Heartbreak in Hatfield; Whippets eliminate Knights from playoff contention


Brandi Marlin

Whippets and Knights battle on the ice of Hatfield Ice Arena. Win, or go home.

HATFIELD- 1:30 left in regulation, Knight’s head coach, Kevin Vaitis, pulls his goaltender. The first line on North Penn’s roster is on the ice. The Knights trail by a goal, and the guarantee of another week of Flyers Cup playoff hockey is dwindling away. A shower of shots found the post and pads of Anthony Cuba in net for Downingtown West, however, the shots did not find twine. One last shot from the Knight’s as the clock expired, one last save from the Whippet’s goaltender. A finish down to the wire, and Downingtown West prevailed.

“Going into the locker room we knew we’d be playing a very talented team. We had to come out ready to play and they are extremely talented. I’m really proud of the way the boys played, down 3-1, probably not playing our best hockey, but battled back with one ring off the post, so close at the end, but couldn’t put that third one in there to tie it up,”said coach Vaitis.

The North Penn Knights(14-3-0-1) fell to the Downingtown West Whippets(12-6-0-2) 3-2 at Hatfield Ice Thursday night. A battle between the 4th seeded Knights and 5th seeded Whippets in the Flyers Cup Tournament with ticket to the semi-finals in the state tournament on the line.

“Tonight’s game was a game where either team could win and it could really go either way. [Downingtown West] was a really solid way and unfortunately our chances just didn’t go our way,”expressed Knight’s assistant captain, Josh Kaufhold.

And Downingtown West’s offense was the first to show that playoff hockey was their time to shine.

“We did a really good job throughout the first two periods and weathered the storm North Penn [sent us]. The focus was to keep everything out of the middle of the ice and put everything up off the glass out to the neutral zone. We did a relatively good job of it when it counted and didn’t give them too many golden opportunities. Blocked shots and sacrificing their body, that’s the key to winning hockey games and did so tonight,”expressed Downingtown West head coach, Ryan Smith.

An even six shots between the Knights and Whippets were quickly denied by the goaltenders, Nick Ebbingahus for North Penn, and Cuba for Downingtown West. Shot number seven however, was different and broke more than just the even number of shots for each team’s respective offenses, it broke the scoreboard as the Whippets found themselves with the first lead on the night after Downingtown West forward, Anthony Florkowski, fought of North Penn’s , Tony Tuozzo’s, sliding poke check, to fire of shot while spinning to his right, burying the first goal in the square off. And once they got the lead, the Whippets never looked back.

“I don’t really know what else we could have done tonight. We pretty much put everything out there, everything on the line. We had our season on the line and tried working everything on the net. Credit to Downingtown West, they’re a really good team,”stated Knight’s captain, Tyler Greenstein.

2:47  into the 2nd period, Downingtown West notched another goal, tacking onto their 1 goal lead. A Brady Ewing forehand finish off the front of the net feed from Reece Martosella which seemed to suck the energy out of the home team’s section of the rink. A spark however, came soon. And lone behold a Knight’s captain provided the response North Penn had looked for in 10 shots. The eleventh shot, off the stick of assistant captain, Thomas Boyle, was the answer the Knight’s needed down 2-0. 

“I was just trying to pop one in, down by two [on the scoreboard], to try and get us some momentum. Stepping up I saw I had a chance to get around him, saw a spot top corner and put it in,” expressed Boyle.

Just under three minutes following Boyle’s back of the net connection the lamp was lit again. This time however, it was the Whippet’s responding to the Knight’s only goal on the night so far. A shot from the far boards on Ebbinghaus which trickled in between the pads and crossed the goal line to edge Downingtown West back up by a pair. A 3-1 score heading into the final period of play. A final period of regulation holding the fact in which once the seniors on each team’s respective rosters stepped onto the fresh sheet of ice, they were fighting to avoid it being their last.

“We went into the intermission during the ice cut and said, ‘You gotta leave it all on the ice now, no regret, and make sure the next shift you have is the best shift you have of the game. Do that for the entire third period’,” stated coach Vaitis.

A locker room message any high school athlete can relate to, where the late night practices, early morning workouts, multi-hour film sessions and constant training, both mentally and physically, one must undergo to earn your name into the headlines and stat sheets. To Tyler Greenstein, Josh Kaufhold, Thomas Boyle, and Joe Morrisey, the four seniors on the North Penn ice hockey roster, hockey is all they have ever known, but the road in any athlete’s career has an end and every athlete’s playing days have an expiration date. For North Penn ice hockey, this game capped off their 2020 Flyers Cup playoff run. They did so battling down to the final seconds of their season. 

“When we went down we weren’t really worried about [the deficit] because there were multiple games this season against good teams when we were able to comeback. The game plan was to play our game, get some energy going, and we put everything on the line. We just couldn’t get it done,” expressed Greenstein.

Skating in the second line for North Penn junior, Jeromy Porubski, brought the deficit back within a goal after fellow junior Quinn Holt who dished the puck straight to the stick of Porubski, cashing in the pinpoint pass with a connecting with the back of the net at 12:49 left in the 3rd period. An underclassmen stepping up on the biggest stage of the season, when North Penn needed it most.

Brandi Marlin
North Penn’s, Luke Van Why(65), shot blocked by Downingtown West’s, Matt Flinn(33) late in 3rd period.

“Jeromy Porubski had a hell of a play there bringing that puck in and made a great shot on net. A goal we needed to make it a game, scoring the big goal early in the 3rd for a momentum swing and it was all from a great play by him. We’ve had great contributions from everybody from Ryan Kaufhold and Tyler Porubski as freshmen all the way up to our other sophomores and juniors,”stated coach Vaitis.

The clocked counted down minute by minute with no answer to the Knight’s deficit in the last minutes of the 3rd period. A strong defensive showing  by the Knights, limiting the shots on net for the Whippets at only 3 in the whole period. 

“We wanted to shut down most of [Downingtown West’s] offensive chances and keep the puck out of our zone as much as possible. That spurred up some offensive opportunities for us, almost working because we almost put one in net there at the end. We just came up short,” said Thomas Boyle.

North Penn had 10 shots on net to no avail. Downingtown West matched the strong lock down effort on their own end of their ice as well. Blocks in front of the net being provided by Anthony Florkowski and Matt Flinn reinforced the shutdown efforts Downingtown West held against the shower of shots sent on net from North Penn’s last hoo-rah to tying the game. For the shots that did find their way on net, Cuba stood tall for the Whippets, stopping the last 8 shots he faced, securing a date with the Boyertown Bear’s in the semi-finals next week with his fellow Whippets.

“Playoff hockey was at it’s best tonight. You had two very good teams playing strong defense and good goal tending. It came down to them being able to see one more [goal] in the 2nd period, but I’m very proud of the way the boys played throughout tonight and the entire season. You take our captains of Tyler Greenstein, Josh Kaufhold, Thomas Boyle and Joe Morrissey as a senior and the leadership they provided throughout the year. They battled and worked their tail off all season long when they were on the ice. They just did some good stuff throughout the entire year,” concluded coach Vaitis.