ROSELLE, NJ — Throughout the season Westfield has relied on a balanced offense, riding a group of forwards that usually supply plenty of secondary scoring.
That was the case on Monday as Anthony Oliveri and Matt Beke finished with two goals apiece, Thomas Duffy and Trevor Tanella each contributed a goal and Alex Park and Dan McDonald each collected three assists to send third-seeded Westfield to a 6-3 victory over sixth-seeded Princeton in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils tournament at Warinanco Rink in Roselle.
Westfield, now 15-3 in its last 18 games, inproved to 17-5-3 overall and advances into the semifinal round for the first time since 2014, where it will square off with second-seeded Ridge on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Codey Arena in West Orange. The two clubs did play earlier this year, skating to a 2-2 tie on Dec. 18.
“Our goal coming into this game was to shut down their top line and we were pretty much able to do that,” said Tanella. “We were able to come out with the win. Momentum is so big in hockey and we were able to grab that today.”
Westfield, which will make its fourth appearance in the semifinal round – it marched to the Public semis in 1999 before advancing to the Public A semis in 2011 and 2014 – jumped on top 2-0 in the first period to zap some of the energy from Princeton (14-10-3).
Oliveri scored a power play goal off assists from Park and McDonald with 4:22 left to snap the scoreless tie before Tanella snapped a rising shot stick-side with 50.7 left on the clock to extend the Westfield lead to 2-0.
Oliveri, a senior forward, netted his second of the game, and 16 of the season, just 37 seconds into the second to make it a 3-0 lead for the Blue Devils. Less than four minutes later Duffy, also a senior, jammed in a power play rebound for his first varsity goal and a 4-0 advantage that proved too much for the Little Tigers to overcome.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first period,” said Princeton coach Tim Chase. “But we made a couple of mistakes and when you make them in the playoffs, it usually costs you. We let in a couple of sloppy goals in not picking up guys in the slot. I was proud of our guys. They played hard, but I guess it’s tough to win when you give up six goals.”
Princeton, which was looking to make its third straight trip to the Public B semifinal round, opened the third period with more energy and cut its deficit to 4-1 when Keith Goldberg netted his 17th just 1:10 into the final stanza. Aidan Trainor redirected a shot past C.J. Duffy with 7:12 left for his 30th goal and Princeton sliced it to 4-2 and appeared to swing some of the momentum back in its favor.
But Westfield displayed that balance again, this time with Beke hitting twice within a span of 1:02 to put the game out of reach at 6-2.
“Coach (Joseph) Bertucci talked about being disciplined and getting pucks deep, especially in the third period,” said Beke, a freshman forward. “Princeton pressured more in the third but I think we were able to keep up the pressure, too. In the beginning of the season I started out a bit slow but I’ve been playing better. Now we have to play Ridge, and they’re a very good team. We’re going to have to give our best effort.”
Bertucci also lectured his club about not taking penalties and winning the special teams’ portion of the contest. His players listened as Westfield was whistled for just one minor penalty over the 45 minute match while going 2-for-2 on the power play.
“Princeton is a talented team so we knew we had to play 45 minutes of strong hockey,” said. “We did that and it was pretty big putting two goals on the board in the first period. We felt if we put pucks on net and crashed for rebounds while taking care of our own end, we’d be okay. They’re a fast team and they trapped us pretty good in the first period but we were able to make some adjustments and once you score a couple of goals it opens the ice up a little more.
“One of the big things with our team is it seems every game it’s somebody new scoring a big goal. We don’t rely on one line. We roll three lines and everybody can put the puck in the net. Now we have Ridge. They’re a talented team and we were able to tie them on a late goal early in the season. We know we’ll have our hands full, but our boys are ready and we are really looking forward to the opportunity. All you can ask for at this point of the season is another opportunity.”
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
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