Two wins between Panthers and championship
The Plano East hockey team is on the verge of winning its second trophy in a month.
The Panthers concluded the AT&T Metroplex High School Hockey League regular season as the top seed in the Varsity Silver North Division, earning a playoff berth.
They got off to a good start in the playoffs, beating Lovejoy 12-6 last Thursday, February 24.
Despite trailing 1-0 on an early deflected goal, East took a 4-1 first-half lead, beating Lovejoy 11-4. The Panthers led up to seven goals in the game, but coach Thomas Joyce credited the Leopards with their ability to fight back and compete.
“Everyone kind of recognized that few teams win a state, win the regular season title and win the city championship,” Joyce said. “The team came in very aggressive and jumped pretty fast. We learned a lesson as a team, though, because we took the lead and got too comfortable. The other team will never give up and that was a necessary lesson.
Despite the Panther’s winning pedigree this season, coach Joyce said the opener was a great test for the team. Plano East won the state championship last month, picking up victories over similar opponents before finishing the regular season with an 11-point gap.
Lovejoy made it 10-6 in the third period, but East finally closed the door with two final scores. Coach Joyce said these little points of adversity will help the team in the long run.
“We won three of our games at State coming from behind, so maybe that first goal was a blessing,” Joyce said. “It’s a demonstration of maturity to fight against adversity. We want to play with all the gas, without brakes and we don’t want to let the teams go without pressure. The second half of the game we struggled to come back and let a lot of odd men rush the other way.
East finished the regular season with 101 offensive goals, 30 better than the second-highest opponent in the Silver Divisions.
They racked up offensive production against Lovejoy through their work on special teams. The Panthers scored five power-play goals in the game, capitalizing on any errors by Leopard.
“We came into the game with a similar game at the state championship stacking our top line again,” Joyce said. “They hadn’t played together since that championship game, but they got back in there and contributed to those power-play numbers. Besides those guys, we had a lot of guys who didn’t contribute much in the goalscoring department playing at the right time.
East will play his semifinal against Allen on Tuesday, March 1. The Panthers beat the Eagles 6-0 to end the regular season on Feb. 17, but coach Joyce said he didn’t want to look past an opponent.
If Plano East wins, they will play the city championship game Thursday night at Plano Starcenter at 7:15 p.m.
“Any game can be lost,” Joyce said. “We can’t assume that because we won once we will do it again. It’s a win or go home mentality and the other team is going to keep that mindset and we hope to keep that offense going and keep an aggressive forecheck to create more chances.
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By Kyle Grondin • [email protected]