Plum unable to rally past Downingtown East in Class AA state title game
Saturday afternoon, Plum ran into a postseason deficit it couldn't overcome
Downingtown East scored the first two goals and held on for a 3-1 win over the Mustangs for the Pennsylvania Cup Class AAA championship at RMU Island Sports Center.
It was the Cougars' second title game appearance in three years. The team fell to Cathedral Prep in the 2015 championship game, but captured its first state title against Plum.
“For these kids, this never happened before. For the school district and the school, it's just an amazing honor that we get to bring the state championship back to Downingtown,” Cougars coach Dave Hendricks said. “That year (2015) was a Cinderella year with us coming out as a 13 seed, so everything was gravy from that point on. Of course we wanted to win, but if we would have won that state championship back then, we don't win this year. There was hunger with the kids, and that's what it ultimately came down to.”
The Mustangs (19-3-1) fell behind in two of their three games during the Penguins Cup playoffs. It happened again against the Cougars (20-3-2).
Downingtown East's Justin Cohn swatted in a rebound with 7 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first for a 1-0 edge. Jonathan Carreiro boosted the Cougars' lead to 2-0 with 6:27 remaining in the second period. He took a pass at the near post after a scramble and buried a shot.
“It's always nice to be playing ahead. We stuck to our game plan and the kids really just dug deep,” Hendricks said. “They gave it everything they could mentally and physically. It was their smarts that lead to anything more than their physical ability.”
Plum got a spark when Nolan Puhala took a drop pass from Anthony Borriello and converted on a wrister with 3:56 left in the second period.
However, the Cougars answered when Luca Pisani cashed in for a power-play goal to boost Downingtown East's lead to 3-1 with 1:18 to play in the second. His shot from the top of the near faceoff circle sailed past goaltender Sergio Benitez.
“Luca has been doing that all year long. If he's seeing a mouse hole, he's putting a bowling ball right through it,” Hendricks said. “He's just been an incredible player for our team, especially as a defenseman who has been converted to a forward.”
While that late goal stung, Plum coach Vinnie Somma was confident his team would regroup.
“That's a tough one to give up. To be honest, I thought we were going to come back at that point. We still had a lot of faith in this room,” he said. “You could see in the third period we were tired. They are a very good hockey team. They played structured and fast. They played a very good game. We didn't score on a couple chances.”
The Mustangs generated some scoring opportunities in the third, but goaltender Jeff Cummings stopped them all.
“Their goalie stopped every puck from that point (the start of the third),” Somma said. “It just wears on you mentally, more than anything, when you're throwing everything you have and he stops it.”
Cummings, a senior, stopped 23 shots to earn the win.
“Jeff has been our starter for four years, and he's been coming up huge when we needed him,” Hendricks said. “For the most part, Jeff does what he needs to do and he went above and beyond today.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.