WEST GOSHEN — Tommy Sloan’s short-handed goal with less than a minute left in the second period ended up being the game winner for West Chester Rustin in a 5-3 victory over West Chester East at Ice Line Friday night.
Though three more goals were scored in the final period, it was Sloan’s late tally that not only deflated East as it went into the short break between periods, but also came in response to a power-play goal the Vikings scored two minutes before.
“My whole entire line played good and the whole team played well,” Sloan said. “The first game of the year had a little bit of rough stuff, but we’ll work on it and get better at it.”
Several of the Ches-Mont divisional teams took a hard hit to its rosters, with many talented players graduating, but the Golden Knights – which lost big players such as Brett Christie, Eric Flynn, Joel Sheriko and more – isn’t letting it slow them down.
“It’s a tribute to the organization as a whole,” said head coach Nick Russo. “We have 19 freshmen this year. Next year, we have a class of 15 coming in and the year after that we have 17. How do you replace a Brett Christie? Maybe it’s a Lucas Christie. We just always find a way.”
Rustin’s roster is once again loaded with underclassmen to only three juniors and six seniors this year, but those upperclassmen bring a wealth of knowledge and skill, and an invaluable understanding of what it takes to win.
The seniors have between one two three state championships under their belt since the Golden Knights have been unbeatable the past three seasons.
“It’s a pretty big thing to be on a high school team that has won three state championships, but I don’t let that try to bother me,” Sloan said. “I just play my game and go through it motion-by-motion.”
Sloan showed just that as he tallied three points in the game, with Nicholas Ferraro, Brock Weimer, Christian Juliana and Matt Owens adding the other goals, though East did stay in the game with two power-play goals.
The game was also a rematch of the Ches-Mont Championship game last season, where Rustin also skated away with the win.
“We’re going to see each other eight or more times and we’ll probably see that core of referees another seven times,” Russo said with a laugh. “It’s always fun playing West Chester East.”
Opening games of the season typically feature a fair amount of jitters and sloppy plays, but overall, Russo was happy with how his team played against a big divisional rival.
“The Hicks Cup is preseason and we played everybody, but now it’s the march to March, as I always say,” he said. “It’s a good first win, but we have to keep it in perspective.”
Rustin’s perspective may be on capturing another championship or two, but the players also know that they carry a large target on their back after their three consecutive state championships and consistently good teams and players.
“Everyone wants to come at us and beat us,” Sloan said. “We’re just going to keep playing our game and keep doing what we do.”