WEST GOSHEN — West Chester East head coach Eric Wolf came into his first season with the ice hockey team with a checklist for his players of things he wanted to see them accomplish this year.
It contained items such as finishing first in the conference, being selected and ranked first for the Flyers Cup and, of course, winning a championship or two.
Now, after a 5-2 win over Unionville in the Ches-Mont Semifinals Wednesday night, his team is one step closer to checking off another of those accomplishments.
“We’re trying to do things in the order that they’re given to you,” Wolf said. “The first thing you can do is be the No. 1 seed in the Ches-Mont. We crossed that off our list. Our next objective was to be the No. 1 seed in the Flyers Cup. We checked that box off. Our next thing is to win the Ches-Mont Championship and now we have that opportunity. If we play the way we’re capable of playing, I like our chances. Hopefully tomorrow night we can check off another box in the positive column for us.”
Though East has advanced to the championship game Thursday night, Wolf wasn’t too happy with the way the team played against the fourth-seeded Unionville.
“We still need to be better,” he said. “I’m still saying the same thing I said a couple months back. My message to the team is the same thing: That game should have been put away sooner. We have to be better in our own end and when we get opportunities, we have to convert. We can’t be pumping shots off the glass.”
East may have beaten Unionville both times in the regular season games, but both players and the coaches see the playoffs as a new season and everyone’s slates are wiped clean.
“In the first game of the playoffs (for East), anything can happen — any team can beat anyone on any given day,” said East captain Chris Rodier. “It’s good to get one out of the way and we’re feeling good going into the championship tomorrow.”
Dylan McLaughlin opened the scoring more than halfway through the first period before Unionville’s Tyler Glennon tied it up midway in the second.
“(McLaughlin)’s a smart guy,” Wolf said. “I asked him to do big work on a very strong line. He was out there a lot with Glennon’s line and I challenged him and Charlie Carsello tonight as sophomores to go against a very strong line. They did a nice job. I liked how they defended.”
The second goal from Unionville came after Rodier put East up by two, but Eddie Russell regain the two-goal lead before tacking on the empty-netter at the end.
East sat at the top of the Ches-Mont standing for most of the 2014-15 season much as it did this year, but unlike the previous year, it will be fighting for that title as best in the conference.
“We had a good team last year, but this year, I feel like all the guys are really close,” Rodier said. “Everyone gets along and no one really stands out in the room. It’s just a bunch of guys having some fun.”
West Chester Rustin 3, Downingtown East 2
All the scoring in the game came in the first period — and the first eight minutes of the game, to be exact. The final three months had D-East, which trailed by one, on the power play with the goaltender pulled, but Rustin was able to hang on for the win and will play for the Ches-Mont title.
“I don’t get nervous anymore at my age,” said Rustin head coach Nick Russo with a laugh. “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. I used to have brown hair and now it’s white, so maybe if I coach another 30 years, I’ll be bald. My stomach, though, is a mess from start to finish and that’s the truth.”
For the fifth year in a row, the Ches-Mont Champion will be one of the West Chester teams.
“I’m going to write that book someday about how West Chester really is a hockey town,” Russo said. “It really is. East is tough and deep. I wish I had Rodier on my team. We’re going into the game full strength and so are there. I think this is the first time we’re seeing each other that way. This will be a good, hard game.”
Other playoff action
Avon Grove 10, Sun Valley 0: Avon Grove, in its first season in the ICSHL, won the South Conference title after a shutout of Sun Valley. Ryan Hassiepen had a big night with five points, Matt Miller scored a hat trick and Kelvin DeFeo and Brendan Harman both tallied twice. Avon Grove threw 89 shots at goaltender Nicholas Tkacz while goaltender Cameron Faller stopped all 37 shots he faced.