ROSELLE, NJ — Playing for a spot in the Union County Cup final in front of a nearly sold-out Warinanco Ice Center, Scotch Plains-Fanwood had already scored a victory before the puck even dropped Wednesday. The Raiders had earned the right to play their archival Westfield, a matchup that for the first time in years was not scheduled for the regular season.
Though Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s resurgent season is not going to not include a Union County Cup championship, the Raiders hung tough against their highly-regarded rivals and put on an entertaining show in front of their lively group of supporters.
The Raiders scored first and claimed a 1-0 lead early in the second period, but Westfield flexed its muscle and responded with three goals in three minutes. The Blue Devils eventually went on to win by a score of 4-2, serving the Raiders only their second loss.
Adam Glod and Jonny Scheer continued their strong seasons by scoring a goal apiece for the Raiders, while Kyle Remo and Tom Bruckman each added an assist.
“It’s always a rivalry we play against Westfield, and originally not having Westfield on our schedule, the kids were amped to be playing their rival,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Matt Gunther. “We knew going into it that they’re a division above us, their record for years has been a solid team.”
“They played the hardest that they could, and it’s definitely a stepping stone because what coach wouldn’t want to see them play the best that they can,” Gunther added.
After Glod lit the lamp just 20 seconds out of the first intermission on a breakaway goal from the right faceoff circle inside the Raiders’ offensive zone, momentum was on Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s side. Just 75 seconds later, however, all of that momentum became Westfield’s.
The Raiders’ Jack Pederson was sent to the penalty box on a hooking call at 13:34 in the second period, and Tanner Devin capitalized on Westfield’s power play by knotting up the score at one moments after Glod’s goal and Pederson’s penalty. A minute later, Matt Rittendale and Bryce Dannevig scored 64 seconds apart from each other, giving Westfield a 3-1 advantage before most could even process Devin’s goal.
Dannevig’s scoring play was created when the Raiders’ Christian Culp delivered a thunderous but clean check at center ice on Westfield’s Dylan Howard as the puck was being sent down towards the Blue Devils’ offensive zone. Dannevig quickly gained possession and scored.
“We’ve just got to keep the kids motivated; I think they kept their heads a little clear,” Gunther said of Westfield’s onslaught. “Penalties will definitely hurt us, and that’s how Westfield buried two of them tonight. We came back — we made it 3-2 — but I think the one that kind of hurt us was them making it 4-2 with 10 minutes left in the third.”
The goal that sealed the deal for Westfield came at the expense of the Raiders’ second shorthanded goal allowed.
Jonny Scheer netted a goal on a crafty point-blank shot with 5:54 remaining in the second period to pull his team within one goal, but Kyle Remo got sent to the box alongside Westfield’s Sean Biglin for four minutes on a double minor roughing call with 11:33 remaining in the third period. Owning a 5-on-4 advantage, Rittendale added his second score of the game for Westfield by finishing a perfect pass sent from Trevor Tanella.
The Raiders accumulated five penalties for a combined total of 10 minutes during Wednesday’s showdown. By contrast, Westfield was only penalized twice and racked up four minutes.
Though Scotch Plains-Fanwood won't be playing for the county championship that it surely hoped to reach, the Raiders will look to climb back into the win column when they hit the ice again on Monday, Jan. 22 against Cranford at Warinanco.