The Vikings came into the game with only a single blemish on their record, which came at the hands of D-East in a 3-2 loss in November.
In a rematch Friday night, East still couldn’t quite solve the riddle of the Cougars as the two teams ended in a 2-2 tie at Ice Line.
“We talked before the game that they’re the only guys to hang one on us in this league this year,” said East head coach Eric Wolf. “That should be in the back of our mind. We know how strong they are. That was our focus. We thought if we got a win here, it would put us in a real good spot to stay there. Now, we have to let the cards be dealt and see what happens.”
Both teams came into the game without some of its top players, some of which was a surprise.
“We had some unexpected scratches tonight, which didn’t help us,” Wolf said. “The flu bug seemed to rip through us starting Wednesday. I got the call from Eddie Russell an hour before the game saying he just couldn’t do it. Two seniors in Billy Kyle and Chase Miller being down – that hurt. That’s a lot of leadership in those three guys.”
For East (12-1-1), though, being short-handed isn’t something it hasn’t already dealt with the season since the first half was dominated by injuries.
In a way, it prepared the team to face a situation such as this.
“If there was a good thing from our early season injury woes, it’s that we can just go back and do things like we did then,” Wolf said. “We battened down the hatches and juggled some people around and they did a nice job. There’s no way I can fault the effort.”
If there has ever been a theme to this year’s D-East (9-2-3) team, it’s the ability it has to fight back in games.
That need to survive, as head coach Dave Hendricks puts it, showed most evidently in a recent game against West Chester Rustin when the Cougars went down by a goal four times, and each time, fought to tie it back up within 72 seconds.
“It’s great to see that these guys fight to survive,” Hendricks said. “It’s wonderful to see that fight. A little more, we have to see discipline on the front end and you don’t need to fight to survive, just fight to win.”
The game had both captains taking charge as East’s Chris Rodier gave his team the lead twice, but D-East’s Jack Magee was able to get both of the tying goals.
“Our captain took the whole team on his shoulders,” Hendricks said. “Jack really helped focus the bench on a couple of defensive mistakes and turnovers that led to goals against. It was just a great job and really just a captain living up to the letter on his chest.”
The game, for East, was another subtle hint of what it needs to work on before getting to the postseason.
In the previous two games, the Vikings put up three goals, only to watch it disappear to a one-goal lead in the third period.
Though tonight’s game was slightly different, it was still another lead quickly evaporating.
“I’m a little concerned that we gave up two leads and I still want to see us finish games better,” Wolf said. “I still want to see us have a lead, hold the lead and maintain however big that lead is, whether it’s a three-goal lead or two-goal lead – I don’t want to see it changing late in games and that has been the thing we’re fighting against.”