ROSELLE, NJ — Westfield High School junior Sean Taylor scored four goals and had a total of six points to help lift the Blue Devils past the Arthur L. Johnson Crusaders by a final score of 7-4 Wednesday night at Warinanco Park.
Westfield grasped a stranglehold on the game from the start, scoring early and often. Junior Matthew Cetlin scored the first goal of the evening for the Blue Devils at 3:04 of the first period, the assist going to junior Andrew Johnson-Milstein.
With ALJ’s Ty Schafer in the box for a slashing call, the special teams came to life for the Blue Devils. Freshman Ben Conrod cashed in on a shot with 56 seconds remaining on the power play to extend Westfield’s lead to 2-0.
The Crusaders went on their first power play following a penalty to junior Tanner Devin, but the Blue Devils took over despite being down a man on the ice.
Taylor took the puck, sped in and his shot met the back of the net for a shorthanded goal, the first of four goals to give his team a commanding 3-0 lead going into the first period break.
“We haven’t scored in the past three games,” Taylor said. “It was good to start off and get the first goal and then Conrod putting the first one in and then we just kept rolling from there.”
The Blue Devils outshot the Crusaders 14-1 in the first period, keeping the puck out of their zone the entire time.
The second period started with a bang for the Crusaders, as Schafer beat Westfield senior goaltender Ethan Finver seven seconds into the period, to cut the lead to 3-1. Westfield immediately responded, preventing any Crusader momentum. Taylor’s second goal of the game came just 12 seconds following Schafer’s score, making it a 4-1 lead for Westfield.
The Crusaders struggled with penalties, watching player after player head to the box. They took nine penalties and spent time on the penalty kill on three occasions when Westfield had a 5-on-3 advantage. The Crusaders went 7-for-9 on the evening while on the penalty kill.
Johnson senior Nick Gallina got twisted up on the boards and sustained a leg injury during the second period. He needed help to get off the ice and did not return to the game.
Johnson-Milstein made it 5-1 Westfield. The Crusaders pulled together a rally in an attempt to get back into the game.
Sophomore Tyler Mekovetz tallied his 16th goal of the season at 13:30 of the second period to cut the Westfield lead to 5-2. With sophomore Matt Alongi in the box for tripping, he would strike again. He scored his second goal of the game (17th of season) at the 14:45 mark to make it 5-3.
The Blue Devils would deflate the momentum with a last-second goal from Taylor, who secured the hat trick with his third goal of the game at 14:59 of the period, carrying his team to the second intermission with a 6-3 lead. He tallied his fourth goal of the game just 37 seconds into the third period, to build a comfortable 7-3 lead. In addition to four goals, he also tallied two assists, giving him six points in the win.
Schafer would score his second goal for the Crusaders in the third period, making the score 7-4.
Finver made 15 saves on 19 shots in the win for the Westfield Blue Devils.
Wieczorek made 36 saves on 43 shots for the Johnson Crusaders in the loss.
The Blue Devils were coming off a three-game losing streak in which they were shut out in each loss, but the team felt good about getting the win and moving forward.
“We’ve been struggling to score goals, especially early, so I think it was important for us to get the first one and gain momentum off of that, getting two quick ones after that,” Westfield head coach Joe Bertucci said. “We’re a team desperate for goals and got about three weeks’ worth of goals in one night, so that’s good for us, especially for the kids.”
The Crusaders (10-3-1) are back in action Friday afternoon when they head out on the road to play a game at South Brunswick at 4:15 p.m.
The Blue Devils (7-5-4) face off at Summit in a road game Tuesday night at 6:45 p.m.