HATFIELD — If there was ever a theme for Downingtown East’s hockey team this year, it was the players’ ability to show their heart in games — never quitting, pulling off amazing comebacks and even beating some of the best teams around, no matter the situation.
But on Thursday night, their heart just wasn’t enough to overcome their mistakes.
Instead, Downingtown East fell, 3-2, in the Flyers Cup AA Championship game, against top-seeded Central Bucks South at Hatfield Ice Arena.
“I really feel for the seniors,” said head coach Dave Hendricks. “I really feel for Jack Magee; I feel for Kyle Raciti; I feel for Tav Macchia. They deserved better and they deserved more.”
Coming off of as perfect a game as one could get in the Flyers Cup tournament with a 3-0 shutout of Central Bucks West on Tuesday, the Cougars stayed toe-to-toe with Central Bucks South throughout the championship game.
It was the penalties that cost them.
“The penalties killed us,” Hendricks said. “The lack of discipline was the nail in the coffin tonight. I believe they had the will and the desire to win. They just didn’t have the discipline.”
The C.B. South power play converted on half of its opportunities, giving the Titans two of their three goals on the man advantage.
The worst part for Downingtown was the penalties weren’t the kind that could be shrugged off — those which might stop a breakaway or come in defense of a teammate.
They were the type of penalties you don’t expect from a team that knows how to play smart, especially this late in the tournament.
“(C.B. South) was the most physical team we’ve played throughout the tournament,” Magee said. “I think that might have discouraged us a little bit, but we shouldn’t have been taking those penalties. They were stupid penalties and just unnecessary.”
And the penalties came right from the beginning as Collin Harple was whistled for hooking not even three minutes into the game, allowing the Titans to score just five seconds into the man advantage.
The Cougars did fight back, though, with Alex Fox tying the game up off a perfect pass from Justin Cohn and then pulling to within one on their own power-play goal by Cohn in the second period.
“We weren’t playing that well, but we were still in the game,” Magee said. “It was 3-2. If we could get on our game, we could easily win this. We just never got on it.”
C.B. South stymied any offensive momentum Downingtown East was trying to get going in the third period, but the Cougars kept fighting, finally staying out of the penalty box throughout the 17 minutes.
However, the Titans also stayed out of the box, not giving Downingtown East any kind of advantage to tie things up.
In the end, Downingtown East just couldn’t muster that last goal needed to defend its title after winning the cup the year before.
“We played up to our expectations coming in this year with defending the cup,” Magee said. “People knew we were going to be a top team and we were. We stayed up top (in the standings) all year. We just couldn’t get it done tonight.”
Downingtown East will be graduating just a handful of seniors this year, keeping the core of the team intact with a chance for another deep run next season if the players can continue to mature into their roles.
“We have a young team with a lot of potential,” Hendricks said. “We need to see them fulfill that potential and that will be a very daunting task in front of us.”
But for those few seniors, they’ll take the memories of great seasons, some heartache in last year’s loss at states and another Thursday night, but also a championship from last year and a lasting bond with their teammates.
“It’s just a great hockey organization,” Magee said. “It’s a good school for hockey — always competitive, always taking it seriously. It was fun to play here. I’m glad I was with the team for four years.”
NOTE: Cohn was named to the Flyers Cup AA All-Tournament Team, the lone player from Downingtown East.