WEST GOSHEN — Depending on which side of the rink someone was sitting on, it was either a thrilling, never-give-up game or one that left a person shaking their head after Downingtown East and West Chester Rustin hockey teams played to a 4-4 tie Friday night at Ice Line.
Rustin took the lead four times in the game, but was unable to hold it for long as Downingtown East battled back each time, knotting the game right after within 72 seconds.
“It was complete gut-check time when you’re missing you’re starting and back-up goaltender,” said D-East head coach Dave Hendricks. “When you’re kids come together like that for a third-string goaltender, it’s great work by them. They stuck with their game plan and they executed it well.”
On the other side of things, Rustin (8-1-2) could be happy that, with some of its top players out as well, it could fight to retake leads, though it was short lived.
“I don’t know if it’s because they’re young and stupid – sometimes immaturity has its plusses,” Rustin head coach Nick Russo said with a laugh. “I think they’re just expecting to win. That has just been bred into them. It’s a confidence thing.”
The back-and-forth game was the first for Rustin since Dec. 21, while many of the other teams – D-East included – started the second half of the season Monday night.
Leading the way for Rustin was freshman Hayden Karnick, who scored two of his team’s goals on the night
“I was pretty impressed with the way our freshmen played,” Russo said. “It’s not a preseason game, but it kind of (feels) like it is because we haven’t played since Dec. 21. To come right out of the chute and play a tough team like that, I think it was a good effort on everybody’s part. Actually, I would have liked to have watched that from upstairs. It was a good game.”
For D-East (8-2-2), the game was a return to form – what made them dangerous earlier in the season.
“It’s good to see them get back to what made them a dominant team in the beginning of the year,” Hendricks said. “We saw the heart in them earlier in the year. The kids got away from their game a little bit and tonight was a return to form. It was three full lines rolling and rolling and rolling. A couple mistakes cost us goals, but they didn’t quit or give up and that’s a great thing to see.”
As the game was knotted at 3 with time quickly ticking away late in the third period, Rustin’s Joel Sheriko regained the lead with just 1:19 remaining.
Hendricks called a timeout immediately after to rally his players, who had battled back each time.
D-East was able to do it again with sophomore Luca Pisani’s goal with 29.4 seconds left in the game.
“It’s trust in the system,” Hendricks said. “Lesser kids are going to say our system didn’t get us here. Trust in who you are. They just dug deep and realized the coaches have faith in them and the players have faith in each other, which is more important than having faith in yourself. They came together at the end and those six guys absolutely just willed that puck in. It wasn’t skill – it was a play of will.”
Though it was a tie, it was just another thrilling game to add to the history books between the two teams, though this time around, the game did end with some fisticuffs with two seconds left and again in the handshake line.
“That’s what happens,” Russo said. “You keep punching each other in the face and you see what happens at the end of the game, but it’s always good games with them.”
In the scope of the season, it was another exciting game in the best part of the regular season as the playoffs quickly approach.
“This is the time of the year where you expect these kids to just be exhausted from playing club,” Hendricks said. “They should be run-down and that’s the thing about high school. They’re playing for something other than a contract. They’re playing for something other than being just a random person on a team. They’re playing for their school, their team and their district. It’s great to see.”