WEST GOSHEN — It was as if the hockey gods themselves had scripted for the two Downingtown hockey teams to face each other in the Flyers Cup AA tournament.
D-East’s depth proved to be the deciding factor as the Cougars won, 8-1, in a first round match-up Wednesday night.
“You never want to play a team four times and they play us harder than any other team that we face,” said head coach Dave Hendricks. “It was seen in the first period. We’re just a little deeper. We run three lines. You can’t really keep up with it. It’s the depth that we really work hard with.”
“Downingtown West is not a bad team,” Hendricks added. “I told their coach (Ryan Smith) that they scare me and they absolutely do.”
In the AA bracket, it’s not very often that D-East faces a team it’s familiar with and even though an all-Downingtown game would usually bring out the best of both teams, it also lends a hand to D-East players.
“We know what to expect from them player-wise and we know what their strengths and weaknesses are,” said forward Collin Harple. “I was a little worried coming in, but it feels really good (to get the win).”
The day before the game, Hendricks received a shocking phone call from starting goaltender Jeff Cummings, who had an unexpected illness.
Second-seeded D-East turned to its freshman backup, Matt Shandler, to fill the void.
“I was pretty surprised,” he said. “It’s the Flyers Cup and I’m a freshman. I was a little nervous, but after the first few saves, I felt more into it.”
Shandler played very well, stopping 15 of 16 shots and bailed his team out on a couple of occasions.
“I felt more confident as I went along,” he said. “After the first few saves, my confidence went up as the game went on.”
D-West, seeded 15th, stayed right with its rival through the first period, but D-East’s depth and core of young players scored five goals in the second and were led by Harple, a junior, who had a hat trick.
“It’s a team full of sophomores and juniors,” Hendricks said. “It’s great to see the youth. They keep getting better every day, every week and every year.”
The Cougars will face No. 7 Council Rock South on Friday night in the semifinals.
D-East, who made it to the state championship game last year, knows it can’t be the surprise team it was last year.
“We feel the looks and the way the bracket was made,” Hendricks said. “We know that, but we are who we and we do what we do. That’s just (Downingtown East).”
Unionville 11, Hatboro-Horsham 0
Fourteenth-seeded Hatboro-Horsham didn’t stand a chance against a team as lethal as Unionville can be. The Indians, seeded third in the Flyers Cup A tournament, handled the Hatters in two periods, shutting them out 11-0.
“It feels good to get the first win out of the way,” said head coach Nicholas Basilio. “It’s always good to have that feeling. The game was a little unevenly matched, to save the least. I was proud of my kids showing a lot of class by not taking any penalties and not doing anything rough and knowing the situation they were in.”
Danny Hargadon, Jack McKenna and Tyler Glennon each scored twice in the game while five others also chipped in a goal.
When a game becomes lopsided, it sometimes is easy for players to sit back and become lazy on the ice, Basilio said. In Unionville’s case, he was pleased to see they didn’t fall into that trap.
“It comes to a certain point where the kids know what they’re in for and they start laxing off a little bit,” he said. “We did not do that. It was a hockey game regardless of what the score ended up being.”
The win advances Unionville to the Flyers Cup A Quarterfinals where it will play 11th-seeded Crestwood.
“We have an extremely hard practice coming up and we need it,” Basilio said. “We have specific things that we worked on the last couple of practices that we didn’t necessarily have to do in this one, but we certainly are going to have to do against the better teams.”
Other Flyers Cup action
Central Bucks South 9, Avon Grove 2: After a huge blanking of Council Rock North Monday night in the play-in round, 16th-seeded Avon Grove ran into top-seeded Central Bucks South, who ended the Red Devils’ season. Leading scorers Ryan Hassiepen and Brendan Harman chipped in Avon Grove’s two goals and goaltender Cameron Faller faced 57 shots, stopping 48 of them.
Springfield 7, Kennett 1: Thirteenth-seeded Kennett played in its first Flyers Cup tournament in numerous years, but ran into a tough Springfield team, seeded fourth in the Flyers Cup A tournament. Springfield’s Tyler Riddle scored four goals against Kennett’s goaltender, Sean Edmonds, who was a workhorse in every game for his team during the season and made 45 saves on 52 shots.