WESTFIELD, NJ — The only goalie on the Westfield High School girls varsity ice hockey team, Megan Raftery plays a vital role.

This week’s Ron Bansky and Associates Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week is a sophomore, part of the two-year-old girls ice hockey program at WHS.

“Megan is a gamer. She’s at her best in a competitive environment,” head coach Matt Gualtieri said. “She battles hard every game. She also provides leadership during games.”

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Raftery’s work ethic is one of her best attributes, according to coach Gualtieri.

“Megan gives us an opportunity to be competitive in each game,” he said. “She’s dedicated to improving her game to make herself the best goalie she can be.”

For Raftery, one of the most rewarding parts of hockey is seeing how much progress she and others have made in their brief careers so far.

“This means a lot to me to get this because I have worked very hard to get where I am as a hockey player,” Raftery said. “I only started playing goalie last year. I am very thankful to my parents who have supported me so much when I said I wanted to be a goalie, my uncle who first got me interested in playing and convinced my parents to let me play, my coach who has helped me become a better player and my teammates who support me every time I play,” she said.

Growing up, one of Raftery’s biggest inspirations was Martin Brodeur, the former goaltender for the New Jersey Devils.

 “He was one of the first goalies that I ever saw play and he made the position look like so much fun,” she said. “He was one of the reasons why I decided to play goalie.”

Raftery noted that this season has had its fair share of challenges so far.

“We have a lot of people that have been playing for a long time as well as a lot of new girls who aren’t very experienced players but they are getting better every practice and game,” she said.  “We still face the challenge of getting everyone on the same page in terms of strategy and getting everyone up to speed in terms of the rules of hockey so we can compete with other teams.”

Raftery and the rest of the Lady Blue Devils are keen on continuing their improvement throughout the season, while still vying for a championship in their division.

“Our main goal this season is to have fun and show improvement in every player throughout the season,” Gualtieri said. “We’re going to keep working hard at practice, both on and off ice. We’re also going to give all the players opportunities to play in the games to give them a chance to gain experience.”

The team will face Princeton in their next game on Friday, Dec. 15.

Daniel Sokolin is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.

The Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Ron Bansky & Associates Allstate Agency. Located 502 East Broad St., the agency has been protecting local families and business owners for over 15 years. Call them at 908-301-0711 for a new auto, home or life insurance quote this week and if you mention the Allstate WHS Athlete of the Week they will make a $25 contribution to the Westfield Boosters Association! To learn more, visit ronbansky.com