WESTFIELD, NJ — After graduating eight seniors in their 15-8-2 season last year, Westfield is bringing in many new faces for the shortened 2021 season.

Before they graduated, the seniors prepared their underclassmen to lead the team into the new season, head coach Joe Bertucci said.

“I am excited to see new players step up this year,” Bertucci said. “We certainly have the talent to fill any holes we lost to graduation.”

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Westfield’s eight graduates include last year’s assistant captain Dylan Howard and captain Trevor Tanella, both defensemen.

The Blue Devils will match the graduation number and add eight players from junior varsity. Key additions will be sophomores Joey Tortorella, John McDonald, Zach Park, and freshmen Alex Ebel and Michael Wilson.

“I learned how to play a big part in our team’s success, whether it was scoring or getting assists, but also helping my teammates get better,” returning sophomore and last year’s leading goal scorer Matteo Mancheno said. “I hope to carry on the success I had last year into this year and play an even bigger individual role to help the team bring home some hardware.”

Junior Jake Watson, who was set to start last year but was out with an injury for most of the season, will be in net and sophomore Sam Schupak will serve as the backup.

Due to COVID-19, many teams tryouts and practices were delayed until the start of January, but being at an outdoor rink, Westfield was able to start on Dec. 14.

“It was nice being able to get on the ice on the Dec. 14 start date, but I wouldn’t say it gives us too much of an advantage,” Bertucci said. “Teams that weren't able to be on the ice were creative in the ways they were able to practice using street hockey, workouts and chalk talk. Every team is going to be prepared to go on January 15.”

Mancheno has found various ways to prepare for the season's start.

“In the offseason when we couldn’t be on the ice, I found ways to be productive by rollerblading and working out every day,” he said. “A big part of my offseason was just always being active.”

The Blue Devils open their season against rival Summit on Jan. 15. The Hilltoppers won the season series 3-0 last season, outscoring Westfield 9-1. Games are expected to be live-streamed on YouTube, at WHSPuck.

Michael Siroty is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.

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