It was a really good effort and I was missing my two best players tonight,' said Rustin head coach Nick Russo. "It was a great game. Both teams played great.'
Rustin came into the game with a bit of a sour taste in its mouth since the last time they faced Downingtown West, when they blew a five-goal lead and lost.
"We just held that to our heart and took it back out on the ice and tried to give it back to them,' said sophomore forward Brett Christie, who had five points (three goals, two assists) on the night.
It was a heated battle between the two as both sides took liberties after the whistle, and on numerous occasions there was pushing and shoving after the whistle. Russo tried to keep his team's cool by setting the example for them.
"I just tried to keep expressionless and keep focused,' Russo said. "The team kind of goes as I go. When coaches lose their cool and go crazy, the team starts to unravel. Thirty years of doing it, you just stay focused and keep everybody focused, too.'
From the drop of the puck, the pace of the game never slowed, but it was evident Downingtown West had more jump.
Sophomore defenseman Simon Butala needed just 4:08 to score for Downingtown West, but Rustin thought they had tied it up at 7:57 when senior forward David Dunn took a shot while falling to the ice that crossed the line, but the officials said the net became dislodged right before.
With 20.6 seconds left in the first and on the power play, junior forward D.J. Barbato skated down the right wing boards and went top shelf to give Downingtown West the 2-0 lead.
Rustin was able to get itself on the board with a 2-on-1. Christie skated around a defender and wristed it by junior goaltender Thomas Cliggett 3:34 into the second to pull within one.
But Downingtown West regained the two-goal lead at 12:56 when sophomore forward Alec Higgins, planted in front of the crease, just squeaked a rebound by the pipe.
In the last minute of the second, Barbato was run hard into the boards and immediately skated off the ice clutching his shoulder. He was able to return, but a slap shot from the point sent him back off the ice in pain.
Down 3-1 heading into the third, Rustin wasn't going to let the game slip away as two goals 55 seconds apart in the first two minutes of the game knotted it up at 3-3.
Cliggett thought he had covered the puck with his glove on a Rustin power play, but Christie stripped the puck away and deposited it into the open net and the freshman forward had the tying goal off a 2-on-1.
It was back-and-forth after that, but with Downingtown West on the power play, Christie gave Rustin its first lead of the game on a short-handed breakaway and went top shelf with 4:48 left in the game.
With 2:05 left, Cliggett came out of the crease and misplayed the puck as he tried to get the puck up the ice and out of harm's way, but Sloan tapped it over the goaltender's stick and it bounced into the empty net to give Rustin the 5-3 lead.
Downingtown West pulled Cliggett for the extra attacker and with 45.4 seconds left, sophomore forward Chris Fabry pulled his team within one, but it was too little too late as Rustin took the win.
"[The comeback] shows a lot of heart, character and discipline,' Russo said. "We got big games from our big players, like Christie.'
W.C. Rustin 5, Downingtown West 4
W.C. Rustin 0 1 4 — 5
Downingtown West 2 1 1 — 4
W.C. Rustin goals: Christie 3, Sloan 2.
Downingtown West goals: Butala, Barbato, Higgins, Fabry.
Goaltender saves: Grande (WCR) 14; Millichap (WCR) 1; Cliggett (DW) 19 saves.