ELIZABETH, NJ - The Westfield Blue Devils ice hockey team is headed to the Union County Ice Hockey League final for the second time in three years.
Facing cross-town rival Scotch-Plains/Fanwood in Wednesday's semifinal, the Blue Devils strong-armed their way into the the championship with a 6-2 win at Warinanco Skating Center.
"I think a win is a win," Westfield head coach Sean Cromarty said. "Its always good to get a win. It puts us one step closer to winning the county tournament."
Westfield got on the board early when Jon Macik lit the lamp on a backhander from the right side.
After 10 minutes of scoreless hockey, Chris Kattak and Sam Meyer broke out on a 2-on-1. As they crossed into the zone, Meyer found Kattak in front, who put the shot through the Radier goalie to give the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead.
Less than a minute later with Westfield on the power play, Scotch Plains/Fanwood's Eric Hogan stole the puck away from the Blue Devils on his own blue line. He proceeded to take it all the way down the ice to score a shorthanded goal, sending the game into the first intermission behind 2-1.
"It was sloppy," Cromarty said. "We can't afford to take time off because we're just not that kind of team."
In the second, Westfield extended their lead to three with goals from Anderson Eckert at the midway point of the period, then Andrew Stern in the final two minutes.
After the extended intermission, both sides went back-and-forth for the first 10 minutes until Scotch Plain's John Bruckman deflected Tyler Hardgrove's shot from the point into the net to cut Westfield's lead to 4-2.
On the next sequence after the goal, Westfield was called for two penalties, an interference and a game misconduct, giving Scotch Plains a full, two-minute 5-on-3 power play.
During the penalty kill, Westfield's Nick Grawher scored on a lose puck in the crease to regain the three-goal advantage. The Blue Devils killed off the remaining penalty time, before adding a sixth goal in the final minute to seal the win.
"The kill is huge," Cromarty said. "Anytime you can kill a 5-on-3 thats a momentum swing. If you score a 5-on-3 goal thats huge, if you kill a 5-on-3 its bigger. Scoring right after that was big and I think that sucked the life out of them a little bit."
Blue Devil captain Liam Devin is happy to make a second appearance in the county final.
He said: "Its our second appearance in the last three years so we're excited to be back."
Westfield will face Summit for the Union County Title on Saturday at 6 p.m. from Warinanco Skating Center.