On Monday night two familiar foes took to the ice at Warinanco Ice Rink to battle for local bragging rights. Players and coaches from both sides circle the Cranford versus Westfield matchup on their schedules, as it is not only a true test for a team’s ability, but also a fight to gain the upper hand on the neighboring town.
Monday night’s bout lived up to the hype, with some skillful plays backed by high emotions.
Westfield started out hot with senior defensemen Jon Macik putting them on the board with a quick shot from the point that found its way through traffic in front of Cranford goalie Thomas Harris. Credit Westfield's Chris Kattak with the assist that put the Blue Devils up 1-0, just four minutes into the game.
Coach Rich Hurley may have been looking to even the score after Cranford went on the power play after Macik went off for an interference call with 5:36 to play in the first. However, the Cougars were dealt another blow when forward Sam Meyer capitalized on a pass from Dane Huber for the shorthanded stuff in.
Although Cranford led in shots, 8-7, after one period, they trailed by two when it mattered most.
During the second period both teams took a number of penalties, some as a result of the increased intensity in the heated contest. Westfield converted on their first power play thanks to a laser-shot from senior Liam Devin that went off the post and scored. Devin racked up another goal on the man advantage later in the period, and the Blue Devils were cruising with a 4-0 lead.
Cranford Cougar Alex Plick stopped the bleeding with four minutes to play in the second on his own power play goal from Nick Colucci. Pick said Coach Hurley’s scouting report to “Shoot from anywhere,” helped because he said he just took the lane on the power play and shot low. Cranford ended the second trailing 4-1.
Both teams combined for 24 penalty minutes in just 30 minutes of play, with Cranford claiming seven trips to the box. Cougar forward Sean Feeney simply stated, “When we are in the penalty box too much like we were tonight, it's tough to win.”
Cranford tried to close the gap in the final frame, but could not find consistent offense zone time and the game ended with Westfield winning the rivalry matchup, 4-1.
Westfield improved their record to 3-0, versus Union county opponents, while Cranford fell to an overall record of 3-2-1. Regardless of the outcome, Cranford players felt optimistic going forward.
Four year varsity forward Tom Fitzgerald stressed that it was only a speed bump in the season. “We know we have a lot of hockey to play and some good players that can definitely put together some wins.” Fellow captain Alex Plick agreed with Fitzgerald, “I think we have a lot of talent and the better competition we play, the better we will become.”
One year removed from playing goalie on this Cranford team, college freshman Theo Ballas also liked what he saw out of high school freshman net minder, Thomas Harris. “He is very technically sound and plays his angles well. With more experience and more size, [Harris] will be very good in the future.”
Cranford battled tough against the county leading Westfield squad. Looking ahead, it should be an interesting finish to the season. As Plick puts it, “I would say we're in the top three in the county with Summit and Westfield, so the county tournament will be a good one.”