WESTFIELD, NJ – The Westfield High School boys ice hockey team has developed a motto heading into the 2019-20 season.
Following a 17-6-3 season, a Union County Tournament finals appearance and a semifinal berth in the NJSIAA Public B tournament, the Blue Devils look to take the next step with a fresh slate.
“We are looking to build off last year’s success and compete for a county, league and state championship,” said Westfield head coach Joseph Bertucci, who enters his sixth year at the helm and 10th overall with the program. “We have developed a motto of “never satisfied” to encourage our players to continue to work to achieve the ultimate goal of a state championship.”
Westfield competes in the super competitive New Jersey Interscholastic Ice Hockey League McInnis Division against the likes of Summit, Montclair and Glen Rock.
Along with the tough league schedule, Westfield will have competitive road tests against Ridge and Rumson-Fair Haven. Ridge won a state title last season.
With a veteran group, it’s easy to see why expectations are high for Westfield.
“This year we have a veteran group that has experienced success the last two years,” Bertucci added. “I am proud to say that we have learned the value of buying into a team-first mentality and that goes a long way in hockey. We have created a family that will do anything for each other and that is tough to beat. We have a determined group that has had a taste of success and is hungry for even more.”
Westfield was a team capable of scoring goals last season. The Blue Devils scored four or more goals 13 times in 2018-19. The team reached the Union County Tournament final before falling to Summit. Westfield was quick to bounce back with winning the McInnis Cup after taking down Montclair Kimberley in the semifinals and then Summit in the final in a wild 6-5 thriller. The Blue Devils put in four first-period goals in that contest.
Westfield kept the momentum going in the state Public B tournament, defeating Manalapan and Princeton before falling to eventual state champion Ridge in overtime in the semifinals.
Bertucci continues to see the program grow into a state contender. With that, there has been an increased interest within the school.
“I have watched our numbers go from 30 my first year to 65 this current season,” the coach stated. “The program has not only grown in numbers, but we have progressively gotten better over the last six years. Two years ago we won our second county championship in school history. Last year we won our first league championship in school history. We also had our highest ranking (17th in the state) and deepest run (2-1 OT loss in state semifinal) in the state playoffs in school history.
“We also have two JV teams that are highly competitive against the top teams in the state. There has been a lot of good in the recent years, and we are trying to continue to progress into a state powerhouse. I am extremely proud of this program and all three teams.”
Players expected to make an impact for Westfield this season will be senior defensemen Trevor Tanella, Dylan Howard and Will Gamba, senior forward Nick Forno, sophomore forwards Matt Beke and Thomas Conrod and junior forward Dan McDonald.
Howard led the team in assists last season with 16.
Newcomers expected to see significant time on the ice are freshman forward Matteo Mancheno and sophomore goalie Jake Watson.
The Blue Devils open the season against rival Summit on Dec. 3 at Warinanco Park in Roselle at 6:35 p.m.