Ice Hockey: Henderson staves off Unionville to reach Ches-Mont final

By CANDICE MONHOLLAN

cmonhollan@dailylocal.com

@CMonhollanDLN

WEST GOSHEN – It couldn’t have been more of a nail biter in Wednesday’s Inter-County Scholatic Hockey League Ches-Mont semifinal between top-seeded Unionville and No. 4 West Chester Henderson at Ice Line.

Henderson watched a three-goal lead evaporate early in the third, but were able to tack on two more to win 6-5 and advance to the Friday’s championship against Downingtown East.

“I would have liked to have had the three-goal lead going into the third,” said Henderson head coach Scott DiRico. “No lead is safe. They’re a good team and there’s a reason why their record is so good.

They keep coming and they get a lot of good shots.”

Henderson jumped out to a 3-1 lead after one, and haeld a 4-1 advantage six minutes into the second period, but three consecutive power plays led to Unionville getting a goal and shifted momentum.

“We weren’t getting any calls and it seemed like there were a couple tough calls going against us,” DiRico said. “I figured there was going to be something. You can’t kill off that many penalties against a

good team.”

But what made the difference for Henderson was the defensive mindset they had every time Unionville touched the puck. Just as the professionals do during the playoffs, Henderson was sacrificing bodies to

block shots.

“We were trying basically to collapse and block shots and tie guys up in front and make them handle the puck more than they have to,” DiRico added. “If you do that, eventually, you’re going to get turnovers. They’re not going to be putting the pucks on net and they’re going to try to put them in the corners. That’s what we wanted.

“Our guys did a good job of blocking shots and that’s something we’ve been working on, so it was fun to see.”

Having a tie and a one-goal loss in two previous games this season against the top seeds, Henderson was not intimated, and that showed almost immediately.

Senior forward Eric Carreras scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle, 2:15 into the game. Junior defenseman Seth Lehman quickly doubled that advantage moments later.

Unionville got one back, however, when senior forward Payton Wine sent a perfect pass, while falling to the ice, to Gabe Masters for an easy re-direct at 7:15.

Henderson tacked on one more to end the period with 46.1 seconds left as Kyle Wicka converted on a Carreras on a 2-on-1.

Henderson made it a three-goal game early in the second as junior forward Eric Beren’s backhander off a behind-the-net pass from sophomore forward Jarrett Slear beat Unionville goalie Josh Seder.

But three straight penalties by Henderson was like playing with fire and Unionville took advantage on the third one, thanks to junior Matthew Kowash, who scored from in close, and then the momentum began to

shift.

Unionville was now getting more of the chances they like aand closed the gap to one when Nicholas Ward buried from one from the top of the left circlr, three minutes later.

Quinten Curtis sent the Unionville bench into a frenzy 66 seconds into the third with a backhander from near the blue line which took a bounce that fooled junior goaltender Tyler Bonjo to tie the game at 4-4.

“Our guys weren’t deflated because they knew we were playing very well,” DiRico said. “We hadn’t relinquished the lead once. We weren’t losing yet and we kept preaching play your game. Just keep playing.”

“We had to keep pushing,” Wicka said. “We knew we had it and we could obviously play with them. We knew as long as we kept the pedal to the medal, it was our game and we were going to win it.”

With that mentality, Henderson was able to get the go-ahead goal shortly after on a power play from Carreras, before tallying another by Slear at 9:15 for a 6-4 lead.

With 1:06 left in the game, Unionville tallied one more to make it a tense final minute, but Henderson kept up the shot blocks until the final horn sounded

“In the two years with me, they’ve learned that we all have each other’s back and we all want each other to do well and we all support each other,” DiRico said. “They were supporting every guy and girl on the

ice. We were supporting them and they were supporting us and whatever our decisions were. That’s the only thing we take forward. We approach Friday as a new slate and nothing else.”

West Chester Henderson 6, Unionville 5

West Chester Henderson 3 1 2– 6

Unionville 1 2 2–5

West Chester Henderson goals: E. Carreras 2. Lehman, Wicka, Beren, Slear.

Unionville goals: Masters, M. Kowash, Ward, Curtis, Wilkins.

Goalie saves: Bonjo (WCH) 24; Seder (U) 18.