WEST SPRINGFIELD – There are not too many teams in Western Massachusetts that are going to try and defuse their own spirited victory. But then again, there aren’t too many teams like the defending champion Bombers.
Three players scored two goals apiece as the Westfield High School hockey team destroyed Longmeadow – at least on the scoreboard – 9-1 in a Division 3 opener Thursday night at the Olympia Ice Arena.
Longmeadow actually outshot Westfield 21-17.
Bombers senior goalie Garrett Matthews made 20 saves, including several diving stops. Matthews looked brilliant in net, showing cat-like reflexes like an All-Star shortstop fielding the ball with his glove.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” longtime Westfield coach C.B. “Moose” Matthews said. “We had three better scrimmages. First night jitters.”
“We might be a good team in the distance, in the playoffs, and in the league,” he added. “Right now we’re not well-tuned … but a win is a win.”
The two-time defending WMass D3 champs wasted no time in setting the tone early.
Westfield senior forward Chris Sullivan tapped the puck out of a faceoff in the Longmeadow zone to senior forward Chris Gentile, who delivered a slapshot from the left circle past Lancers junior goalie Jack Tabb 1:55 into the first period.
Four minutes, three seconds later, Gentile skated down the right wing and dished off to senior forward Connor Sullivan, who plunked it into the net for a 2-0 lead.
“We weren’t really expecting (to score as fast and as often as we did),” Gentile said. “We wanted to come out strong.”
Longmeadow peppered the Westfield goal throughout the entire first period to the tune of 10 shots to five for the Bombers. The relentless offensive push paid of for the Lancers with 1:39 remaining in the period when junior forward Michael Tabb poked one in.
Longmeadow continued to outshoot Westfield in the second period, but the Bombers made every shot count.
Senior defenseman Craig Lacey slipped the puck past the defense, and in between Tabb and the left post 2:46 into the middle frame for a 3-1 lead.
Sophomore Liam Whitman pushed the puck ahead to Connor Sullivan for a near-breakaway – and score – 41 seconds later. Gentile skated down the left wing nearly untouched, and scored 32 seconds after that. Twenty-seven seconds later, sophomore forward John Danahey notched a goal for Westfield to make it 6-1, forcing a Longmeadow goalie change. With 2:47 left in the period, the Bombers forged a 7-1 advantage when Lacey completed a 3-on-1 breakaway with a relatively easy score.
In the third period, Westfield tacked on two more scores.
With 13:04 remaining, Whitman picked up the puck, dangling out in front of the right post like an ornament on a Christmas tree, and tapped the rebound in. Sophomore forward Joshua Adams scored the team’s ninth goal, another gift of sorts to cap the scoring.