WEST GOSHEN — A win is a win when it comes time for the playoffs, no matter how good or bad it was on the ice.
For Downingtown East, it definitely wasn’t the best game the players could have had, but they still came away with a 6-0 shutout over Pennridge in the play-in round of the Flyers Cup AA tournament Monday night at Ice Line.
“I think a lot of these guys were looking past (the game),” said D-East head coach Dave Hendricks. “They came out with a little too much swagger. In the Flyers Cup, no matter what seed you are, you have to come out ready to play and you respect the other team. A little too much swagger doesn’t help you in the Flyers Cup.”
D-East, ranked a surprising 13th heading into the tournament, played the lower ranked team in the AA bracket in No. 20 Pennridge.
And maybe the ranking was part of the reason the Cougars didn’t play the way they normally do, especially after having fantastic games during the Ches-Mont playoffs.
“Maybe that was part of the thing with the kids — they thought they had something to prove,” Hendricks said. “They don’t have anything to prove to the coaching staff and they don’t have anything to prove to each other. It’s about proving to each other that they can play and be there. It’s not about proving to anybody else. No chip on your shoulder helps you this time of year.”
The players themselves knew their performance was lacking as there was no celebration following the game.
“It’s tough looking at the seedings because it’s completely misleading sometimes,” said D-East junior Jack Magee. “It was a little bit of what we were expecting with a 20th seed, but we still have to play better than what we did going up against a fourth seed now.”
Despite not having the greatest game, Downingtown East still came away with a big shutout and kept Pennridge to just nine shots total in the game.
Leading the way, once again, for the Cougars was the young core of players as four of the six goals were scored by a freshman and a sophomore in Thomas Rocco and Joe Kubachka, respectively.
“You look at guys that are just slightly over 5 feet tall and they’re just dominating the ice,” Hendricks said. “The big thing is they’re dominating the corners. You have a small freshman who is owning the corners and owning the puck down there. When you can create a cycle on any team, it’s great to see. Some of the younger guys are becoming leaders way before we needed them to.”
Magee, as a junior, was the oldest to score on the night.
In fact, the forward had five points on the night with two goals and three assists.
“Playing with Kubachka and (Ben) Robertson has been really good so far,” he said. “It’s easy to find the puck and see where they are.”
Though many may feel D-East was slighted a bit in the seedings, the Cougars were able to shake off any jitters or rust any players may have had in the play-in round before heading into the first round.
“When you’re in the AA tournament, it’s another league’s tournament,” Hendricks said. “The AA tournament is a tournament for the northern teams. We’re the smallest team — other than Downingtown West — in the tournament. We know we have an uphill battle to climb. It’s just up to us to prove we are a better seed than we are.”
Hendricks knows his team will be able to shake off the game and come out better against Council Rock South on Wednesday.
“We’ve been playing really well and we took a step back tonight, but I have a feeling the kids are going to come out of it,” he said. “I have complete faith in the leadership and I have complete faith in the players that they’ll be able to come out of this. We’re looking forward to Wednesday and to do as much damage as we can do.”
Downingtown West 5, Council Rock North 0
Just like its counterpart, Dowingtown West came out with a shutout, 5-0, against Council Rock North in its play-in game of the Flyers Cup AA tournament.
Unlike D-East, though, D-West was very happy with the effort put forth by its players.
“We started the tournament off on the right foot,” said D-West coach Tim Moyer. “We took care of business tonight. (Council Rock North) has some kids that can play, but we came out with some energy.”
The energy didn’t immediately translate onto the scoreboard for D-West, but a boost from goaltender John Kelly gave the offense the confidence that they could get it done.
“We couldn’t really bury pucks early in the game, but our goalie made some timely saves and eventually we broke the ice,” Moyer said. “(Kelly) has been great all year. He’s been our most consistent player. You can’t ask for more from him.”
Once the goals started coming, there was no stopping Downingtown West as freshman Zach Hanaway and senior Alec Higgins both tallied two goals each.
Though it’s tough for D-West to be in a bracket with teams not seen during the regular season, the coaching staff has faith in the team if they stick to its gameplan each night.
“We do what we can as far as doing a little research on (the teams),” Moyer said. “It’s important that we just come out and play our game. We have a lot of team speed on the front and if we play our game, it’s tough for any defensive core to keep up with us.”
Downingtown West will face Central Bucks West Wednesday night.