WOODBRIDGE, NJ – The second installment of a crosstown rivalry ended in Westfield’s favor yet again on Thursday night, as the Blue Devils escaped with a 6-4 win over the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders at the Woodbridge Community Center.
Jared Figueroa opened the scoring just 29 seconds into regulation, and Ian Gordon followed suit seven minutes later to put the Raiders out to a commanding 2-0 lead.
Before intermission, Westfield’s Matthew Rittendale and Luke Hiltwein each answered the call, registering a goal apiece to tie the game 2-2.
“Both teams obviously had a lot riding on this game, however both teams came out flat-footed,” Raiders head coach Matt Gunther said. “I think we came out a little bit stronger in the first, but kind of just plateaued.”
A third unanswered goal from Dante Anastario gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the night, only to be matched by Scotch Plains’ Jonny Scheer less than four minutes later. The drama continued when Hiltwein and Figueroa both scored for their teams respectively, ending the second period at a 4-4 tie.
The Blue Devils’ first line proved to be the deciding factor however, as Hiltwein and Anastario set up Matt Cetlin for the go ahead goal and Rittendale added a powerplay goal with six minutes left.
With the win, Westfield improved to 8-8, while Scotch Plains-Fanwood fell just below .500 at 8-9 after starting the season 2-6.
“There was a turnaround moment in our season and it was about three weeks ago when we played ALJ for our first game where we realized we had to change up some of the lines and even some of the players that wanted to take a lot of the initiative for themselves realized that as a team we’re a full unit and we have to use everybody,” Gunther said in reference to his Raiders late season push.
“Unfortunately we lost tonight after being up 2-0 in the first period, but some things aren’t in our control. We have two games remaining before the state cutoff and we need to win these two games to make sure we get ourselves a playoff bid.”
The Raiders will face Newark East Side on Friday, Feb. 5, and West Orange on Monday, Feb. 8 – two teams that Scotch Plains-Fanwood has already defeated this season.
“We’ll keep playing the way we’ve been playing, work as a unit, and just bury the puck with some good assists and good passes out there, tape-to-tape. And it’s not really skill level or team effort, it’s really the team pride and the heart that they show out there on the ice that’s going to get us our playoff bid,” Gunther added.