WEST GOSHEN — It didn’t matter if the Downingtown East girls hockey team played Tuesday or Wednesday night — the Cougars were ready to play in the Flyers Cup tournament.
After two teams withdrew from the tournament, D-East automatically advanced to the semifinals round against second-seeded West Chester East on Wednesday night.
Despite a back-and-forth fight on the scoreboard, second-seeded D-East came away with the 4-3 victory.
“I was so hyped in the beginning of this game,” said sophomore Alexa Weiderhold. “My team was really positive going into this. It was a lot of fun.”
Neither team could hold on to a lead for very long through the first two periods.
West Chester East’s Jennifer Porter opened the scoring, only to have D-East’s Carly Kloss answer back 72 seconds later. Weiderhold then put the Cougars up by one late in the first with a short-handed tally, but East’s Erin Bonner scored on the same power play 58 seconds after that.
Though D-East took control over the game for the majority of the second period, out-shooting West Chester East 14-3, both teams once again traded goals.
“They seemed a little worse for the wear after the first period,” said D-East head coach Chris Capobianco. “That was a bit of a concern. We didn’t even make any adjustments with the forecheck, but the girls just found another gear and ran with it.”
That shift in energy lasted into the third period for the Cougars.
Weiderhold notched her second of the night, and eventual game winner, just over four minutes into the final frame.
This time, D-East was able to hold onto the lead.
“It was a really good game from all of us,” she said.
The coaching staff could see — and very well hear — how thrilled their team was after the win.
“Everybody is excited,” Capobianco said. “The girls were beside themselves and were screaming the whole time in the locker room. We could barely get a word in because they were so excited. They had a lot of fun and it was a lot of fun to watch.”
D-East will face an even tougher challenge on Friday night in the championship game as it faces Unionville, which has won the title five out of the last six years.
The one year the Indians didn’t win, however, was when they were runner-up to Downingtown East in 2014.
“After our playoff game last week, we tried to focus a lot on relaxing and having fun because they were very, very nervous before that game,” Capobianco said. “This week, we tried to put more of an emphasis on what they like about hockey, how much fun they’ve had — try to get them more relaxed going into the game. I feel that definitely helped a good bit tonight.”
Unionville 10, Avon Grove 0
The defending Flyers Cup Girls champions will be returning to the big game to try and claim the title two years in a row.
“I’m very excited about it,” said sophomore Madison Doucette. “We felt confident coming in and it was really good to put up a decisive win and make sure we’re ready going into the championship game.”
Coming into the Flyers Cup, the top-seeded Indians had to lose two important players since neither were of high school age yet, as per tournament rules.
Those two players were forward Jordan Hower and defenseman Mia Impagliazzo, who combined for 54 points on the season.
“It definitely hurts us to lose those two key players,” Doucette said. “They put up a lot of points or are very strong defensively, but I think we did a really good job adjusting to it and making sure we knew how to balance ice time and fill those rolls.”
The balance was clearly shown on the scoresheet as every skater on the roster for Unionville had at least two points in the game. The Indians didn’t even let goaltender McKenzie Myers get tested as they gave up zero shots.
In a game such as this where Unionville barely allowed Avon Grove any offensive time, it can be easy for a team to get overconfident heading into the championship match, which is exactly what Unionville wants to avoid for Friday’s game.
“We need to make sure we play our systems, play clean hockey and play smart,” Doucette said. “We don’t want to just throw the puck away just because we can. We have to make sure we know what we’re doing and we imagine (tonight) just like every other game, just with a little more puck possession.”