Hockey: An all too familiar scene for Springfield

Springfield's Dan Madonna can't bear to watch another Flyers Cup loss.TIMES STAFF/ROBERT J. GURECKI

Springfield’s Dan Madonna can’t bear to watch another Flyers Cup loss, this time in a 7-3 defeat to West Chester East.
TIMES STAFF/ROBERT J. GURECKI

I’ll go on record today with this. This will undoubtedly come back to bite me in the butt, but here goes anyway.

Springfield will play for the 2014 Class A Flyers Cup, its fifth straight trip to the Flyers Cup final.

I know, I know. Really going out on a limb there, considering the Cougars have made it four straight years, but nobody brings back a nucleus like Springfield does and it’s tough to imagine anyone developing that quickly.

That doesn’t help what’s ailing Springfield today.

If it could, Springfield would probably try to close down the entire West Chester Area School District. Well, except for Henderson, which seems to be under the Cougars’ spell of late. For a team that’s made it four straight years, the Cougars only have one trophy to show for it after a 7-3 loss to Jesse Abarca West Chester East. Give Springfield credit. The Cougars never stopped fighting after they got down 5-0. They never stopped after the Vikings pushed it to 7-3. They never quit in a third period where they cranked out 14 shots and where captain Billy Swahl laid a devastating hit on all-tournament honoree Kevin Cleary.

Ultimately, though, East was just too, well, everything. Too fast, too quick, too good and the Vikings jumped out to that early lead and kept their foot on the gas the whole time. When Dan Madonna and Ryan Vogt scored, the latter shorthanded, to make it 5-2, East came back. When Kyle Riddle cranked home a Ryan Brawley rebound on a 5-on-3 power play, it was a sign of life until Zach Higgins banged home a rebound to cement the Vikings’ win.

“It was tough,” Vogt said. “We always had hope, we never went down, but it’s tough going through an incredible season and then…”

That’s part of the deal when East has the most seniors and a team that’s been through a lot to get here. The Vikings were hardened by playing in the Ches-Mont League, the best league in the area. When you’ve repeatedly played the likes of West Chester Henderson, West Chester Rustin, Downingtown East and a bevy of others, you’re more prepared for big games. The Vikings were tabbed as the Class A Flyers Cup favorite at the beginning of the season and held serve.

“It’s painful,” Riddle said.

It sure is. Losing’s never easy, especially when you’ve gotten so close so many times and fell short yet again. Next year, though, Springfield will be the hunted not just in the Central League, but from everyone. Here are some fun tidbits about the Cougars.

  1. Springfield brings back its top six scorers in Brawley, Riddle, Tom Coll, Tyler Riddle, Madonna and Vogt. Top. Six. Scorers. That’s insane. Those six combined for 237 points this year (Regular season, playoffs and Flyers Cup included). Have fun dealing with that, goalies. When a team brings back its entire top line, it’s a pain to deal with. Top two lines, though? Yikes.
  2. The Cougars bring back Bryan Biehl, who’ll only be a junior yet staked his claim as the county’s best goaltender when he took over the job from Pete Sabato and never looked back. The final Flyers Cup numbers (3.09 GAA, 86.4 percent SP) are bloated because of the final and a couple of those goals were basically unstoppable. Before the Flyers Cup, he was 10-1 with a GAA of .91 and a SP of 93.9 percent. You could play NHL ’13 on Rookie and not put up those kinds of numbers. In the tournament’s first three games, he gave up five goals and had a save percentage of 90.6. He’ll be just fine.
  3. It’s not all peaches and cream, though. For the third year in a row, Springfield boasted the county’s best defenseman, this time with Swahl. He graduates, so finding a No. 1 guy will be coach Phil Eastman‘s top priority.
  4. If anything, though, Springfield has all the experience it needs. The Cougars have been in pretty much every scenario possible, so there won’t be a more battle-tested team next year. Does that translate into a championship?

“It only increases (motivation) more,” Vogt said. “We want to come back with a vengeance every time. We came back this year from last year and played even better. We won the Central League. We haven’t done that in seven, eight years. We had so much energy from last season. We’re all looking forward and ready to come back.”

This time, they’ll be the favorites.

– MATT CHANDIK

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