ELIZABETH, NJ — Fans packed the rink and braved the cold temperatures inside the Warinaco Skating Rink for Monday night's rivalry matchup between the varsity boys ice hockey teams of Cranford and Westfield High School.
In a battle of defenses, Westfield was able to pull out a 2-1, moving to 5-1-4 on the season, while Cranford fell to 4-5-1. The Blue Devil win comes off a 3-3 tie with Cranford on Dec. 21.
“Any time we play Cranford it's a big win,” Westfield junior player Sean Taylor said. “We love the rivalry and brings the best out of us.”
After a scoreless first half of the first period, Westfield junior Matt Rittendale found the back of the net for the backbreaking goal with 3:42 left in the first period, assisted by Ben Concord and Matt Cetlin.
“On the goal we were able to sustain pressure in Cranford's zone,” Rittendale said. “After about 30 seconds of play in their zone Cetlin pushed the puck to Conrod and I saw a lane and cut in front of the net and received a pass from Conrod and was able to put the puck home on the near side.”
The second period was more of the same as both teams traded possessions and stood strong on defense with physical play.
In the third period, the Blue Devils were able to capitalize on a power play and extend the lead to 2-0, as a shot on the net by Trevor Tanella was tipped in off the skate of Matt Rittendale for his second score of the game.
“During a scrum in front of the net I was pulled down and as soon as I stood back up, Trevor Tanella took a low shot and it ended up hitting my skate and deflecting into the net,” Rittendale said. “Although the goal was one of the luckiest of my career it was also one of the biggest as it proved to be the difference in the game.”
Despite his luck Monday, Taylor still believes Rittendale’s talent on the ice is a big reason for the offensive success of the team.
“He’s our best player, hands down,” said Taylor on Rittendale. “Since freshman year he has been the reason we win games.”
After Rittendale’s goal, Cranford worked themselves back into the game with a goal by junior Liam Lysaght 21 seconds into a power play on their own, with about four minutes left to play in the game.
Lysaght’s goal would prove too little to late, as rest of the game played out scoreless with the Westfield defense able to hang on to the 2-1 victory.
“This game was huge for the team as it helps with state and county rankings but also boosts are confidence as a team,” Rittendale said. “Even when Cranford had continuous pressure on us we kept are heads up and still played hard. It is a fun rivalry with Cranford and I am just happy we were able to pull out the win.”
Westfield will next take on Summit, while Cranford will play Wall, both at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.