February 20, 2014 at 12:35 AM
UNION COUNTY, N.J. – The Westfield varsity ice hockey team has a chance to defend their Union County title.
One year after beating Summit in the county championship, the rivals will meet once again, following Westfield’s 6-2 victory over Cranford in Wednesday’s semifinals at Warinanco Skating Center.
“Its good morale for these kids,” Westfield head coach Sean Cromartie said. “We’ve had these kids together now for three years. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve been through a lot personally and they’ve been through a lot as a group. Now we’re back defending our title in the county final. Pretty good for a 3-seed.”
The Blue Devils dominated every aspect of the game. Right as the puck dropped to start the contest, Westfield let their presence be known with gruesome checks and plenty of scoring chances.
Christian Rosa, who has seen varied success throughout the year, had one of the best games of his career. Rosa scored Westfield’s first two goals to pull all the momentum for the Blue Devils.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Cromartie said. “Its great to see him produce and really produce on the big stage. He works extremely hard and I’m really happy to see him get rewarded.”
“I’ve been with Coach for a long time,” he said. “I played with him on past teams, but I’m glad I helped get the win for this team.”
Westfield poured on four more goals through the remaining two periods, including two that were deflected past the Cranford net-minder.
However, despite the dominating offensive performance from Westfield’s forwards, its was the defensive pairings that shined in the win.
The Blue Devils backline allowed only two goals on 16 shots, with both tallies coming in the final two minutes of regulation. Throughout the game, the defensive unit filled both Cranford’s passing and shooting lanes, forcing blocked shots and turnovers.
Cromartie’s defense never allowed Cranford to get comfortable in the game, which was exactly his plan.
“Those kids have really stepped up,” Cromartie said. “We have a sophomore that is playing big minutes, another sophomore playing big minutes with two seniors that have sort of anchored things. Those kids have matured before my eyes hockey-wise. They have really stopped up, I’m happy with how they played.”
With all the hysterics of making their second straight county final, playing against their rivals, Rosa said it will be business as usual leading up to Saturday’s championship game.
“We just have to focus, play hard and just play exactly how we played out here,” Rosa said. “Just hit, skate and shoot as hard as we could.”