ASHBURN, Va. -- The Atlantic District is being represented at the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships for the first time this season.
And, after some shaky moments late in Friday afternoon’s game, the district has its first win ever in the event.
The Downingtown East Cougars from Pennsylvania let a three-goal lead get away in the last 6:31 of regulation, then had to kill off a penalty for more than a minute at the end of the five-minute, sudden-death period. They nonetheless emerged with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Orange Lutheran Lancers from California in a Pure Division game at the Ashburn Ice House.
Justin Cohn scored in regulation and in the shootout where Jeff Cummings stopped all four shots he saw to help the team bounce back from a loss when the tournament opened on Thursday.
“I’m thrilled that they got a win and thrilled that they experienced a shootout,” Downingtown East coach Dave Hendricks said. “That’s not something we do in our league.”
Downingtown East ended the shootout early, building a 2-0 lead through four of the scheduled five attempts for each team.
Both teams missed on each of their first two attempts before Cohn scored on the first shootout attempt he ever took. Cummings remained unbeaten in the few shootouts of which he has been a part.
“It looked like on his blocker side, he was stopping everything,” Cohn said. “I thought I’d put a move on him because everyone was just shooting.
“I went backhand and it just seeped through.”
Cummings lost his shutout and the lead, but did not lose his confidence once the team got a fresh start in the shootout.
“The third period was a bit of a battle,” said Cummings, who also plays for the Philadelphia Junior Flyers 16U team in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League. “Once overtime ended, I knew we had to have confidence.
“I have confidence in my team and I knew we were going to pull through in the end.”
Cohn’s successful shootout attempt was followed by another from Harrison Layne, who had an assist during regulation.
Potential Atlantic District spots have been unclaimed in the past because the season ends with the Flyers Cup — and then a state championship against the best Pittsburgh area teams — which coincides with high school nationals.
This year, Downingtown East, which placed second in Class AA in the Flyers Cup, after a successful season in the Inter-County Scholastic Hockey League, let the district know it was interested in claiming the spot for the manageable trip to the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
“We had a lot of support from our district,” Hendricks said.
Downingtown East is 24-3-3 overall.
“Due to Tier I schedules, the AYHL and the [Atlantic] District playoffs, our scholastic schedule always has the Flyers Cup and then the state tournament on the same weekend [as nationals],” Hendricks said. “There’s that direct conflict.
“They’ve been trying to send a team forever, but trying to organize it in a matter of four days hasn’t worked.”
The loss in the Flyers Cup final left Downingtown East as available and interested in representing the Atlantic District in the national tournament.
The Cougars arrived in Virginia missing two players and another limited because of injuries. Another played the first two games before traveling to New Jersey to join his youth team in the last round of district playoffs.
Downingtown East and Orange Lutheran had each lost their openers Thursday in the Blackhawks Pool, one of five within the Pure Division for teams that draw their players from a single school.
There are also five pools in the Combined Division for schools that draw their rosters from more than one school.
Each pool has four teams with games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The five pool winners and the three top second-place teams reach Sunday's quarterfinals in both Pure and Combined.
The semifinals are scheduled for Sunday in the tournaments, which are split between the Ashburn Ice House and Skate Quest in nearby Reston.
The finals in each division are scheduled for Monday morning in Ashburn.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.