WEST GOSHEN — The Unionville High School boys ice hockey team may have owned the best record in the Inter-County Scholastic Hockey League during the regular season, but the playoffs wipe everything clean.
The first game of the playoffs can be tough to get started in, and the first round match against No.9 Downingtown West was no exception, but Unionville came out on top by a final of 6-3 on Monday night at IceLine to advance to the semifinals. The Indians will face West Chester Henderson on Wednesday at IceLine with a berth in the title game on the line.
"It's a huge relief,' said senior forward John Kumpf. "The first playoff game is always the biggest. We've just got to keep focused and just play through every game and every shift.'
It took a little bit of time for Unionville to get into the game and head coach William Hammond thinks it may have to do with the disappointing loss Friday night in the last game of the regular season.
"When they come off a loss, it's not something they're used to since it's only the second time all year,' Hammond said. "You have a little bit of a confidence issue when you first get out there. We were holding the sticks a little together tonight than we normally do and playing a little tighter.'
Once things settled in and the goals started coming, the shift on the ice became evident.
"We got down 1-0 and they came back and fought their way back and really started to get it going,' Hammond said. "It was a tough game. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. We had to come there and battle and we were fortunate to come out on top.'
When it comes time for the playoffs, no one wants to be the one to make the costly mistake and the first few minutes seemed to be a feeling process for both teams.
No score would come out of the opening frame.
Someone who had been all over the ice to that point was Downingtown West junior forward D.J. Barbato, and it was no surprise that he scored first off a feed from behind the net by junior defenseman Joseph D'Ginto at 4:16 of the second.
It was followed up a little over a minute later by Unionville's senior forward Zachary Lyons. Senior defenseman Trevor Dycio picked up his own rebound and sent it over to Lyons waiting at the side of the net to tie the game. The same duo struck again at 7:35 to give the team a 2-1 lead.
A 5-on-3 opportunity for Downingtown West set them up with a golden opportunity to knot the game and they did. Barbato's second of the game bounced off a Unionville stick directly in front of senior goaltender Joshua Seder and hit both posts before going in at 13:35.
Shortly after the second penalty to Unionville ended, senior forward Quinten Curtis took a shot which somehow made it by junior goaltender Thomas Cliggett, who thought he had it in his glove with 21.9 seconds left in the second to give the Indians a 3-2 lead.
The ice shifted almost entirely in Unionville's favor in the third and didn't let up, tacking on three more goals to Downingtown West's one.
On a delayed penalty, Unionville charged down the ice on a 2-on-1. Curtis fed a perfect pass over to Kumpf, who finished it with no problem for the 4-2 lead at 9:45.
Lyons notched a hat trick less than three minutes later as he was falling to the ice on an easy tap-in to give Unionville a commanding three-goal lead.
Not to be outdone, Barbato had a hat trick of his own just over a minute later on the power play.
Kumpf sealed the win with an empty-net goal on a shot from his own goal line with 46 seconds left in the game.
But don't let the distance fool you. Kumpf knew he wouldn't miss.
"Right when I shot it, I knew it was going to go in,' he said with a smile.
Wednesday against Henderson will be an even bigger test for the top ranked team in the league.
"The playoffs are always harder,' Hammond said. "I've been involved with coaching for 26 years now and it's always a different game in the playoffs. Teams are going to bring their best because they don't want to lose.'
Unionville 6, Downingtown West 3
Unionville 0 3 3 — 6
Downingtown West 0 2 1 — 3
Unionville goals: Lyons 3, Curtis, Kumpf 2.
Downingtown West goals: Barbato 3.
Goalie saves: Seder (U) 19; Cliggett (DW) 30.