Headline correction: Westfield advances to the semifinal round.
ROSELLE, NJ — The Westfield High School boys varsity ice hockey team defeated West Essex in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Public B State Tournament Monday, 3-2, behind Matteo Mancheno’s game winner in overtime.
The Knights had the early momentum when Rocco Garcia netted his first of two goals as the puck trickled into the net just four minutes into the game.
With three minutes left in the opening period, Westfield senior Dylan Howard scored his second goal of the tournament, after not scoring throughout the entire season, as he ripped a slapshot from the blue line.
Garcia then put his second into the back of the net on a rebound to put the team up 2-1.
After Westfield momentum built, Nick Forno scored with three minutes left in regulation, off the assist from Matteo Mancheno, and Trevor Tanella, who cramped up multiple times during the game, which had the Westfield crowd going wild.
“I’m a senior and especially during a state tournament game like this, I have to give it my all. I can’t go out knowing I didn’t give it my best effort,” Tanella said. “It always drops my confidence when I’m hurt and can’t perform to my full capability, but I always push through the pain for the team.”
The Blue Devils never let their hopes of the win slip, and the team stayed motivated.
“The coaches and captains made sure to calm us down and they made it a point that we could win it, from the time the puck dropped,” Matteo Mancheno said.
The overtime period was opened by a scoreless 14 minutes.
“Coming into overtime, there’s always a few minor tweaks we make to our gameplan,” head coach Joe Bertucci said. “But the end goal is always to put the puck into the net, and that never changes.”
The only freshman on the Blue Devil varsity team, Matteo Mancheno broke the tie, and put an end to the game, as he scored on a rebound off Will Gamba’s wrist shot.
“I dropped it off to the ‘milkman’ [Gamba], and my first instinct was to immediately go to the net,” Mancheno said. “Luckily it paid off and we got the win.”
Westfield advanced to the semifinals of the tournament, where they will face Ridge on March 4, at Richard Codey Arena. The puck is set to drop at 4:30 p.m. Ridge beat Ridgewood 8-2 to advance to the third round.
Michael Siroty is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.