WEST GOSHEN — It was undeniable that last Friday’s loss to Malvern Prep was the worst West Chester Henderson has played all season and once they went down a goal to Downingtown East Monday night at Ice Line, the Warriors knew they couldn’t afford another ‘L.’
“Our loss on Friday was the worst individual and team effort we’ve ever had,” said Henderson head coach Scott DiRico. “That was a ‘not give up’ type of response. Something clicked in the boys that they had to step it up and they did.”
After giving up a goal in the first minute of the game to D-East’s (3-4 Ches-Mont, 4-5 overall) Tav Macchia, Henderson (4-2 Ches-Mont, 5-3 overall) responded with four unanswered goals to take the lead and never look back in a 6-2 win over the Cougars.
“I think we were still sleeping a little bit (before D-East scored),” said Henderson forward Jarrett Slear. “We got a goal and we talked to the boys and just said, ‘Listen, we’re turning things around right now,’ and that’s what we did.”
Leading the charge was Slear as he posted a natural hat trick after linemate Matt Carreras got the first goal for Henderson.
“He’s just a different player,” DiRico said of Slear. “His ability to use his body is something I preach to him because when he has a shot that is that good, you can use your body to shield how guys can angle you. It’s just going to be very hard to stop.
“His best attributes today was he played smart. He was in control of getting pucks on net for good rebounds, playing good D-zone, back-checking a lot more and making sure pucks were put deep in the zone instead of trying to stick-handle when he didn’t have to. It was more of the little things he was doing today that led to his success at getting goals.”
Downingtown East tried to make a game of it early in the third when sophomore forward Collin Harple scored, but big saves by senior goaltender Tyler Bonjo coupled with two more Warriors goals from Eric Beren and Sean Miller made sure Henderson found itself back in the win column after two straight losses.
“It’s a big game as far as it being a rival,” DiRico said. “(Downingtown East) has been playing really well. To be able to stop them was good, but more so in standings. We needed to get the two points. We needed to respond from having the loss against West Chester East.”
The win for Henderson could prove to be the momentum it needs going into a tough match against West Chester Rustin this Friday.
It also could prove to be the spark the players need inside of themselves.
“It was a matter not of effort, but of heart — finishing checks all over the ice, blocking shots and caring,” DiRico said. “That was the biggest thing. It’s not a matter of trying to just work hard as doing what you had to do to win hockey games. That was what we were trying to instill and what we kind of got away from in some games.”
For now, Henderson will enjoy the big two points — at least for the night — which will move them up a spot in the Ches-Mont conference.
“We definitely look at the standings because we’re a competitive group of kids, but it’s hard to judge your team off the standings early in the season,” Slear said. “We’re toward the bottom right now, but I know we’re a team that’s headed right for the top.”