WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield High School varsity hockey goalie CJ Duffy was named MVP of the Union County Tournament Saturday after he held off Summit by stopping 32 out of 34 shots, helping the Blue Devils win the championship despite getting injured during the game.
“My role in the championship game was just like every other game I play,” this week’s Ron Bansky and Associates Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week said. “It’s to give my team a chance to win no matter the circumstances. We knew we were going up against a talented offensive Summit team, but I knew that I just had to play my game. I felt as if it were like any other game and all I had to do was just take it one save at a time. But it was the guys in front of me that gave be the ability to save the puck and when the opportunity came, they were able to score.”
This game was especially important to some of his team members, according to Duffy.
“Realizing that all the seniors were going to be playing in their last county championship game, I knew we had to win,” he said.
He added, “If it weren’t for the rest of the team’s playing on Saturday, we would not have won the game. The team played outstanding and the amount of heart they put into the game is indescribable. It was a team effort and every single man not the roster contributed to the win. The team is full of great guys both on and off the ice and the family that has developed is incredible. Every man on the team would do anything for one another and that is what makes us different from any other team in New Jersey. The coaches have done a great job building this team and I wouldn’t want to celebrate the victory with anybody else.”
Duffy is a junior and an assistant captain on the team. Head coach Joseph Bertucci said the Blue Devils would not be where they are today without a leader like Duffy.
“In his first year as a varsity goalie, he has posted an impressive .910 save percentage with nine wins,” Bertucci said. “He was voted captain by his team because of his work ethic, attitude and competitiveness. He is one of the hardest working kids I have ever coached. His willingness to get better every day is well respected by his teammates and has helped develop a hard-working climate with the team.”
Bertucci called Duffy’s performance in the county finals “something special.”
“For him to battle through an injury and make the saves that he did speaks numbers about the type of kid he is,” the coach said. “He deserves everything that he has accomplished this year, including the county tournament MVP.”
Duffy said he was 4 years old when he first learned to skate, and 5 when he began playing hockey.
“Hockey has always been a part of me and it has been one of the most important things in my life,” he said. “My heroes have been my both mom and dad. They have been the ones who have been by my side my whole life. They have encouraged me both on and off the ice. Words cannot describe how much of an impact they have had on me. Through thick and thin, they are the ones to always be there.”
In hockey, the mentorship of his youth coaches Ken Tanji and John Devin had a lasting impact.
“They both taught me the game at an early age and were the ones to develop my skills,” Duffy said. “They coached me the right way and made me want to pursue hockey for the rest of my career.”
Duffy said that few people know that he suffered a lacerated kidney last March.
“I was out of sports for around five months,” he said, calling it a life-changing experience.
“It made me realize that any freak accident can happen at any time so you have to live life to the fullest,” he said. “It also made me come to the realization that I won’t be playing hockey forever, so in the last years I have to make them count.”